The most scientific exploration in the history of psychology will soon have results (now it is over-editor’s note). The reporter of “New Scientist” conducted an exclusive interview with the control center of the “Mars Five Hundred Days” project.
When Chief Engineer Konstantin Chertrog stepped into the ground control center’s footsteps, all the whispers ended in a flash, leaving only the sound of ticking electronic instruments running. This was the 334th day of the original 520-day plan, and the Chertrog team’s plan to fly to Mars encountered difficulties.
He sat down in front of five monitors, and the screen showed a diagram of the survival support system. A warning light was blinking, something was wrong with the bathing cabin of the spacecraft flying to Mars. This cannot be ignored. There may be more and more glitches, and the six astronauts have spent a year and a half in the narrow pre-vehicle cabin.
The chief engineer moved closer to the contact screen and microphone. “Good afternoon folks,” he said. “We got the news that we need to check and repair the drainage system of the bathing cabin. Probably–” He looked at his watch. “Six o’clock.” He said something more, Then the contact was terminated. So far, this is all the ground command center can do. The information recorded under real conditions is sent from here, and it takes nine minutes to reach the astronauts’ spacecraft. Chertrog turned around to see us, I think we need to wait a little while.
Chertrog was involved in the most extreme and most ambitious scientific exploration ever: “Mars 500”. This is by far the most realistic attempt for that red planet. Six male astronauts from different countries formed a team of “explorers”. Some of them come from the United States, some from China, and others from Europe. After more than one year of isolated training on the simulation cabin on the earth, in June 2010, they entered a series of cabins at the Russian Academy of Biological Sciences, of course when you read this article they are now Still there (the experiment has ended on November 4, 2011).
There are good reasons for this: if we really send people to Mars, it would be the longest space flight that humans have ever tried. In the claustrophobic spaceship unimaginable by ordinary people, the psychological pressure on astronauts is enormous. Therefore, we must know what kind of changes will happen to human psychology in such an environment. Dissatisfaction, disputes, and misunderstandings have been present in past short-term space missions and isolated environmental tests. (Let’s say: whatever you yell, no one can hear it!)
So, what did we learn when the “Mars 500” project was coming to an end? Many of the results will not be published until our expedition members have spent another tedious 50 days. However, “New Scientist” magazine received exclusive reports on the daily contact of these astronauts. Those engineers and psychologists, like astronauts in a claustrophobic environment, are also a key part of the experiment. The Chertrog team, which has an absolute influence on the astronauts, has been trying to find out the important factors for the expedition members to maintain their physical health and psychological satisfaction. Reaching the mysterious Red Planet is one of the most significant scientific and technological challenges facing the entire human race, but there is a more fundamental question: Are we really ready to send astronauts into spaceships?
When I visited the Mars 500 experimental base, the experiment had passed half a month and three months. Three months ago, scientists simulated the landing process on Mars. Now, the expedition members are on their way back. In the corridor leading to the control room are the busts of three Russian giants of space science: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Sergei Korolev, Yuri Gagarin-in In the observation corridor on the second floor, you can see the whole picture of the “spaceship”: a series of connected cylindrical cabins. These cabins have no windows to isolate sound at the same time, and gas and water can be input into them through pipes. The six “volunteers” inside can only eat the food they bring or grow. They discard garbage through a gas valve, of course, along with flash memory hardware and memory cards that record countless test results. These things are collected and analyzed by specialized technical experts every day. Everything thrown out will not go back to the “spaceship”.
The control center of the experiment is on the second floor of this complex building, and three teams are on duty 24 hours a day. Opposite a huge Gagarin statue, there is a screen wall, and the viewer shows every corner of the cabin, including all exercise facilities, a kitchen, experimental workshop and “greenhouse”. On the window sill of the control room was a bright red flower, which had been brought into the experiment cabin during the preliminary training. And on the ground above our heads is the surging traffic of Moscow: a standard urban scene.
Forty minutes after Chertrogg sent messages to his “expedition team members”, a series of telephone ringtones interrupted our conversation-news from Mars! Okay, it’s news from Mars. Chertrog received a video of the reply from the spacecraft commander. The captain said that the drain button in the bathroom was not working. Chertrov stroked his moustache, turned off the information, and had a brief conversation with Vladimir Gorbachev, the tall duty engineer with a silver goatee. Gorbachev grabbed the intercom and flashlight, and then they went out together to investigate.
Although the team at the ground control center keeps track of the internal situation at any time to help solve technical problems, replace oxygen tanks, etc., in real tasks, the Warriors need to solve these problems themselves. Therefore, unlike the ground control room currently prepared for short-term space navigation, the Mars 500 ground team rarely contacts astronauts. Even if you contact the “Warriors”, you will not give “orders”, but only “suggestions”.
The space station in orbit around the earth has given us this experience: One of the members of the “Mars 500” team, IMBP psychologist Vadim Gushin (Vadim Gushin) said that astronauts who work in space for a long time are very It is difficult to accept “command” from the ground. Astronauts working in the International Space Station generally have a two-day break every week. They will have some “additional tasks” during the break. If they want, they can conduct some experiments or do some chores, but this is not a requirement. .
Research from simulation experiments on space flight like the “Mars 105” project (a three-month experiment on astronauts’ hearts in 2008) and NASA’s underwater extreme environment mission simulation operation project, from the ground control center Less impact is sometimes a good thing, because it allows astronauts to maintain a relaxed attitude to complete the task. In addition, when traveling in space beyond Earth orbit, it is impossible for astronauts to communicate with the ground in real time. Therefore, the members of the spacecraft must learn to deal with the problems encountered and control the progress of the research independently.
For example, during a “Mars surface walk” in February, an “expedition member” sent a request for help to the ground control center while performing a very complex operation-of course he would not receive a reply immediately (because of the signal It takes 9 minutes to travel from Mars to Earth). Psychologists said that the astronaut appeared to have lost his motivation.
Correspondingly, the researchers of the “Mars 500” team then tested the “Warriors” ability to solve problems independently. They simulated a week when the ground control center lost contact with the spacecraft, and the on-duty doctor Dilia Husnutdinova told us that the astronauts did a very good job. “Sometimes they will make a big poster on the difficulties they hang on the camera to show that they have encountered technical difficulties.” Heinster Dinova said. But because the mission was not life-threatening, the control room decided to ignore their actions. “We ignore them because this is not a big deal at all.”
Even if it is a very common day, when the astronauts have been communicating with the ground control center for two hours for two hours, they are only exchanging some official data, such as engineering needs, experiment progress, or talking with their families. This is too harsh compared to Russian and American astronauts on the International Space Station. On the International Space Station, astronauts can call home at any time and often call twice a day. All information in the “Mars 500” plan is first transmitted to a local server, and then sent to the “Warriors” with a delay of up to 12 minutes based on “changes in orbit” and “distance from the earth.”
According to Jian Gusin of Psychology, it was the most stringent time in the experiment regarding communication time. Before the “Mars 500”, IMBP had another simulation experiment before, when the “pilot” and the researchers greeted each other by agitating a connected air pump every day. However, psychologists said that in real Mars travel, astronauts cannot communicate with the ground frequently, and even less likely to communicate through sensors. A rigorous experiment must be able to simulate such a real and difficult closed situation.
Gusin said that people will eventually adapt to this lack of contact. He said: “The demand for communication will eventually subside.” For example, in IMBP’s 1994 and 1995 space flight simulation studies, the information interaction between the ground control center and astronauts gradually decreased as the experiment proceeded. A research institute of “Mars 105” said that the same as the previous experimental results, the expedition members initially maintained frequent contact with the ground control center, but when they adapted to the situation of isolation, their message changed Shorter, less emotional reports, and less demand for their work.
Continuous communication with family or friends can sometimes increase their stress. “Every extra greeting, every extra worry is an excitement for astronauts,” Gus said. A long period of communication after a long period of lack of communication can have certain side effects on astronauts’ emotional regulation. “It’s like being alone for a long time and suddenly asking him to enjoy a full meal at the table,” Gusin said. “That’s not good.”
For this view, Olga Shevchenko, the leader of the team of psychologists of the “Mars 500” team, agreed. She has no doubts about her responsibilities. Even astronauts are not only used to it. On the contrary, the task of psychologists is to balance the astronauts’ psychology according to the task requirements. She expressed her opinion in this way: “The most important thing for our duty is to ensure that the experimental process will not stop.” That is, they want to make astronauts not worry about the ability to solve problems on the ground, and when they can apply for early withdrawal at any time. Guide them to stick to their posts.
Shevchenko is already a woman in her 50s. Her dark hair is neatly combed and she wears glasses. She seems to be ready to make a few laughs at any time despite the sharp smile. We arrived at her high ceiling office on the third floor. Although a vase with birthday flowers decorates the small side table, the office is still slightly empty. A pack of cigarettes and an ashtray stayed alone on the desk. Here, away from the chattering of various machines in the control room, Shevchenko controls all the information transmitted to the “explorers” in the experiment cabin. She has not taken a day off since the experiment began.
Ms. Shevchenko communicates with the Warriors almost every day by email or video, and regardless of their doubts, inquiries or needs, she must maintain a “trustworthy face”. She is a channel for the warriors to learn about news, books, and even video games, all in all. She will also stay with the astronauts’ family and friends to ensure that the information these people provide to the astronauts is helpful for themselves and the experiment.
This is not a pleasant job. She collects summary news from TV and newspapers three times a day and sends it to a local server. When astronauts ask about it, they also add interesting technology, car or sports news. She will send a private email to every astronaut every day through a private channel. Although she cannot read the version that the astronaut actually received, she will definitely receive it if there is bad news. If she finds that an astronaut has been stimulated, she will talk to the astronaut’s family and teach them how to properly tell the astronaut what happened.
In the 15 years that IMBP has studied closed-environment psychology, Shevchenko has also provided assistance to the construction of the Russian Space Station and the International Space Station. She has to say something about what she has to say about some things but not others. For example, sometimes she deliberately removes the crime part of the news. Criminal activity can make people feel down, and as she said, the warriors in space can’t do anything about things on earth after all.
Similarly, news about bombs or crashes must be handled with care. For example, during the previous “Mars 105” experiment, two French Airbus planes crashed. A participant in the experiment used to be the pilot of an Airbus aircraft, so before providing the news to the astronauts, psychologists tried to verify whether he knew a certain victim.
However, after the bomb attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport in January this year (2011), Shevchenko waited to confirm that all the astronauts’ families were safe. But at the same time, the Russian astronauts who participated in the experiment have received news from their European partners-European boys have long been informed of this matter from their private letters-and questioned why they have been late. .
Shevchenko determined that she had made the best choice. “We have no right to tell them such sensitive information.” She raised her tone and lit a cigarette. There is a precedent for doing this. In 1978, the father of Soviet astronaut Georgy Grechko passed away while completing a space journey in Grechko. At that time, because of fear that it would affect Grechko’s ongoing The task of prohibiting the disclosure of his father’s death to Grechko. When Grechko returned to Earth, he knew that his father had left him.
But now, information about the astronaut’s home can be discreetly disclosed. In any situation that may increase the burden on astronauts, whether the child is sick or an earthquake occurs near his hometown, Shevchenko will do all he can to collect information and ask the astronauts’ family and friends for such situations. What kind of reaction he might have. It is called “different from person to person”.
After spitting a smoke ring towards the ceiling, she leaned forward. “Because we all understand,” she continued. “During the experiment, everyone will have worries, and worry about many different things, because you are outside the world. Nothing can be done. The individual is too small.”
When I returned to the control room, it was almost dusk. The on-duty engineer Gorbachev is preparing for the coming long night. Gorbachev needs to work until ten o’clock tomorrow morning, but his mood is high now. They have cracked the mystery of the “failure of the pump in the bathroom”: It turned out that three expedition members had cut their hair in the past two weeks, so when they took a shower, their hair blocked the sewer. “This is nothing new,” Gorbachev said. “But we have learned the same thing from the beginning, and dealing with the usual trivial things is also an important part of this experiment.” So far, IMBP research The personnel said that the warriors of the “Mars 500” program did an excellent job. There were no obvious interpersonal problems, and the physical and psychological levels of the warriors were also above the basic line.
This is a very important result, Gorbachev said, glancing at the screen wall, just as he would look at the monitor screen whenever he talked about astronauts. “Look!” The two were chewing strawberries in the kitchen while talking. “If they can still stay in the simulation laboratory, they can still talk to each other with a smile, they can still sit together,” he said, “then everything is fine.”
Of course, the psychologist Gusin pointed out that getting along harmoniously does not mean to please each other. So far, the Warriors have proved that it is possible to work and live in such an environment. “Maybe it does not mean that you can live well, nor does it mean that you have a relaxed life, nor does it mean that anything is easy.” He said.
In order to reach Mars, we need a suitable spaceship, equipment for protection from cosmic rays, and a good engine. But there is another difficult problem that comes from people with these huge difficulties-adapting to the monotonous life of monotony, properly handling disputes, and of course, dealing with clogged bathroom sewers and the like. Thankfully, “Mars 500” has taught us enough to support the real expedition team members on their journey to Mars. In Shevchenko’s words: “We are ready.”
In general, astronauts get along well, but there are a few things that are excessive.
In 1973, members of NASA’s Sky Lab project “rebelled” the ground mission control center. All astronauts who went to space for the first time found that the amount of mission required by the ground command center was too large. They collectively shut down the signal receiver for a whole day and refused to talk. Of course, their efforts soon paid off: the workload was reduced, and they successfully completed the experimental task.
In another fully recorded space flight mission in 1982, two Russian astronauts angered each other. They were angrily working for the 211 days of the salute space station, and they did not talk to each other most of the time.
In an experimental project called “Space Station International Member Flight Simulation (SFNCSS)” in 1999, everyone expressed great pressure. Similar to the “Mars 500”, this study also aims to study how players from different countries cooperate. But the result is not satisfactory. Canadian volunteer Judith Lapierre claimed that she was kissed by a Russian player at the New Year’s party against her will. The result of this accident was that the Russian player was imprisoned. La Pierre insisted until the trial was completed, but a participant borrowed from Japan chose to leave early.
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