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Stress In Space - Judging An Astronaut's Mental State

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Channel: The Royal Institution
Categories: Astronomy   |   Health   |   Psychology   |   Science  
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Being an astronaut is stressful. But astronauts aren’t the best at admitting when they’re feeling the strain. An innovative research project uses speech analysis to spot hints of underlying anxieties.
Day 19 of our advent calendar, A Place Called Space

Being an astronaut is a stressful job. You face the constant threat of annihilation, and know that a huge team and expensive mission rely on you doing your job well.

But astronauts aren’t always the best at identifying, or admitting, when they’re stressed or overwhelmed. Sarita Robinson, a psychologist from the University of Central Lancaster, says that while we’re increasingly comfortable with the intense physiological conditions of space travel, our understanding of the psychological impacts still leaves something to be desired. Mark Huckvale and a team at University College London ran a research project that investigated whether subtle variations in speech patterns of astronauts taking part in the Mars 500 experiment might reveal anxieties that the astronauts’ words were hiding.

Could subtle cues in the way an astronaut speaks let mission control know when they’re starting to feel the strain?

‘A Place Called Space’ is the 2015 Royal Institution advent calendar. Every day in the run up to Christmas we'll be releasing an original piece of content exploring the human experience and cultural significance of space travel. With hand-drawn animations, experiments in zero gravity, interviews with astronauts and creative data visualisations, the calendar will fire you into space every morning.

'A Place Called Space' channels the voices of seasoned astronauts and expert scientists through the eyes of a team of talented animators, film-makers and artists, bringing you a thought-provoking gem to kick-start each day.
Check it out at

With special thanks to our lead supporter, Wellcome Trust

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