The "Us versus Them" phenomenon: Lessons from a long duration human Mars mission simulation

Melissa M. Battler, Sheryl L. Bishop, Ryan L. Kobrick, Kim Binsted, James Harris

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

    3 Scopus citations


    "Us versus Them" group dynamics have arisen and been documented in many situations, including space missions, simulated space missions, polar and military deployments. In 2007, a crew of seven researchers took part in the 100-day "FMARS-11 Long Duration Mission" (F-XI LDM) at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) on Devon Island, in the Canadian High Arctic. The purpose of F-XI LDM was to gather data for twenty-two scientific investigations while under simulated Mars conditions. Conditions included physical isolation on a remote uninhabited island, and a twenty-minute communications delay. While several studies were related to human factors and psychology, no study on communications between the crew and mission support was formally conducted. However, challenges in crew-support team interactions presented themselves. This paper is aimed at exploring crew interactions with the mission support team to identify qualitative trends from anecdotal observations during and after the mission, data collected from the crew during immediate post-mission interviews and pilot survey data taken four years after the mission,. Results confirm the emergence of the well documented "Us versus Them" division that has frequently occurred between groups in isolated confined environments with remote management groups not under the same stressors. A conflict impact survey was developed by soliciting critical events from crew and support members exemplifying incidents where crew and support personnel struggled and grouped into taxonomy of categorical event types. Categories were then formulated into an online survey assessing frequency and impact (both short-term and long-term) on mission goals and crew performance. Preliminary results identified post deployment structural changes in communication protocols, changes to expected resources and support to crew communication problems were perceived as most disruptive by crew. Perceptions of impact were greater for future long duration missions by both crew and support respondents for these categories as well. Methodology for identifying relevant and salient exemplar incidents for inclusion into a more robust taxonomy of critical events will be expanded in near term additional studies. However, even with these challenges the mission was successful and all mission goals were met. Observations presented here may be useful in planning for future long duration planetary analogue missions, and crewed space missions.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publication62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011, IAC 2011
    Number of pages6
    StatePublished - Dec 1 2011
    Event62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011, IAC 2011 - Cape Town, South Africa
    Duration: Oct 3 2011Oct 7 2011

    Publication series

    Name62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011, IAC 2011


    Other62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011, IAC 2011
    Country/TerritorySouth Africa
    CityCape Town

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Aerospace Engineering


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