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Hosted by Dr. Andy Aldrin, Director of the ISU Center for Space Entrepreneurship at Florida Tech, and Dr. Ken Davidian, Director of Research at AST

This workshop is part of an ongoing project tracking the emergence of industry subsectors in commercial space. Discussion focused on the small launch industry. The goal of the workshop is to generate hypotheses regarding critical factors determining the future of the small launch industry.

Purpose of the Session: There is considerable uncertainty about the shape, capabilities and quality of the emerging small launch industry. The basic objective of the workshop is to develop ex ante observable hypotheses about critical factors shaping the future of the sector. Further work will go into analyzing some number of these hypotheses.

The Aldrin Space Institute and the FAA Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation hosted the Process Research Workshop virtually on December 10, 2020. This half-day workshop provided researchers, students and mentors alike, a better understanding of how process-based research methods can assist in their data collection. Participants received academic guidance from management professionals who have extensive knowledge of these process research methods. Participating schools included, Florida Tech, New Mexico State University, Virginia Tech, and University of Cape Town.

Research topics represented:


Small Satellite Launchers

Satellite Constellations

Suborbital Tourism

South African Mining

Research Agenda

On May 30 –31, 2017 more than forty social scientists convened at the Kennedy Space Center for the ASI Mars Social Science Workshop. The goal of the workshop was to bring together leading scholars from across a wide variety of social science disciplines to develop common characterizations of the psychological, sociological, and human performance challenges of permanent Mars colonization, and to consider the approaches and research needed to cope with these challenges. This report organizes relevant topics and research questions by mission phase to facilitate practical understand for the Aldrin Space Institute (ASI) research agenda. The following pages summarize the output from the working group sessions held during the workshop. An effort has been made to identify themes and trends in those discussions to provide guidance for research moving forward. The appendix contains all raw data from the sessions.

Getting the World on Board

The term “getting on board” refers to the necessity to focus the political and social will of the world to support the enormous undertaking of colonizing Mars. The primary questions that require investigation in this phase are: what body organizes getting the world on board (organization, coalition, federation, etc.) and how much of the world needs to be on board. Maneuvering international politics, building enthusiasm, and competition with other agencies will be the most challenging obstacles. Approaches to getting the world on board would utilize communication science, political science, and other relevant fields to tell the story and persuade the world. Methodology from success stories (e.g., I.T.E.R., Seti, etc.) can serve as good examples to follow.

The roadmap to success in this phase includes a focus on science education for kids, crowdsourcing or crowdfunding to get the story out and build support, and an agenda to build a multinational social sciences team. The content of the overall messaging would include the following elements: a new frontier, what humans do, resulting technology, and the big picture perspective.

Pre-Departure Preparation

Prior to stepping foot on Mars, the pioneers must be selected and trained to optimize the odds of mission success. Pre-departure preparation demands numerous questions to be answered to ensure mission readiness. The focal research areas are selection and training with the goals of maximizing both individual and team performance, preparing for health and wellness challenges, developing and testing appropriate technology, and growing the right culture. Performance and technology will be reviewed in this section specifically.

Barriers to success in answering these questions come in the form of privacy issues, lack of public support and funding, limited access to data, short timeframes, problems with analog studies, limited ability to infer causality, lack of cross-disciplinary collaboration, and political issues.

Proposed methodology in these avenues of research include use of archival data, improved analog studies and observational methods, noninvasive, continuous monitoring measures of health, along with the use of primate research findings. Central to the approach is an arduous effort to maximize cross-disciplinary collaboration. This last point is a running theme through all phases and all research proposed for the ASI agenda.


In terms of individual performance questions, environmental and task demands need to be clarified to inform how best to prepare for such demands in training. Regarding selection matters, further research into the characteristics and numbers that would form ideal crew composition is critical. Team performance research should cover the dynamics of interaction, culture development, communication protocols, team identity, dysfunction, hierarchy and role establishment, potential status issues among teams, cross training, stress, and more.

Human missions to Mars will last a minimum of 3 years. Many mission concepts could have crew working together in isolation from earth for much longer periods. At the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute, we are considering missions which will involve permanent transfer to Mars. Even at a minimum stay, these missions will pose challenges to crew performance. The Buzz Aldrin Space Institute and the Institute for Cross Cultural Management at Florida Tech are co-hosting a 2-day workshop to address the future of social science research needed to prepare for permanent colonization of Mars. This workshop will bring together leading scholars from across a wide variety of social science disciplines to develop common characterizations of the psychological, sociological, and human performance challenges of permanent Mars colonization, and to consider the approaches and research needed to cope with these challenges. The outcome of this workshop will be a report outlining a potential research agenda for these subjects.

Role of Technology

The central research questions in a technology-oriented discussion is to identify what purposes that would require further technological development and what should be prioritized. Some of these purposes would be Mars-Earth communication, financial and political considerations, automated task allocation, privacy issues, technology and human systems integration, streamlining of functional systems, and more.

Transit to Mars

Some critical discussions to be explored regarding the transit phase include but are not limited to: noninvasive health monitoring, loss of life, relationships, reproduction, and boredom.

Note: All mission phases are interrelated (i.e., pre-departure preparation activities directly relate to transit readiness), therefore, earlier research questions are relevant to this phase and later phases as well but will not be repeated in this report.

A few challenges noted during this session focused on issues with a return to Earth, gravitational issues, active and passive fatigue, and circadian rhythm problems. Similar methods from previous sections are reiterated here, such as, noninvasive monitoring, along with long duration simulations in space and retired sports stars as possible examples of re-adjustment issues.

The roadmap begins with a comprehensive literature review of Mars analogs, interventions and treatment, and access to existing NASA data, all completed around a one-year timeframe. This followed by testing systems for radiation and centrifuge and autonomous adaptive analytical monitoring within a five-year period.

Establishing the Mars Colony

Most research questions raised in this discussion focused on team cohesion, what would affect it and in what forms. Groupthink, independence versus interdependence, cultural norms, rituals and ceremonies, establishment automation, and physiological changes were all mentioned as topics worth investigating in this phase. The discussion on culture will be summarized in this section.


The focal avenues of research here include team identity formation, producing and training a new cultural identity, cultural identity maintenance and transfer, and goal identification. Other cultural considerations would include crew and mission control composition and other selection queries.

Maintaining the Mars Colony

Looking at a long-term timeframe, interpersonal conflict, psychological issues, and team effectiveness are a few research questions. Training new teams on evolving technology, colony integration, and possible life-long learning methodology would also be necessary to research. Barriers to this research include limited sample sizes, privacy issues, funding and public support, plus other unknowns.

Approaches to studying these questions include research modeling, computer simulations, crowdsourcing of data monitoring, a central knowledge database, use of analogs that include fear of death and danger simulations, literature and historical review, and critical incident training. The first year of research in this area would progress with the literature review, group integration studies, analog analysis and integration. Five years down the road, analog studies of new member and technology introduction should be completed. Lastly, moon analogs and an evaluation of high impact leverage points would make up the ten-year goals.

Health & Wellness

This last section reviews research questions surrounding health and wellness areas. The effects of long duration, nutrition requirements, and adoptive intervention are priority questions. Showstoppers in this area include failure to adapt and injury without remedy. A list of more environmental, psychosocial, and physiological considerations can be found in the appendix.


Top 3 Insights

  1. Computational modeling will be key to small N issues
  2. Other disciplines are needed to address our methods and concept problems
  3. Crowdsourcing of our research issues
  Key Research Questions
Individual Performance
  • What are the environmental and task demands?
    • What is success?
  • Crew Composition?
    • Magic #: How many (look at animal studies)?
    • Demographics
    • Skills, traits, roles, values
  • How to Prepare for demands?
    • Training: What? When? How? (OJT)
    • Habitat and mission design
Team Performance
  • Acknowledge individuals on team, enable voice, meaning, choice
  • How do we predict and avoid negative cultures and encourage/develop functional superordinate team cultures?
  • Delayed communications: what protocols do we need?
  • Conceptualize team as space and earth crew.
  • How to study imploding teams? Total dysfunction/low base rate?
  • What other "roles" do we need, will individuals have more than one?
  • Role hierarchy - what's the pecking order?
  • Status issues between "old" and "new" teams
  • Cross-training as-you-go to keep crew engaged and create redundancy.
  • If ___ happens, then team stops functioning (unknown unknown)
  • If it goes badly, what are the consequences, and how do we mitigate them?
  • Stressors and stress exposure training
Health & Wellness
  • High Priority
    • Effects of long duration (microgravity/low gravity?)
    • Adoptive intervention
  • Showstoppers
    • Failure to adapt physically, psychologically and socially
    • Injury without remedy
  • Environment
    • Radiation, selection, nutrition, microgravity, light/dark cycles, aesthetics, habitat temperature, novelty
  • Psychosocial
    • Isolation, confinement, social support, identity earthling/martian, integrating new members, leadership structure, uncertainty/ambiguity, boredom, cognitive demands, repetition, keep crew motivated
  • Physiological
    • Circadian rhythm, exercise (physical and mental), aging of physiological systems, genetic predisposition, stressors changing genetic expression
  • Mind-body-social connection?
  • How does physio impact individual? impact group?
Role of Technology
  • Identify purposes that technology needs to be developed for
    • Time, environment, number of colonists, simulation
  • What are the highest priority problems?
    • Making the connection to people on Earth, that by going to Mars and supporting life in space, it directly benefits life back on Earth.
    • Budget and government decisions
    • Task allocation - humans vs robots
    • What is too much technology? Is it invasion of privacy?
    • Life cycle of technologies and human systems integration
    • How to consolidate functions/tech so there aren't a million different systems that can break?
  • Team identity formation
    • Identify key core values/dimensions that transcend existing culture/identity
    • How to develop/train people to adopt a new culture (i.e symbols, rituals)
    • Indentify individual difference factors that facilitate identity adoption/integration that facilitate adoption/integration
    • Who would determine new cultural norms?
    • Selection/frame switching
  • Producing/training a new cultural identity
    • Immersive, group experiences
    • Identifying cultural points of friction
  • Cultural identity maintenance/transfer
    • Dealing with integration of new crews into existing culture
  • Goal identification
    • Differentiation between goals of crews, goal of mission overall
  • Miscellaneous
    • Crew composition
    • Mission control composition
    • Examination of cultural CI's (showstoppers)
    • Selection
Getting the World on Board
  • What is the organization or coalition? WHat should it be? Federation?
  • What is in it for them?
  • How much of the world should be on board? What is the tipping point?
Pre-departure Preparation
  • Selection
    • What are the basic biological, social, psychological, needs for success?
    • What are the basic selection criteria?
    • What is the optimal individual, crew, and mission control composition?
  • Training
    • What is the best way to train? --> cultural/team, stress management, technology, communication, problem solving.
    • How to implement training: across cultures, teams, and time
    • How to integrate training into everyday life?
    • Experimental learning?
Transit to Mars
  • Can adaptive monitoring en route health systems for teams and individuals be established? How can this be done morally, ethically, and with cultural consideration?
  • How do we deal with loss of life?
  • Will sex or relationships be allowed?
  • How will reproduction be affected by radiation and microgravity?
  • How do we address boredom & fatigue?
Establishing the Mars Colony
  • How do we balance the need for team cohesion with groupthink or a tendency toward conflict with the ground?
  • Independence vs Interdependence
  • Which cultural norms are adaptive?
  • Which rituals/ceremonies affect team cohesion?
  • To what degree will automation of establishment affect cohesion/norms/identity?
  • Physiological changes: how do they affect personality, cognitive functioning?
Maintaining the Mars Colony
  • Interpersonal conflict during the long-term
  • Psychological issues during the long-term
  • Team-effectiveness during the long-term
  • Introduction of evolved technology and methods
    • How to train & share knowledge between the teams that get introduced to the colony
  • Most effective way to integrate colonies in regards to reduction in interpersonal conflict, control of information shared, & to purpose and recreation
  • How to develop a knowledge based technology and methods of life-long learning (possibly AI assisted)
  • Who do we select and how do we select? Will there be homogeneous groups or will they be different?
  • How do we define success?
Individual Performance
  • Better define mission
  • IRB/Privacy issues
  • Funding/public support
  • How to create emotional fidelity
  • Loss of life risk
  • No mission end
  • Power limited by time and small sample size
Team Performance
  • Data sharing and access to data
  • Teams over time
  • Analog problems - can't fully replicate life/death risk, inability to leave, N of 1 team, etc.
  • Difficult to establish causality of function and dysfunction because problems are low base rate
  • Meaningful reasons to participate in analog studies - can't just be research
  • "Emergencies" in analogs are too contrived, no one takes them seriously
Health & Wellness
  • Design adaptive interventions
  • Collaboration, integration across fields
  • Design adaptive monitoring
  • Limited access to space
  • Engineering difficulties
  • Finances
  • Political will
  • Access to existing data
Role of Technology
  • Why is going to Mars first important?
  • People on Earth need to be convinced why we should go and understand the benefits of technology that gets us there.
  • A president or world leader to challenge us to go to Mars.
  • How do we communicate quickly with thecycler and Earth?
    • What kind of communication is used?
  • Leveraging of technologies from other nations
    • Reliance on Russia for human spaceflight
  • Risktaking with the use of new technology
  • Technology must be human centered in terms of flexibility
Getting the World on Board
  • Internal politics --> complicated/complex
  • Competition between key players --> "Beat-the-Billionaires"
  • Understanding of generational differences in enthusiasm. Why or why not?
Pre-departure Preparation  
Transit to Mars
  • Returning to Earth
  • Gravity issues
  • Active & passive fatigue
  • Circadium rhythm
Establishing the Mars Colony
  • Research questions are contingent upon specific tasks that the individuals must perform (depends on mission architecture)
  • Longitudinal data on teams is limited
  • Small sample sizes, limited access to analogues
Maintaining the Mars Colony
  • Balancing cohesion between existing martian and incoming teams, accounting for team integration
  • Sample sizes of studies
  • Monitoring vs privacy
  • Unknown unknowns
  • Maintaining a purpose for motivation, life-satisfaction, etc.
  • Level of autonomy
  • Funding and public support
  Methods and Approaches
Individual Performance
  • Historical/Archival
    • Former space missions
    • Other extreme environments with isolation/exploration
    • Develop better analogues
    • Cognitive/emotional/physiological fidelity
  • Improved observational methods (Sensitivity/Privacy Issues)
  • Leverage primate research findings
Team Performance
    • Computational modeling of human behavior
    • Animal behavior
    • HCI/computer science to study communications
  • Alignment between concepts studied and most appropriate analog
  • Better selection and design of analog teams
  • Moon as an analog because it is a real mission
  • Cave exploration as analog - real work that is dangerous? Prisons as analog?
  • Metrics that detect breakdowns even when team doesn't know, for example, tie physio back to traditional measures
  • Crowd source coding/analysis/methods to answer our questions
Health & Wellness
  • Move from Earth analogues to space
  • Orbit, Moon, captured asteroids
  • Subjective and objective measures of health
  • How do these inform our definition of "ideal health"
  • Noninvasive, continuous monitoring
  • Bloodflow, cortisol, neuro-endocrine marker, autonomic markers, immunological markers, vocal analysis, biorhythm analysis, wrist actigraphy
  • Assessing treatment outcomes in space
  • Comparing predictive validity and convergence between subjective and objective measures
  • Diaries, journals, interviews
  • Multiple teams in order to ensure generalizability of results
  • Valid, reliable psychological tests
Role of Technology
  • Design support systems
    • What do we need to do? How do we do it?
  • Analogs, not only artificial reality, & actual scenarios
  • Going to the Moon before Mars
  • Look at government, industries, and transportation
  • Life support systems - how do we produce food in extreme environment
  • Look at some existing analogs
  • Testing prototypes at different levels that lead to human missions to Mars
  • Using analogs and simulations both virtual and physical
  • Political: appointment of multinational scientific team
  • Convening of multinational scientific
    • Development of research agendas
    • Creation of subcommittees
    • Funding sources
    • Policy, operational recommendations
Getting the World on Board
  • Application issue
    • Apply persuasion, communication science, & political science
  • Look at success stories
    • I.T.E.R/SETI
  • Storytelling
    • American colonization, west, Columbus
Pre-departure Preparation
  • Job/work analysis
  • Assessment centers
  • Time & depletion studies
  • Stages of training: select --> train --> select --> train
  • Ethnographic
Transit to Mars
  • Simulations of long duration missions in space
  • Non-obtrusive methods of monitoring
  • Look at sports stars as an analog when they retire for "fame" issues in re-adjusting to life on Earth
Establishing the Mars Colony
  • Need non-terrestrial analogues
  • Develop non-obtrusive, continuous monitoring
  • Animal experiments on neurophysiological effects of Mars-like environments
Maintaining the Mars Colony
  • Research models and computer simulations
  • Crowdsourcing of data monitoring and analysis
  • Development of a central knowledge database
  • Analogs: should be high-fidelity; look into underwater analogs
  • Simulate a fear of death and danger, which is currently missing from analogs on land
  • Literature and historical review
    • Look at military models of integrating groups at base camps
    • Interviews with people who have left a country, with no intent of return, such as refugees
  • Critical incident training in simulations
  Research Roadmap
Individual Performance
  • 1 year: Historical/Archival
  • 5 years: Improved Earth analogues
  • 10 years: Moon analogue
Team Performance
  • Change in data sharing culture
    • Move away from completion mentality
Health & Wellness
  • 1 Year
    • Low gravity, access current data, literature review across multiple disciplines (and integrate), design/test materials for radiation exposure on Earth, design/test short arm centrifuge on Earth, design/test tethers for rotating system to create artificial gravity on Earth
  • 5 Years
    • Mass simulation in space asteroid or moon, adaptive intervention/analytics and the algorithmic design to keep the system adaptive, test centrifuge, radiation material, and rotating system in space
  • 10 Years
    • Replicate findings from 5 year plan, apply research results to human mission on Mars
Role of Technology
  • 1 Year
    • Food production
    • Clothing, what do we wear?
    • Healthcare and life support systems
    • Education knowledge base
  • 5 years
    • Updating unanticipated needs in technology
    • Analogue simulations
  • 10 Years
    • Continue log duration space flight at commercial stations and the Moon
    • Lifecycle of technologies
Getting the World on Board
  • Science education to get kids on board
  • Crowdsourcing/crowdfunding
  • Content:
    • New state: New Frontier
    • What humans do
    • Resulting technology
    • 9 years to shuttle --> perspective Big Program
  • Develop multinational social sciences team
Pre-departure Preparation  
Transit to Mars
  • 1 Year
    • Complete literature review of Mars analogues
    • Interventions & treatment
  • Access to existing NASA data
  • 5 Years
    • Test every system for radiation & centrifuge
    • Autonomous Adaptive Analytical Monitoring
Establishing the Mars Colony
  • 1 Year
    • Create a research platform to facilitate access to various experts/data from other disciplines
    • Tap into collective wisdom of scientific community using crowdsourcing to address: What do we know? What do we need to know?
  • 5 Years
    • Collect data on effectiveness/reliability and refine efforts on non-obtrusive, continuous monitoring
Maintaining the Mars Colony
  • 1 year
    • Literature review of U.S. colonies, prison systems, and group integration
    • Conduct studies on group integration
    • Analyze existing analogs & integrate data
  • 5 Years
    • Conduct analogue studies that address the introduction of new members, new technology, and new methods/approaches
  • 10 Years
    • Evolved analogs conducted on the moon
    • Evaluate high impact leverage points

View a detailed list of abstracts and presenters

Topics discussed in this workshop include:


Mars Environment

Human Physiology on Mars

Human Psychology on Mars

Special Presentation

Mars Crew Activities & Habitats

Power Supply & Resource Utilization