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Breakdown Forces New Look At Mars Mission Sexuality 528

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?
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Breakdown Forces New Look At Mars Mission Sexuality

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  • 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"

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

    by jimfinity ( 849860 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:06AM (#17948050)
    This raises the question...has anyone actually ever had sex in space? []
  • by chromozone ( 847904 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:13AM (#17948158)
    Send married people since they are used to high stress and no sex.
  • 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.
  • Re:Submariners (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eldimo ( 140734 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:00PM (#17948940)
    I guess you looked the articles, but didn't read it. :)

    Here an except: "Canada and Spain followed in permitting women to serve on military submarines.". Following the reference, you would have come to this: []

    Which states:
    "[...] Norway was the first NATO country to allow women to serve on submarines [...]"

    "[...] Canadian servicewomen, on the other hand, have been able to serve in almost all functions and environments since 1989. The only exception was on board submarines and even that restriction was lifted in March this year. [...]"

    So there is women serving in submarine in some country. I wanted to reply to the parent because I remembered the decision last March (I'm Canadian).
  • by Excelcia ( 906188 ) <> on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:03PM (#17948992) Homepage Journal
    1 in 136 is the percentage of people who are in jail at any one time. It's about ten times that for a lifetime average - ie, about 10% of the population will spend time in jail or prison in their life.
  • 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:Submariners (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:10PM (#17949108)
    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. Taking the blowing sanitary sign off the aft head. Forward pukes vs the nukes.

    What would be the space equivalent of King Neptune?

    I'd love to have had a shrink on one of our cruises; but I want a low number in the pool on how long he goes before *he* wants off.
  • by dtjohnson ( 102237 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:11PM (#17949128)
    The diaper-wearing long-haul killer was unbelievably selfish and 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.
  • 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:Submariners (Score:2, Interesting)

    by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:25PM (#17949376)

    C S Lewis (yes, the Narnia one) considered that scenario in a short story, and speculated on the sort of woman who would volunteer for the mission. He decided that they would either have to be very desperate and unable to get any any other way, or well-meaning do-gooders who saw it as their duty to help the male astronauts, but were sure that it was just a duty and absolutely must not be enjoyable for anyone.

    In Lewis's version the plan failed.

  • 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.
  • 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 Shinmizu ( 725298 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:49PM (#17950790)
    WoW raiding is still a manner of human interaction, simply more controllable and with an easy exit strategy. I think they'd be quicker to go apeshit due to withdrawal from the game.
  • 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.
  • Re:Submariners (Score:3, Interesting)

    by orcrist ( 16312 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @05:27PM (#17954328)
    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) than what the crew of a Mars mission would have, though of course just our crew itself was more "human contact" than a Mars mission would have as another post here points out.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 09, 2007 @08:26PM (#17957390)
    Going crazy after being in confined quarters such as a spaceship has already been dealt with for centuries. If you've ever paid attention to the issues at hand when sailing across vast oceans, it becomes painfully obvious. To sailors, whether merchant or military, the problem now facing astronauts is nothing new. The fact that the astronaut that went nutters came from the Navy just makes this more hilarious. (Many sailors known to keep a cool head on duty, have done some really stupid and idiotic things once on leave/liberty. The only thing that makes this high-profile is that the person flipping out is an astronaut.)
    Spaceships will deal with 'madness' it the same way ocean going ones do. Depending on the situation and type of infraction they will either be monitored and put on restriction, confined to quarters, or put in the brig. It might not be the pretty picture that space agencies want to paint for us, but it's the tried and true way of dealing with the problem.

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"