Exploring Personality and Stress during Communication Delays in Simulated Spaceflight Missions

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Shayan Shirshekar
Brooke Wheeler
Tianhua Li


To date, there are no studies exploring how an individual’s unique personality profile predicts their response to the stresses and challenges of communication delays on Long Duration Exploration Missions (LDEMs). When exploring astronaut selection for future LDEMs, the Big Five personalities have been identified as a relevant model of personality and one of the preferred models among NASA scientists. This study examined whether personality predicts stress levels when experiencing communication delays during simulated spaceflight missions. A predictive correlational design explored the relationship between personality and stress levels while experiencing a 2-minute one-way communication delay during a simulated Mars mission. Personality included the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience) and locus of control (LOC). Stress levels were reflected by the difference in stress (DS) scores measured using a stress Visual Analog Scale (VAS). There were significant relationships between conscientiousness and extraversion, both of which were significant predictors of DS scores. LOC was also significantly associated with DS scores. Conscientiousness and extraversion predicted stress when experiencing communication delays. LOC was also identified as a predictor of stress levels. These findings benefit the characterization of crew selection and composition of future spaceflight teams. They also promote a multi-trait, multi-method approach to astronaut selection.

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