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Ad Astra
Volume 14, Number 4 July/August 2002


Mission Control

Here Comes The UK “Star Tiger” Project

What's Up?

Space Medicine


Here Comes The UK “Star Tiger” Project
An innovative project known as Star Tiger was officially inaugurated at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in Oxfordshire this month by Lord Sainsbury, Science and Innovation Minister for the UK. The Star Tiger concept puts together a highly motivated team with solid scientific background and gives them priority access to top-class laboratories and workshops. They work together intensively for a period of 4 to 6 months without administrative distractions to reach a true breakthrough in a technology field selected.

The goal: a compact submillimeter wave camera using state-of-the-art technology, producing pictures of natural waves in the submillimeter frequency range. Such an imager is considered to break through a number of barriers today limiting scientific research in several fields. Speaking at the launch of Star Tiger, Lord Sainsbury said, “Star Tiger’s success in developing the prototype submillimeter wave camera will be critical for the future of innovative research and development projects in Europe, and I am proud that the UK is playing a major role in this challenging and pioneering enterprise.” This revolutionary approach to research and development (R&D) is part of the European Space Agency’s recent initiative to strengthen innovative and breakthrough research.

“Technology R&D and, in particular, innovation are key essentials to reinforce European space business. Today ESA spends about 250 million Euros on its Technology Re-search Programs, which is about 8% of the total ESA budget. Of this, 20-25 million Euros each year is earmarked for innovation,” said Niels Jensen, ESA’s Head of Technology Programs Department.

“With Star Tiger we want to dramatically reduce the turnaround time for state-of-the art technology developments. If the Star Tiger concept proves successful, the Agency will define more projects to be carried out using this concept at the best centers of excellence in ESA Member States.”

The target for this project is to develop and build a compact submillimeter wave imager using state of the art micro-machining technology. The goal by the end of the four months is to have an imager that can produce pictures of natural waves emitted in two frequencies, 250 GHz and 300 GHz. The two frequencies provide a means for contrasting between materials with different transmission and reflection properties, effectively creating two colors. This will provide a view into currently hidden information embedded in natural submillimeter Star Tiger waves, which are emitted by pretty much everything: people, rocks, sea, trees or stars for example. This could improve X-ray images without using X-rays! It will pave the diagnostic way for new applications ranging from science techniques, earth and environment monitoring to medicine.
In the field of planetary and atmospheric sensing, a submillimeter wave imager with linear arrays capable of simultaneously measuring height-resolved spectral features could have a major impact on issues such as climate change and ozone chemistry.

There are also highly interesting possibilities in non-space fields. In medicine for example, experts predict that submillimeter wave imaging will open up new and better diagnostic techniques.

A team of eleven scientists and specialists from seven different European countries were selected for the project. “We have been very lucky,” said Dr Chris Mann, Project Manager at RAL. “We got many applications from very motivated and highly experienced researchers.”

“Together the team covers all the technologies required to develop a compact color submillimeter wave imager,” explained Peter de Maagt, Project Manager at ESA.

James O’Neill, Star Tiger team member, added “I was very excited to find out about the Star Tiger project, as it is obvious that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience to push technology to its limits in an incredible teamworking environment at an amazing research facility.”
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What's Up?
By Astro USU

Name Date Launch Launch Period Incl Apogee Perigee
2002 Vehicle Site (min) () (KM) (KM)    
Columbia Mar 1 STS-109 Kennedy SC 95.3 28.5 578 486
TDRS 9 Mar 8 Atlas IIA Cape Canaveral 636.0 26.3 35791 446
Grace 1 Mar 17 Rokot Plesetsk 94.5 89.0 507 483
Grace 2 Mar 17 Rokot Plesetsk 94.5 89.0 508 483
Progress M1 8 Mar 21 Soyuz FG Baikonur 92.3 51.6 390 385
Shen Zhou Mar 24 Long March 2F Juiquan 91.2 42.4 338 330
S. Zhou orbital module Mar 24 Long March 2F Juiquan 91.3 42.4 343 337
JC-SAT 8 Mar 28 Ariane 44L Kourou 1436.1 0.1 35791 35782
ASTRA 3A Mar 28 Ariane 44L Kourou 1436.1 0.1 35806 35762
Intelsat 903 Mar 30 Proton K Baikonur 1436.1 0.1 35798 35774
Cosmos 2388 Apr 1 Molniya M Plesetsk No data available  
Atlantis Apr 8 STS 110 KSC 92.3 51.6 390 385
NSS-7 Apr 16 Ariane 44L Kourou 1436.1 62.93 39178 519
Soyuz TM-34 Apr 25 Soyuz-U Baikonur 92.4 51.64 397.9 388.7

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Space Medicine
Psychosocial Issues in Manned Spaceflight
By Eleanor A. O’Rangers, Pharm.D.

“For the first time in his long career in space, [John] Blaha was desperately unhappy. Nothing about the mission . . . had gone as planned. Nothing about it was fun. He realized he was withdrawing . . . it took a long time for him to acknowledge that something was wrong, and when he finally did realize it . . . [it] was depression.”
Excerpted from Bryan Burrough’s
Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir, New York:
HarperCollins, 1998. p. 111.

John Blaha was the third American astronaut to visit the Mir Space Station in the 1990s. His bout with depression, which he attributes to feeling isolated and alone during his mission, is not unique in the history of manned spaceflight. Indeed, psychosocial challenges, including crew personality clashes, mutiny, anxiety and boredom have periodically plagued both the Russian and US long-duration spaceflight program. While Russian space program psychologists readily acknowledge that psychosocial problems can significantly impact crew performance and mission success, the US program has traditionally systematically ignored such considerations when recruiting astronauts and assigning crews. With the majority of the US manned space missions lasting less than 18 days, the need to thoroughly consider astronaut psychological disposition and interpersonal dynamics took a backseat to choosing “the Right Stuff.” After all, NASA seemed to rationalize, “anyone can stand someone else for 2 weeks!”

With the construction of the International Space Station (ISS) underway, the need for seriously addressing psychosocial issues among US crew members has taken on new urgency. ISS crews must work for up to 4 months in space, grapple with cultural differences, mingle with occasional private citizen tourists, not to mention balancing their construction and science workloads (plus a reduced crew size!). NASA would do well to study the experiences of analog environments, such as Antarctic winter-overs and naval submariner expeditions, for common interpersonal issues and solutions. In particular, the experience of their Russian spacefaring counterparts will be especially valuable. Naming interpersonal dy-namics as the “most difficult” of the challenges cosmonauts face on long stints in space, the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems has learned to deal with these issues since the earliest Soviet space stations were orbiting the Earth in the 1970s.

The Russians focus on three areas in managing crews: cosmonaut and crew selection, crew training, and psychological support during missions. These areas of emphasis have also been stressed as critical for development in the US manned spaceflight program by both the Space Studies Board and the Institute of Medicine. When selecting crews, interpersonally-oriented psychological profiling tests have utility in determining crew personalities, stress triggers and coping mechanisms. Assigning complementary psychological profiles to missions and subsequent monitoring of crew cohesiveness as their training progresses is also helpful in predicting a successful cosmonaut team. Additional team-oriented training on cross-cultural differences, enhancing cohesion and minimizing crew tensions are also important to accomplish, and problems identified during these processes may necessitate crew substitutions to maximize compatibility. The Russians tend to view the crew as a unit; deficiencies in any component of that unit (crew member) could compromise mission success. For this reason, there is precedent for Russians canceling missions in progress, despite only one crew member having difficulties.

During the actual mission, the Russian psychologists continue to closely monitor crew performance. Ongoing monitoring of cosmonaut voice communications with the ground team is believed to have value in ascertaining individual morale, tensions and cohesion with other crew members. Moreover, it is known that poor crew performance significantly increases the possibility of errors, which have obvious operational impact. Based on subtle nuances the psychologists detect in cosmonauts’ voices, a variety of “remedies” can be employed. Complex or dangerous tasks are minimized for a period of time, and the use of “surprises” and contacts with family are used. Psychologists can arrange 2-way television visits with family, friends and celebrities and they often send up “surprise” items such as magazines, books, videotapes, music and snack food on Progress resupply ships. For example, Vladimir Titov, who spend one year on Mir in 1988, recounted feelings of “profound joy” when he retrieved a bouquet of flowers that had been sent on a resupply ship.

The astronauts themselves can also provide valuable insights regarding psychological needs while in space. Reminders of family, such as photographs on a CD-ROM that can be played on a laptop computer, recordings of family member voices, regular email and 2-way radio or television contact with loved ones are invaluable in easing the “distance gap” and homesickness astronauts often feel during space missions. John Blaha commented that “I think the biggest thing was the vehicle that I was going to go home in was not attached to the Mir (Station), and that I could have been 10 million light years away from Earth. In other words, I felt we [re: Blaha’s family and his life on Earth] were that separated.” Windows for viewing the Earth are also therapeutic. Prior to the Zvezda module being attached to the ISS, astronaut Susan Helms had said that “to make the station homier, I think more windows would be nice. It would be nice to have more opportunities to photograph the Earth — not only for science reasons [but] for psychological reasons. It’d be great to see, because [the planet] is probably the most beautiful thing you can look at from that vantage point.” Fortunately, Zvezda has 6 windows!

Moving forward, there are a wealth of other possibilities to explore with regard to mitigating crew isolation and maximizing harmony during long-duration spaceflight. The Space Studies Board has recommended maximizing availability of such things as use of nonstandard clothing, food, and recreational materials. In addition, allowing astronauts to change color schemes within the space habitat (perhaps with projection), to move some pieces of furniture or equipment, to make use of familiar released odors (such as a significant other’s perfume) could have substantial positive psychological benefits. One NASA consultant has also suggested that the cultivation of humor by crew members would also be advantageous in fostering crew cohesiveness (personal communication). Due to the presence of disrupted sleep patterns in most astronauts, which can certainly affect their behavior and work efficiency, it would be prudent to provide training on sleep hygiene and the proper use of sleep medications. Finally, NASA and other researchers are even exploring the possibility of developing a computerized “therapist” that can monitor mood, anxiety, cognition and group dynamics. It would fly with the mission crew. Such a therapeutic device would be particularly useful when communications with the Earth were significantly sporadic, such as on an interplanetary journey. Psychosocial issues cannot wait for the 20-minute time delay while traveling to Mars!

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