Long-duration space exploration and emotional health: Recommendations for conceptualizing and evaluating risk

Candice A. Alfano, Joanne L. Bower, Jennifer Cowie, Simon Lau, Richard J. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Spaceflight to Mars will by far exceed the duration of any previous mission. Although behavioral health risks are routinely highlighted among the most serious threats to crew safety, understanding of specific emotional responses most likely to occur and interfere with mission success has lagged in comparison to other risk domains. Even within the domain of behavioral health, emotional constructs remain to be ‘unpacked’ to the same extent as other factors such as attention and fatigue. The current paper provides a review of previous studies that have examined emotional responses in isolated, confined, extreme environments (ICE) toward informing a needed research agenda. We include research conducted during space flight, long-duration space simulation analogs, and polar environments and utilize a well-established model of emotion and emotion regulation to conceptualize specific findings. Lastly, we propose four specific directions for future research: (1) use of a guiding theoretical framework for evaluating emotion responses in ICE environments; (2) leveraging multi-method approaches to improve the reliability of subjective reports of emotional health; (3) a priori selection of precise emotional constructs to guide measure selection; and (4) focusing on positive in addition to negative emotion in order to provide a more complete understanding of individual risk and resilience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-299
Number of pages11
JournalActa Astronautica
StatePublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral health
  • Coping
  • Emotion
  • Extreme environments
  • Regulation
  • Spaceflight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Long-duration space exploration and emotional health: Recommendations for conceptualizing and evaluating risk'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this