UP psychologists develop methods for selecting space flight crews

Photo gallery: Petr Toman / Hydronaut Project
Monday 29 August 2022, 8:00 – Text: Milada Křížková Hronová

The Department of Psychology at the UP Faculty of Arts has been collaborating on a unique research project to develop a methodology for researching the impact of extreme isolation and confinement on the human psyche, team dynamics, team communication, and related physiological processes. This fascinating research has been carried out thanks to the partnership of several universities and the support of the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic.

The quarry in Jesenné in the Semily region was recently transformed into one large research centre for seven days. As part of the Diana III mission, scientists began to investigate the possibilities of human survival in the extreme conditions of long-duration spaceflight. The scenario of the Diana III mission and its scientific content will loosely replicate the Artemis mission, i.e. the upcoming return to the Moon with a human crew, which NASA plans to launch later this year.

In the quarry, experts observed a three-person crew, who were submerged for seven days in a special habitat at a depth of 10 metres. The thirty-five-tonne underwater laboratory structure was analogous to Apollo 11’s lunar module. Its power and air supply were provided from the shore. Inside the habitation module, the crew performed scientific tasks in their allotted time, including three deep-water walks to simulate walking on the surface of the Moon.

The control tower centre, analogous to the Houston mission control centre, housed university teams who were in charge of research, control, and crew tasking. Experts from various universities were thus constantly monitoring the biometric data of the crew, the internal environment, and the technical condition of the entire facility.

In addition, the mother ship, which orbits the Moon during space flight, was simulated by a station floating on the surface of the quarry. The three-person crew of this station, equipped in the same way as the deep-sea laboratory, had no access to the shore for the duration of the mission and were isolated from outside influences and other social contacts except for the control tower and the crew of the special habitation module.

“Our goal is to design an instrument that can be used to investigate the influence of personal characteristics and external factors on team dynamics during prolonged stays in an isolated, confined, and extreme (ICE) environment. This instrument should also allow screenings of individuals and the team during pre-selection and training in this environment. It will enable the investigation of the effects of personality characteristics and external factors on the behaviour of work teams in relation to psychophysiological processes,” said Roman Procházka, head of the team of psychologists participating in the project and associate professor of the Department of Psychology at the UP Faculty of Arts. The data collected from the Diana III mission will be now analysed and interpreted by the scientists in order to be utilised not only in the selection of crews for long-term space flights, but also for scientific stations and rescue teams in various inhospitable environments. 

Hydronaut DeepLab H03 Naty is a unique deep-sea station for the research of human survival and training in extreme environments. In the controlled atmosphere of the underwater habitat, the effects of pressure, humidity, stress, artificial lighting, and confined environments on human bodies, materials, equipment, and biological material can be investigated. Diving equipment and a controlled decompression ascent are required to exit the station. Therefore, in the event of technical or health problems, it is not possible to leave the habitat without a real threat to health, which places great demands on the station crew, support team, logistics, and mission planning, and creates a very stressful environment. The station took thirteen years to design and build, and the idea was the brainchild of professional diver and designer Matyáš Šanda, who is collaborating with scientists on the project. The first seven-day mission, which proved the system’s functionality and the team’s ability to carry out the mission, took place in August 2020.

The project “Tool for assessment of personal characteristics and external factors to improve efficiency and collaboration of the team during a long-time stay in Integrated Collaboration Environment (ICE)” (No. TL05000228) is supported by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport of the Czech Republic. The main investigator is the Department of Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Czech Technical University, Prague. Co-investigators are the Department of Psychology at the UP Faculty of Arts and the Department of Health and Population Protection at the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering, CTU. The Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ostrava, and a team of rescue workers from the Liberec Water Rescue Service are also involved in the project.


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