The challenges of getting into space represent a fraction of what needs to be engineered as we prepare to send colonies of people to live off world. Developing methods for sustainable food, shelter and water resources are among many of the things that need to be considered in order to increase successful deep space colonization. In terms of human physical, psychological and social health we need to understand more about the people we are sending, not just from an individual perspective, but from a team point of view. For example, will the teams we send to live on the Moon, Mars and in deep space understand how to transfer knowledge to new team members when they arrive? Will in-groups/out-groups develop, creating alpha seniority and the potential for hostile situations? How will off world teams adapt when unexpected events occur? How will we measure team cohesion, resilience, and abilities to overcome high stress events?

Over the past 70 years psychology has searched to understand how we can successfully identify optimal personalities that can accomplish tasks better than others. For example, we’ve used individual personality assessments, individual performance measures, and individual knowledge, skills and abilities to identify and send astronauts with the “right stuff” into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and short missions to the moon. But are individual measures enough to support optimal team design in the long duration space mission?

Many of us have worked for employers who have hired individuals to a project because they possess the knowledge, skills and abilities needed, but as many of us have come to experience, many new hires are known to fatally lack the ability to be cohesive with the rest of the team. Unrest can develop, projects tend to stall, and social problems increase more often then solutions, which often results in employees being reassigned, skilled people leaving a company, not for lack of opportunity or skills, but for lack of team cohesion. But can a disruptive space employee be removed fast enough from a project? For example, the moon is roughly 238,900 miles away from Earth and space transportation wouldn’t arrive for several months. Could the wrong space employee be  negatively disruptive to the the lives of other members of a space team, trigger deviant behaviors among the crew, and increase the chances of mission failure as they wait for the next space transport to arrive? How costly would it be to replace someone who was not the right fit for the team when considering the cost of training, space transport and retrieval from the moon, Mars or beyond? How will this impact tourists who have spent significant investment to enjoy a one-of-a-kind space exploration experience? After all, space travel isn’t one of those bad restaurant experiences where you could just find another place to dine and hope that service exceeds expectations the next time. Identifying optimal team design before sending astronauts or space tourist teams off world is a necessary step if we want to increase mission success, get the most out of space travel experiences, and establish colonies that will have better chances at being more team cohesive, resilient, and equipped with abilities to overcome unexpected events in extreme space environments.

In 2015, for the first time, the ability to measure optimal team design using functional characteristics was identified. Stepping away from individual personality assessments and looking at team characteristics has become the focus of optimal team design. The process is being applied to support a new era of Career Astronauts who will take on the challenges of space exploration. These astronaut teams are designed to be the best possible teams during the selection process. After individual knowledge, skills, and abilities are considered and the “right stuff” evaluated, teams are being designed for optimal performance. Guided by human factor scientists, astronaut trainers, and experts in team training from across the United States, Netherlands, Iceland and other parts of the world, Career Astronauts are being prepared to represent our most advanced teams of Biologists, Chemists, and other STEM subject matter experts who will be prepared to take on specific space mission projects.

The selection process for identifying Career Astronauts is a competitive and scientific endeavor. Candidates, with a focus in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and other Arts (STEAM) are being considered from colleges around the world. Using the Space Nation app candidates are introduced into a virtual, ongoing competitive training environment that measures…. <— Kalle

In combination with the Space Nation Navigator, candidates are invited to complete an online self-assessment which is designed to identify individual Organizational Team Index (OTI) scores. The OTI is used throughout the team selection process and optimal team design. <—more about OTI, Submersible-X

Mojave Desert

Lava Tunnel Habitats

Iceland Research Facility

Astronaut Training