A team of psychologists at Moscow’s Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP) wanted to learn more about the dynamics of long-term isolation in space. This knowledge would be applied to the International Space Station, a joint project of several countries that would send people into space for more than six months. It would eventually include a trip to Mars taking up to three years. IBMP set up a replica of the Mir space station in Moscow. They then arranged for three international researchers from Japan, Canada, and Austria 110 days isolated in a chamber the size of a train car. This chamber joined a smaller chamber where four Russian cosmonauts had already completed half of their 240 days of isolation. This was the first time an international crew was involved in the studies. None of the participants spoke English as their first language, yet they communicated throughout their stay in English at varying levels of proficiency. Judith Lapierre, a French-Canadian, was the only female in the experiment. Along with obtaining a PhD in public health and social medicine, Lapierre had studied space sociology at the International Space University in France and conducted isolation research in the Antarctic. This was her fourth trip to Russia, where she had learned the language. The mission was supposed to have a second female participant from the Japanese space program, but she was not selected by IBMP. The Japanese and Austrian participants viewed the participation of a woman as a favorable factor, says Lapierre. For example, to make the surroundings more comfortable, they rearranged the furniture, hung posters on the walls, and put a tablecloth on the kitchen table. “We adapted our environment, whereas Russians just viewed it as something to be endured,” she explains. “We decorated for Christmas because I’m the kind of person who likes to host people.”
New Year’s Eve Turmoil
Ironically, it was at one of those social events, the New Year’s Eve party, that events...
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