Expedition 37/38’s Tips For Surviving Long Voyages in Space

NASA wants to bring its astronauts outside of Earth. It recently recruited a new astronaut class for deep space voyages. It’s talking about picking up asteroids and possibly heading to the moon or Mars in the distant future. But there are a heck of a lot of steps to do before anyone can head into space for long periods of time.

The agency and Roscosmos are preparing for a one-year voyage to the International Space Station in 2015 that will add to the limited set of data on people being in space consecutively for a year, or longer. You can bet there will be reams of information collected on sleep habits, bone loss, muscle shrinkage, eye pressure and other health factors of concern.

How about the psychological side? The next space station crew to launch gave some hints about how their training prepares them to live cheek-by-jowl in a tiny space for six months.

The mission’s main goal:

The main goal is to put the station in a good condition, and also for the Russian segment, to [install] the new module, MLM (Multipurpose Laboratory Module.) We’re all targeted to this job. Me especially, being the commander of the station, I have the responsibility of the whole crew and their success and also for their psych [psychological] atmosphere. That’s really what I want to do. — Oleg Kotov, Expedition 37 flight engineer, Expedition 38 commander and preparing for his third spaceflight

Receiving advice from past crews:

Sometimes it’s the little things in terms of how to deal with, for example … the food and your clothes and supplies. Other times it’s trying to make sure you’re focusing on the critical items, and not necessarily getting caught up in all the little details [because] you’re going to be there for such a long amount of time.  — Michael Hopkins, Expedition 37/38 flight engineer and rookie astronaut

The Mars 500 long-duration mission vs. flying to the space station:

Mars 500 was really aimed at science. Most of the station [work] is mostly of the safety of the crew and the safety of the station, and then the [next priority is] science. But it also was a great experience to see, psychologically, the space station can be isolating, and how great the influence of this psychology is on the crew. So that was really the experience. Being commander there helps me a lot in my training for real flight.” — Sergey Ryzansky, commander of a 105-day segment as part of phase two of the Mars 500 program, Expedition 37/38 flight engineer and rookie cosmonaut

Michael Hopkins, Expedition 37/38 flight engineer, during spacewalk training. Credit: NASA
Michael Hopkins, Expedition 37/38 flight engineer, during spacewalk training. Credit: NASA

Communications with Mission Control:

Sometimes you ask a question or an item from the ground, and just realizing that you’re not always going to get that answer right away. Sometimes it takes some time for them to determine what the right answer is. — Hopkins

The challenge for other planets:

[I study] how to develop countermeasure means for flights on another planets. After 200 days, for example, flying in space, then we need human beings to work in a spacesuit on the surface of other planets, in different gravity. — Ryzansky