Broadcast 2838 Dr. Nick Kanas

  • space settlement progress

  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • helix-space the space show sponsor

The Space Foundation Conference

Feedback: What did you think of this show?: 

Guest:  Dr. Nick Kanas;  Topics:  Human spaceflight psychological hurdles and more.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website,   Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See   

We welcomed Dr. Nick Kanas to the program to discuss psychological issues for long duration human spaceflight, including Mars missions.  Dr. Kanas is author of the award winning book, "Humans In Space: The Psychological Hurdles." I certainly recommend this book and remember, if you buy it through Amazon to use The Space Show/OGLF portal so that Amazon will donate a part of your purchase price to The Space Show.  Find out more about this at  In addition, Dr. Kanas is a prolific science fiction writer, applying the psychological issues for HSF to his novels.  Check them out at his website,

During the first segment of our 1 hour 54 minute program, I asked Dr. Kanas about his early work and studies dealing with people living and working in space.  He said he started in this area as a TA at UCLA in 1969, then in 1970 with more formal studies.  We talked about the space world of 1969 and 70 and some of the issues and concerns being looked at back then.  Dr. Kanas then introduced us to the concept of displacement which he said applied to both the Soviet cosmonauts and our astronauts in that the stresses and tensions they incur while in space would often be displaced on the ground and mission control people.  For purposes of this discussion, displacement refers to a space crew member expressing tension, frustration, etc. onto someone else, in particular a person other than a fellow crew member such as a member of mission control back home safely on the ground.  Our guest cited several examples of this in space including incidents on Mir and with Skylab.

Dr. Kanas went on to talk about microgravity issues including raising the question if Mars gravity would be stabilizing or even restorative for astronauts.  He said we did not know the answer to that and other questions.  Artificial gravity was talked about as possible solution with Nick mentioning several ways that artificial gravity could be established. 

Other discussed topics included radiation, shielding, mass, and launch costs.  Nick spoke to using water as a shielding buffer, plus at one point I asked our guest how astronaut behavior might be impacted by radiation issues as well as microgravity and other problems. 

A third area of concern or as Nick said in his Epilogue on page 139, "a possible show-stopper has been the subject matter of this book: the psychological hurdles that face a group of people confined for long periods of time on a space mission."  Psychological issues involve interpersonal problems and situations facing crews on long duration spaceflight, including flights to Mars.  This was an interesting discussion which you do not want to miss. It was an overriding theme of this Space Show program. 

Dr. Kanas had much to say about psychological stressors.  He broke the stressors down into categories such as orbital, lunar and then Mars which has special stressors associated with it.   For example, the communication time back and forth to Mars is a potential stressor.  So is the concept of looking back at Earth as a small dot, otherwise referred to as an Earth out of view stressor.  Another stressor is likely to be the very nature of an autonomous mission.  Right now our human spaceflight missions are strongly connected with mission control back on Earth.  The Mars mission will be far more autonomous in problem solving and the like.  Listen to how this can contribute to a Mars mission stressor. This discussion led us to talking about simulations.

One such simulation our guest address was the recent Russian Mars 500 study.  Nick described other potential simulation missions using the ISS, cislunar space, even the Moon.  This prompted Benjamin to send in an email suggesting that one just fly the missions to Mars rather than do all the simulations for lots of money. Learn with on the job training.  Don't miss the reply to Benjamin that Dr. Kanas provided.  After that, another listener wanted to know what our guest thought was the justification for human spaceflight.  Again, don't miss his response.

Through a series of listener questions and my comments, the subject of sex in space came up.  Nick said that there was no evidence of sex in space to date but that a 2.5 year mission to Mars with artificial gravity might change this.  We had a comprehensive discussion on this topic, including likely fallout from NASA and/or other space agencies should a story get out about astronauts having sex in space.  But again, this would be different on a longer Mars mission.  Don't miss this excellent discussion.

Tony called in before the break to inquire about the length of the Martian day which is about 37 minutes longer than an Earth day.   He wanted to know about possible psychological issues for the crew with a Martian Sol.  You don't want to miss this discussion either.

We started the second segment with an inquiry about microgravity & radiation effects on the crew re psychological issues.  Cognitive and vision challenges were also brought up.  In Nick's book, he talked about the issue of delivering bad news to crew members on a long duration space flight or a trip to Mars.  I asked our guest to discuss this subject. 

Another topic we discussed was gene testing and crew selection for the long duration flight.  Dr. Kanas had much to say about this subject, including when and under what circumstances might a gene issue disqualify a candidate.  A somewhat related question was asked by Wanda who wanted to know if dental bone loss was part of the problem of overall bone loss issues in microgravity. 

Another listener asked our guest if it was essential to determine the gravity prescription to engage in long duration human spaceflight.  Much was said about this topic so don't miss our discussion.  Next, Charlotte asked about the psychological issues surrounding the crew were they to have a crew member die on the mission.

Other topics discussed in this segment included the law to be followed with an international crew, space tourism, and possible timelines for a humans to Mars mission.  Before the program ended, Nick was asked if he thought going to the Moon first was necessary rather than going directly to Mars.  The final listener question asked about tension between the engineers and the human factors/psychological doctors in mission planning and hardware design.  In response to this final question, Dr. Kanas said the situation was much improved today but more improvement was needed.  He said it was important to understand that people have more needs than just being a system in a multi-system project.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog which is the archives for this program on our website.  You can reach Dr. Kanas through his website or me.




Humans in space psychological hurdles

WARNING: Using Disqus Comments on the Space Show:

To ensure your comments do NOT get caught in the Disqus automatic spam filter systemplease login to your Disqus account or create a verified/approved Disqus account.

Posting multiple URL links WILL TRIGGER the Disqus automatic spam filter system.

03 Jan 2017 Dr. Nick Kanas
Your Amazon Purchases Helps Support TSS/OGLF (see

The Space Show Toll Free Number is only available on live broadcast programs. Please call 1-866-687-7223

Sponsor Banner

  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • space settlement progress

  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • helix-space the space show sponsor