Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Breakdown Forces New Look At Mars Mission Sexuality 528

Posted by Zonk
from the acting-like-adults-at-nasa dept.
FloatsomNJetsom writes "Popular Mechanics has up an interesting story, discussing what the long-term implications of the Lisa Nowak incident could mean for Mars Mission crew decisions: With a 30-month roundtrip, that isn't the sort of thing you'd want to happen in space. Scientists have been warning about the problems of sex on long-term spaceflight, and experts are divided as to whether you want a crew of older married couples, or asexual unitard-wearing eunuchs. The point the article makes specifically is that NASA's current archetype of highly-driven, task-oriented people might be precisely the wrong type for a Mars expedition. In addition scientists may use genomics or even functional MRI in screening astronauts, in addition to facial-recognition computers to monitor mental health during the mission." Maybe observers could just deploy the brain scanner to keep track of them?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Breakdown Forces New Look At Mars Mission Sexuality

Comments Filter:
  • Movie deal (Score:4, Funny)

    by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:59AM (#17947936)
    a-sexual unitard-wearing eunuchs

    I think scenario has much better movie possibilities.
  • *Chuckle* (Score:5, Funny)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:00AM (#17947942) Journal
    Let's have Slashdot solve a problem revolving around human sexual relationships. I can't think of three words more "anti-slashdot" than that ;)
    • by Xzzy (111297) <sether AT tru7h DOT org> on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:20AM (#17948290) Homepage
      Based on the article ('socially adept introverts' and 'high toleration for lack of achievement'), I'd think Slashdot is an excellent screening tool for finding people suitable for a Mars mission.
    • by Alien54 (180860) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:28AM (#17948428) Journal
      This has all of the makings of several classic sci-fi movies

      Just because you monitor them does not give you the capability to fix things if things go bad on Mars.

      Of course, you can send groups of people on long journeys. Just take a look at the classic journeys of exploration, where people were at sea, out of site of land, often for many months at a time.

      But they had a solution to certain problems that you can't have in a space ship. You can't put discontents on an island in the fashion of Robinson Cruscoe, or set them adrift in a boat like Captain Bligh was.

      You need to have a practical body of techniques as a solution to resolving human issues that does not require much in terms of medications. You can run out of medications. You need to be able to debug the mind.
      • by Blue Stone (582566) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:30PM (#17949456) Homepage Journal
        >...they had a solution to certain problems that you can't have in a space ship. You can't put discontents on an island in the fashion of Robinson Cruscoe, or set them adrift in a boat like Captain Bligh was.

        They have a solution...

        They call it an 'Air Lock'.

      • by shokk (187512) <ernieoporto.yahoo@com> on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:41PM (#17949640) Homepage Journal
        You are correct. Screening didn't stop Nowak, and we don't know of how many others are borderline. The fact is that someone willing to sit on top of what is practically a controlled bomb for a ride hundreds of miles into space is going to have a certain amount of loony in them. Now take into account how many astronauts are willing to take the next leap into being someone who will be trapped in a can for months with two other roommates and CANNOT be voted off the island no matter how berserk they get, and no contact with other humans for months. You're going to have some fringe candidates, no matter what.

        I say that whoever is going to go on this mission needs to be a complete introvert who does not need constant human interaction and can while away their time on experiments and reading. A bunch of people with mild Asperger's might fit the mold.

        Is that then the future of humanity as we head for the stars? People who aren't the mainstream definition of human who can tolerate the extreme rigors will be the ones on worlds that survive this world. It was true back in the days of wagon pioneers and will be true in the days of space caravans.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by crabpeople (720852)

          "I say that whoever is going to go on this mission needs to be a complete introvert who does not need constant human interaction and can while away their time on experiments and reading"

          Like say, a wow player? Just give them bandwidth and the time would disappear, sort of like suspended animation. The only problem would be co ordinating launch windows with their raiding schedule.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bhiestand (157373)

          Now take into account how many astronauts are willing to take the next leap into being someone who will be trapped in a can for months

          I doubt there are many astronauts who would turn down the first trip to mars. Even if they did, you'd have a million more volunteers. Perhaps they could select some submariners instead of fighter jockeys this time?

          with two other roommates and CANNOT be voted off the island no matter how berserk they get, and no contact with other humans for months.

          Oh, I see your perception of reality has been shaped by watching television shows. Shows like survivor intentionally place entertaining combinations of personalities in the room. Let me say this again: They pick overly emotional, irrational people, and prod them into becoming entertainment t

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by smellsofbikes (890263)
          I don't think it requires complete introverts, or mild Asperger's, or any of that. All you need is three reasonably friendly, happy people, who get along, currently, with other people.

          The problem is: this doesn't describe the people NASA is selecting as astronauts. They have to be incredibly driven: they need PhD's and the ability to pass moderately rigorous physical requirements, and the tenacity to push their lives and other goals aside until they manage to outcompete everyone else who is trying to beco
    • That's not true at all! I am tired of this anti-tech bigotry! Some of us are perfectly good at dealing with problems of human sexual relationships!

      It's this sort of bigotry that caused NASA to reject my "Female Anime Robot Sex-slave" solution out-of-hand.
    • by ozbird (127571) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:34PM (#17949518)
      "Asexual 'tards running Unix" - isn't that the Slashdot stereotype? *ducks*
  • Submariners (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zebadias (861722) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:00AM (#17947956)
    They only need to look as far as the crew on a submarine to see what makeup can last a year. AFIK they are all male crew.
    • Re:Submariners (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chmcginn (201645) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:09AM (#17948108) Journal
      Very true. But I'm pretty sure there's plenty of people who's cry sexism from here to Jupiter if NASA suggested an all-male crew for that stated reason.
      • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:11AM (#17948140) Journal
        Then I suggest an all female crew, plus me... as ... um... an independent observer. Yeah, that's it.
        • by Gerocrack (979018) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:56AM (#17948870)
          I saw that one on cinemax, I think
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      "In the navy..."

      On a more serious note, submariners do not spend the entirety of the time submerged away from civilisation. They probably spend at the absolute most a month outside of human contact at sea. Remember while a nuclear submarine can run damn near indefinitely (until the uranium/plutonium runs out) the food supply cannot last indefinitely. You'll have stop off's at friendly ports to resupply, get r&r etc.
      • The good food supply lasts about a month. In a war or emergency situation, nuclear submarines like the Trident carry a six month supply of preserved "food". Since the nuclear reactors can distill as much fresh water as they need and they can scrub the air and add O2, it is possible to stay under for that long, it's just not very comfortable. I'm sure the maximum time that any particular submarine has been under water is classified.
      • Re:Submariners (Score:4, Informative)

        by idontgno (624372) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:37AM (#17948524) Journal

        They probably spend at the absolute most a month outside of human contact at sea.

        Not in the U. S. Navy's submarine service. The operating cycle of an Ohio-class ballistic missile sub appears to be 112 days, of which 74 are at sea and 38 days are in-port refit (see http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/rep ort/1999/newssbn.htm [globalsecurity.org]). On that 2 1/2 month deterrent patrol, a Trident boomer won't surface, let alone put into port.

        So at least in the boomer service, submarine crews spend a looong time away from anyone but each other.

      • Re:Submariners (Score:5, Insightful)

        by orcrist (16312) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:43AM (#17948622)
        On a more serious note, submariners do not spend the entirety of the time submerged away from civilisation. They probably spend at the absolute most a month outside of human contact at sea.

        Well that's nice speculation.... but wrong. This should have been modded interesting, not informative.

        The nuclear missile submarines do 3 months straight submerged -- every single patrol (my personal longest was 87 days) -- and many submarines have done extended tours, though admittedly usually for PR reasons, like the early Nautilus cruises.

        In any case, the original suggestion took the words right our of my mouth. We submariners are the closest to representing people with an appropriate personality type for an extended mission in cramped quarters. NASA should definitely do extended observations and psych evaluations of sub crews on patrols and such.

        -chris
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          In any case, the original suggestion took the words right our of my mouth. We submariners are the closest to representing people with an appropriate personality type for an extended mission in cramped quarters. NASA should definitely do extended observations and psych evaluations of sub crews on patrols and such.

          Yea. right. Prussian Blue on the growler earpiece. Contests to see who can tighten the vice the most on their thumbs. Long multi-watch arguments over anything, the more obscure the better. Ta
        • Re:Submariners (Score:5, Interesting)

          by frdmfghtr (603968) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:20PM (#17949270)

          The nuclear missile submarines do 3 months straight submerged -- every single patrol (my personal longest was 87 days) -- and many submarines have done extended tours, though admittedly usually for PR reasons, like the early Nautilus cruises.


          My personal record was 59 days at sea on a SSN, surfacing twice to evacuate personnel for medical reasons. Had we not had these reasons, we would have been under for the whole 59 days.

          Now, what you mean by "outside of human contact" changes the answer completely. Did the SSBNs still get regular radio dispatches (or maybe yo can't say :) ) We still had regular radio contact with the outside world so technically we weren't outside of human contact, even though we didn't touch land for two months.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by orcrist (16312)
            Now, what you mean by "outside of human contact" changes the answer completely. Did the SSBNs still get regular radio dispatches (or maybe yo can't say :) )

            Only one-way and only text. Families could send so-called family-grams; I think it was 4 or 5 per cruise and a limited number of words -- It might be different now with all the advances in digital transmission of information. News was all in summary sheets the radiomen printed out and left in the mess. I don't think it was any better (in this regard)
        • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday February 09, 2007 @02:46PM (#17951728) Journal

          First is the most obvious difference between a sub crew and a mars space mission crew. Size. Even small subs have several dozen crew members. This makes for totally different group dynamics then a group of half a dozen people.

          Then there is the size of the vessel itself. Subs are HUGE by comparison. I am sure how you could possibly call a boomer cramped. Yes space is at a premium BUT you could go for a run. A short one but it is possible. Space is far more cramped.

          Then there is intelligence. While I only know people in the surface navy I can honestly say that they do not strike me as rocket scientists. On the other hand I presume that NASA would prefer to put people on mars with an IQ above room temperature. Lets face it, there is a big difference between the needs of a mars explorer and even the most demanding position on a submarine. This is again due to size. A submarine could carry a doctor with almost no other duties. In space, your would need a doctor who can be a pilot and an engineer all at once. And would have to be a pilot of extra-ordinary capability landing a bleeding edge ship on an unknown planet and an engineer working with cutting edge equipment. A bit different then maintaining a navy sub.

          Distance. While subs MAY submerge for months they do not have to. How long does it take a sub to surface from its greatest depth? A sub that stays submerged for 3 months is NOT away from civilations for that amount of time. The distance from the rest of humanity is ONLY the time it takes to surface. The only thing that gets close are those missions were the sub sails under the ice sheets and the ice is too thick to break through.

          Simply put, if a crew member gets injured or goes berserk he can be taken of the sub at a moments notice. In space, 3 months would just be the start of the journey. If someone breaks then you cannot even return yet until you arrived at mars and go through the procedure for the return trip.

          It is not that submarine crews are bad, but just as the article mentioned, that current space space shuttle crews are perhaps not best suited for long duration exploration.

          I recall a story of one astronaut in the days of the moon race who broke something just before he was supposed to be launched playing football. Yeah, very manly and studly. But do you think such a person who does something as stupid as that is suited to sitting cooped up for two years? if he had broken something in space being stupid he would have been a few days away from rescue but more importantly, only a few days worth of effort would have been lost if the mission had failed because of it.

          If something goes wrong at the end of the first year of a mars mission that is an entire year down the drain.

          Back to your submarine crew, be honest here, how many of them have gotten themselves sick/injured demanding that someone else replace them, they had to be taken off or could not go on a tour?

          In space, there is no med-evac.

          • by orcrist (16312) on Friday February 09, 2007 @05:51PM (#17954810)
            A lot of good points which deserve a much more thoughtful answer than I'm gonna give, since I don't have the time right now. But I'll address a couple of them vaguely:

            * Away from human contact: sure you have some points that the situation is very different, but we were talking about the psychology. It doesn't matter how close civilization technically is; an inch is as good as a mile if you can't see, hear, or smell it. Being there, you knew you weren't going to be seeing any of that stuff soon -- barring very unusual circumstances. Thinking "well, if I flip out they can evac me" doesn't exactly soften that psychologically.

            * Intelligence and training: Again, I was addressing the psychology aspect, but submariners definitely have a higher intelligence requirement. There is definitely *NO* comparison to 'skimmer' (surface navy ;-) crews. Even the cooks have to get test scores that will get you technical ratings elsewhere in the Navy since... (to address the "duties" point above) everyone on a submarine has several jobs. Everyone learns at least a little about the other jobs. Everyone with the silver dolphins knows:
            * where every see-pressure valve is, what it's for, and how to isolate it
            * where every major electrical system is, what it does, and where to isolate it.
            * The location and type of every single fire extinguisher, hose, air mask, etc. (we demonstrate this by taking a blind-folded walk of the sub with the sub-qualification examiners)
            * How all major systems work: electrical, hydraulic, pressurized air... ... and lots more.

            Same basic idea as a space mission, though of course not to the degree necessary for an actual Mars mission, but I'm assuming NASA can be a bit more choosy about the handful picked for that.

            My point was only that few if any non-space jobs come as close to the basic parameters of such a mission as that of being the crew of a nuclear submarine. Not that NASA can just grab a few sub crew members and go; rather, I meant that they could get some good data from such crews and the environments.

            -chris
    • by LoudMusic (199347)

      They only need to look as far as the crew on a submarine to see what makeup can last a year. AFIK they are all male crew.
      The difference there is those guys are professional killers, trained to move about in total silence while stalking and eventually killing their prey. Lisa Nowak (the psychotic astronaut), however, is not, and completely fucked up a perfectly good killin` (:

      And besides, we know everyone in the Navy is gay. So no real problems there anyway.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Submarines leave port with 100 men and return with 50 couples.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ozbird (127571)
      They only need to look as far as the crew on a submarine to see what makeup can last a year.

      Waterproof makeup, presumably... ("You've seen the Kiss Army, now join the Kiss Navy and see the world!")
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lord_Dweomer (648696)

      They only need to look as far as the crew on a submarine to see what makeup can last a year. AFIK they are all male crew.

      Right...because there are absolutely NO gay submariners and even if there were they would be completely immune to the psychological stress of wanting that which you cannot have.

      Lets face it, all of these types of extended missions are calculated risks. There is no telling what may or may not happen ultimately, but one thing is certain...humans inherently want that which they do not have

  • Spaceballs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:01AM (#17947960) Homepage Journal
    No, what we want is pansexual swingers in a nonstop orgy . People who will have sex without conflating it with love, possession, jealousy, status or other issues. To prevent inferiority conflicts with mission rank, sexual performance should be evaluated along with other mission skills.

    All of it on camera, especially the long seasons spent in zero-g. The syndication rights could fund the entire mission, and the subsequent colonization.
    • by epiphani (254981)
      You're rated funny, but you're totally right. You need people that can do that in order to make it all work, and then some high-powered birth control to make it safe. Sex isn't the problem, its jealousy and possession that cause problems.

      The idea of an all-male crew, as was suggested by someone in relation to submarines currently, isn't really an option when you're trying to establish semi-permanent colonies. The only real alternative is to properly psychologically profile your candidates, and to keep an
    • Great idea..sign me up for the Astronaut screening program! No more centrifuge rides at High-G's, I'll be doing a different kind of riding!

      However the idea of ranking sexual performance, wouldn't that imply status? And if a high-ranking officer was "unable to perform" would that lead to mutiny?

      To offset the costs we could have Mission Sponsors like Viagara, Cialis, Male Enhancement products like "Bob" takes, Astroglide, Condom companies, Porn Web Sites (I call dibs on SpacePorn.com), etc.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by benzapp (464105)
      You can also just have a harem of sex slaves, whom the crew can fuck at will.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Who needs the overhead of the crew, when the sex slaves can do all the work, and fuck each other?
  • Simple (Score:5, Funny)

    by markov_chain (202465) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:01AM (#17947964) Homepage
    Recruit the astronauts from among the slashdot readers. They won't have a problem going a couple of years without sex. You can't miss what you don't know!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by crimson30 (172250)
      Recruit the astronauts from among the slashdot readers. They won't have a problem going a couple of years without sex. You can't miss what you don't know!

      A couple? I'm working on a full decade!
  • by mutterc (828335) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:02AM (#17947974)

    Just because your crew makeup is all married couples doesn't mean you won't have jealousy and love triangles, possibly fatal ones.

    Source: "Stranger in a Strange Land"

  • by Timesprout (579035) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:02AM (#17947978)
    Why was I not informed of this earlier? Suddenly I feel the need to go and preach to the heathen martians.
  • by Vollernurd (232458) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:03AM (#17948006)
    This is an interesting one. In centuries past when boat crews of men would find themself at sea for many months without female company many strange behaviours emerged. Homosexual acts between otherwise "heterosexual" red-bloodeed Jack Tars became quite normal.

    Can even science effectively moderate and control the human sexual urge? The Royal Navy of days gone by turned a blind eye to most of it, so I gather from unreliable sources I may have read. I believe the words in my subject here are attributed to the answer Winston Churchill gave when asked what made the Royal Navy of old so strong.

    Jeez, I can't imagine finding many of my colleagues alluring even after spending 6 months trapped in a submarine with them!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Timesprout (579035)

      Homosexual acts between otherwise "heterosexual" red-bloodeed Jack Tars became quite normal.
      Ah this helps explain Captain Jack Sparrows accent.
    • by 0racle (667029)
      Churchill never said that.
    • by Flying pig (925874) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:45AM (#17948656)
      Read N A M Roper, the leading historian of the Royal Navy. Rum, sodomy and the lash basically arrived when the Navy ceased to be run by professionals and was taken over by the aristocracy (who saw the opportunities for prize money for younger sons.) The aristocracy tried to run the Navy like the Army. The old all-professional Navy wasn't particularly averse to women on board, but disliked homosexuality because it might complicate working relationships, which had to stay good for people to stay alive. Given the relatively short voyages of those days, the opportunities for nookie were many. Even when blockading towns - perhaps especially when blockading towns - there were plenty of ladies of negotiable affection (or even laundrywomen) who were prepared to risk themselves in small boats for pecuniary advantage.

      If Churchill ever said that, he was joking.

  • Ok, first off, this could make recruiting a bit dicey for the NASA astronaught program

    Secondly, why are the eunuchs required to wear unitards?....Is this a sci-fi novel reference?....do we need to point the brain scanner at you?

    I'm confused

    Perhaps you're just referring to an a-sexual voice for the Unix based ship computer?

    See how rumors get started?
  • by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:04AM (#17948010) Homepage Journal

    "NASA's current archetype of highly-driven, task-oriented people might be precisely the wrong type for a Mars expedition"
    OK, the opposite of this would be laid-back herb-toking free-love hippies. While it's true that such folk will be disinclined to kill each other in a jealous rage, but they are also not likely to be inclined to get into a tin can with no weed for three years and walk around on Mars collecting rocks they won't even get to keep or sell on EBay.
    • by Guppy06 (410832)
      "task-oriented people"

      No, the opposite would be goal-oriented people. The task was "I'm gonna hurt that bitch," but the goal was obviously "I'm going to be a 'space cadet' in every meaning of the phrase!" She was too focused on the task to notice the goal.

      And "highly-driven" isn't all that great when you're not sure where you're going. "Can't this handbasket move any faster!?"
    • by demachina (71715)
      "but they are also not likely to be inclined to get into a tin can with no weed"

      But if you put a green house in their ship and overlook the seeds they have in their pocket when boarding....

      Stoners might be very well suited for the very long and boring space flight as long they don't do something stupid while high and kill everyone. Not sure they would be so great when they get to Mars and have to do stuff though. They probably would excel at botany.
  • I especially enjoyed the Hal Cartoon : Cagel Cartoons [cagle.com]. Scroll down to the middle of the page.
  • Tom Toles addressed [washingtonpost.com] this yesterday...

  • by blankoboy (719577) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:06AM (#17948044)
    Just pile some PC's onboard preloaded with WOW. This will 100% ensure that no sex will take place. Other side effects include 0 mission objectives accomplished though. They would land at their destination and never get out of the ship. =)
    • by Ihlosi (895663)
      Just pile some PC's onboard preloaded with WOW.

      Crap man ... would you want to play with eight minutes of lag ?

    • by inviolet (797804)

      Just pile some PC's onboard preloaded with WOW. This will 100% ensure that no sex will take place. Other side effects include 0 mission objectives accomplished though. They would land at their destination and never get out of the ship. =)

      Yeah but, there's hella lag from Mars to the WoW servers back here on Earth. They'd certainly never survive on a PvP server.

  • 200 mile high club? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jimfinity (849860)
    This raises the question...has anyone actually ever had sex in space? http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a4_214.html [straightdope.com]
    • by cbv (221379)
      > This raises the question...has anyone actually ever had sex in space?

      Nope, and for obvious reasons:
      a) zero gravity can induce nausea
      b) astronauts perspire a LOT
      c) in space, you experience lower blood pressure, which means reduced blood flow to you-know-where

      And don't forget the lack of privacy as well as zero gravity not really being conducive to passionate (ok, ok) love-making... Unless you take a couple of rubber/elastic bands with you, I guess. But try to explain THAT to your superiors...
  • by pubjames (468013)
    They should treat it like Big Brother (is that shown in the USA? It's a "reality" show) and deliberately choose people who they know are going to have problems, then put a camera in there and broadcast it live. They would make a fortune. And voting for who is going to get "thrown out" would be even more fun as the consequences of that would be rather dramatic. Sounds like great TV to me!
  • Female Astronaut : Oh god I am so hot, I need it right now
    Male Astronaut : Oh yeah baby
    Female Astronaut : Come here and rip my nappy off with your teeth!
    Male Astronaut : er, em is that the asteroid impact alarm? I better go check.
  • by Giometrix (932993) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:15AM (#17948186) Homepage
    NASA has one incident like this in its nearly 50 years of history and they think they need to change their screening policy? I'd say they had a great run, and that this incident was a fluke.

    Also, it seems that this particular astronaut had lots of stress related to being a single parent. I can't help but feel that NASA would not send parents (single or otherwise) of small children on very long missions. Maybe I'm wrong, but it I'd think that this is just begging for psychological issues to bubble up over time.
  • Hippies!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Absolut187 (816431) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:18AM (#17948258) Homepage

    The point the article makes specifically is that NASA's current archetype of highly-driven, task-oriented people might be precisely the wrong type for a Mars expedition.

    So what's the polar opposite of highly-driven, task-oriented people?
    Weed-driven, snack-oriented hippies.

    We obviously need to make Mars into a hippie commune.
  • Strange difference (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bytesex (112972) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:19AM (#17948280) Homepage
    I find the difference in treatment by the media and the executive of this incident (vs. others I can think of) very perculiar: not that they're not all over her, but because she's an astronaut, papers respectfully note that the family has asked us to 'withhold judgement'. NASA keeps her 'in seclusion'. The judge granted bail. If driving 1000 miles with equipment to kidnap and kill had happened to any other person in any other profession, they would have locked her up and throw away the key - but not here. She's part of a sacred league after all.
  • ...why not just recommend that existing personnel take a course of anti-depressants or other libido-lowering pharmaceuticals for the duration of the mission?

    There are some ethical issues to be worked out, sure, but it's my understanding that astronauts already submit to a fair amount of tinkering with their minds and bodies.
  • They've had mixed crews on the ISS, and there's one right now. Maybe those are test cases?
  • Help, not screen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:25AM (#17948378)

    NASA's problem is that they're stuck in the old model of "we want to find the VERY BEST candidate" and a "process of elimination." Many corporations long ago realized that you look for good people you can refine to be the best and you keep them. NASA's like an employer that shows a brilliant stock trader the door after an interview because he's a horrendous dresser, instead of hiring him and his supervisor taking him to a tailor some evening.

    Guess what? We're all full of faults, and even after decades of refining their screening technique, they didn't detect that this woman could have serious mental issues.

    Would You Seek Help If It Meant You'd Never Fly On the Shuttle [sciam.com] covers the matter better than I could, but basically: NASA's reaction to this is more intense screening, when it should be to recognize the commitment made on both sides and help them resolve their personal problems.

    My employer has an entire department dedicated to helping employees with "life" problems. It's anonymous; your supervisor or coworkers never find out you even talked to them. Why? Because it's better to have someone for you to talk to and try and help you with little problems, before they become problems that interfere with your work. Had NASA had a similar program, chances are the astronaut in question would have received the mental help/counselling she needed.

    Instead, NASA lost a great astronaut and her life has been destroyed.

    • Re:Help, not screen (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sckeener (137243) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:04PM (#17949014)
      Instead, NASA lost a great astronaut and her life has been destroyed.

      Her life has been destroyed and several families. The court system isn't fun for anyone....the victim, the criminal, their families. I feel for the kids. It is going to be rough for them with so many changes all at once.

      I lost both of my parents. My mother is guilty (murder of her cheating boy friend) and I believe my dad to be innocent since there is no physical evidence & no witnesses (molestation of a 3 year old).

      Needless to say discussing my family is not something I usually do and Nowak's kids are going to have a hard time...I mean they are in school right now...imagine being a teenager with your mother on the news for attempted murder nightly! I can't even imagine discussing adult diapers with teenagers!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by myowntrueself (607117)
        The court system isn't fun for anyone....the victim, the criminal, their families.

        Oh I don't know.

        Judge Judys court is downright hilarious!
  • Send sexually open folks with their tubes tied.

    That way they can sex up whenever, nobody is left out, and no babies come back to earth being the first offworlders.

    Tom
  • I think way too much is being made of this. Assuming she did what she is being accused of (something that I don't necesarily accept at face value anyway), it just goes to show that the woman is, like all the rest of the astronauts, just as human as the rest of us. There have been close to 500 people who have been in space, slightly more than half are American. The national average for imprisonment is something close to 10% in the states, so well, they are shooting way below the average.

    It is reported
  • From the point of a Bollywood fiction story the story of
    * a NASA lady
    * dressing in disguise and
    * trying to revenge upon a NASA love rival

    is pure B-Rate Drama worthy of Dan Brown [danbrown.com]

    So if that slap-dash story can actually happen, how can any plan counter one of the many *serious* long term Fictional problems??

    * Alien [wikipedia.org], Crimson Tide [imdb.com] - Superuser has too much power
    * Stark [amazon.co.uk] - Everyone hates it and commits suicide
    * Celebrity Big Brother [wikipedia.org] - One group starts picking on another
    * Robocop 2 [wikipedia.org] - First prototype

  • There was a Bio-Sphere test a while back which was going to include people as part of the bio-sphere. The experiment failed if I remembered correctly. The simplest way to test for a viable group is create the same living structure here first and lock them in together. If they can not last 30 months together here, then they sure won't make it 30 months just because they are in space. (reality show meets NASA)

    I would guess that a common moral/religious belief relative to marriage would be a benefit.

  • As anyone who has taken a long car trip with others will tell you, close quarters plus extended periods leads to trouble. On a space flight, I imagine it is hard to pull over for a beer and to stetch your legs.

    The psych screening process should have catch such tendencies, but the last time the woman in this case was screened (I hope they do check-ups after the first screening) she may have been fine.

    However, I wouldn't just get wound up because this case has a sex component (boy, Americans get wound up over
  • by gentlemen_loser (817960) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:42AM (#17948606) Homepage
    ... Send up a crew of ./ers with enough copies of the Burning Crusade to go around. Should clear up all problems.
  • Nowak's breakdown surely wasn't the trigger for NASA to start thinking about the psychological problems of long-term space missions. Most of the Russian experiments in this area have been with all-male crews, though.

    IOW this is more about PopMech finding an excuse to write snigger-worthy story than about NASA uncovering a new possible problem. Whoop-tee-doo.
  • by demachina (71715) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:59AM (#17948924)
    "NASA's current archetype of highly-driven, task-oriented people might be precisely the wrong type for a Mars expedition"

    NASA's current astronaut office is viewed by many as wrong for just about every mission.

    First off their are way to many astronauts. There are over 100, they spend their lives in pursuit of this one goal, and even if they get in to the office they may never fly, or if they do, most fly once. The approaching end of life of the Shuttle is further aggravating a bad situation. Unless you are already scheduled for one of the remaining missions chances are your space faring career is over, unless you are young enough to last the decade until the Moon ramps up if it ever does.

    Today's astronauts come across as a politically correct bunch of over achievers with some screws loose in general. These people have to be somewhat nuts to jump through all the hoops they have to jump through, to spend the prime of their lives chasing a one week flight on the Shuttle, and spend years trapped in the horrible NASA bureaucracy as the price they pay.

    The best solution we could get is to make space flight really routine, and relagate the current astronaut corp to pilots where they belong. Everyone else should be specialists and experts in the fields you need to colonize the Moon or Mars, with a heavy emphasis on handymen who can repair stuff when it breaks with limited resources, green thumbs who can keep people fed, geologists who can find and tap raw materials, etc.

    It would be nice if people could routinely travel in space without being a fracking Astronaut/Cosmonaut in the first place.

    As for dealing with the sex issue.... good luck. Its nearly impossible to prevent people losing it one way or another over sex. It is one of those areas where our primal instincts still exist, and are nearly impossible to completely suppress or control.
  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:11PM (#17949128)
    The diaper-wearing long-haul killer was unbelievably selfish and self-centered...to the point of being infantile. Someone with that kind of psychopathic personality should have never made it into the NASA manned spaceflight program, where people have to depend on each other. Someone who would drive 900 miles in diapers to kill someone to satisfy some selfish itch is not going to make any sacrifices for the good of the mission or her fellow space travelers.
    • by SpeedBump0619 (324581) on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:32PM (#17950510)

      Someone with that kind of psychopathic personality should have never made it into the NASA manned spaceflight program, where people have to depend on each other. Someone who would drive 900 miles in diapers to kill someone to satisfy some selfish itch is not going to make any sacrifices for the good of the mission or her fellow space travelers.

      You seem to be under the impression that NASA screens for team players. Whatever gave you that idea?

      I'll grant there are a number of other minor aspects, but primarilly NASA knows that the people they send up have to be excellent at planning, adaptation, and execution. This woman had a problem, she saw a solution, and she acted on it. It isn't right, certainly, but it isn't shocking either. I'll bet her service record would show she was good at thinking outside the box.
  • by jonadab (583620) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:34PM (#17949514) Homepage Journal
    The test is simple: all applicants must first winter over at either Amundsen-Scott or Vostok, not physically attack anyone, and come back sane with mostly good things to say about the other people they had to work with.

    The duration of this test wouldn't be as long as the actual mission, but the antarctic winter is long enough to weed out anyone very edgy, I think.

    Note that stations with the ability to get people in and out during the winter, such as McMurdo, should not qualify.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Castar (67188) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:08PM (#17952056)
    There's a great science fiction series about the colonization of Mars - Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars.

    In it, the author talks about this very problem. The way in which it's solved is very practical. They isolate the group of mission candidates on Antarctica for long periods of time, and thus weed out/break those who can't hack it. (This is after all the other screening, of course).

    Something like that would no doubt work well, but in the book it depended on a long list of people who were qualified and eager to go to Mars and make those sacrifices, as well as a public that was willing to fund and support such a venture.

Prof: So the American government went to IBM to come up with a data encryption standard and they came up with ... Student: EBCDIC!"

Working...