Extroverts Would Be Drawbacks on Mars Missions


As flights to Mars with people on them become more of a reality, the researchers in charge of choosing those people are taking certain personality traits under consideration. It seems that extroverted individuals would be a drawback on long, confined journeys like Mars-One, a mission based in the Netherlands, which is set to launch in 2024. Their goal is to send folks who would be settlers on the red planet, meaning it is a one-way trip. The importance of these people getting along cannot be overstated.

Some of the requirements for being a potential astronaut are listed on the Mars-One website. They need to be creative, intelligent, physically healthy and psychologically stable. It is also pointed out that any successful astronaut will be psychologically and emotionally stable as supported by motivation and a personal drive. The website goes on to list the five characteristics of an astronaut: ability to trust, adaptability, creativity/resourcefulness, curiosity and resiliency. Nowhere on the page do the words introvert and extrovert get mentioned. Perhaps they are planning on weeding them out later.

Suzanne Bell is a psychologist at DePaul University. She has been examining the types of personalities that would be best suited for such isolated and prolonged journeys. In San Francisco at the Association for Psychological Science, Bell presented a review of her research regarding types of personalities in “space analogue environments.” The main thing that she discovered was that in the process of choosing astronauts for missions to Mars, the strong, silent type is the best option. She points out that extroverts are likely too intrusive and in need of attention. The extroverted personality type could be too “warm” for settings that are largely confining.

What works on Earth, may not necessarily translate in outer space. Extroverts come in handy for team scenarios. They are the icebreakers and assertive enough to help get things done. That is not, however, what is needed on the long trip to Mars. A writer at Live Science, Rachael Rettner, used the example of a simulation that was done of a spacecraft mission. Two reserved team members basically ostracized an extroverted teammate. They later said that he talked too much, spoke his mind too much and was too brash. It would be difficult to imagine a more regrettable scenario; picked for a mission to Mars, only to find that one of the others chosen is an opinionated loud-mouth who likes to hug. That would make for a long flight!

It is not just the introverts who could be negatively affected by a long, confined trip with extroverts. An extrovert on such a mission may find them selves suffering from a lack of stimulation. There may not be enough of a variety of things to do and people with whom to engage to make the trip enjoyable for someone who is used to a world full of fun stuff and interesting people.

According to Bell, this principle seems to extend to other arduous and remote scenarios. High levels of extroversion can be problematic in team settings that also require functioning and living together for long terms of confinement. She noted situations like oil drilling teams and scientific research teams in remote locales.

Though extroverts may not be tolerable or able to tolerate a long journey in a small space, it still seems like they would be useful and happy once they got to the red planet. A possible solution would be to put them in suspended animation for the trip and let them get to their work once they have landed. Truly, if these are the people who are supposed to be the first settlers on the planet, there should be a good mix of introverted and extroverted types. Besides, it is important to consider who would be more likely to get to the business of making babies. They may be drawbacks on the way to Mars, but extroverts are needed on the overall mission.

Opinion By Stacy Lamy


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