Confinement vs. isolation as analogue environments for Mars missions from a human ethology viewpoint.

Research paper by Carole C Tafforin

Indexed on: 07 May '15Published on: 07 May '15Published in: Aerospace medicine and human performance


This study compares observational data from two situations designed as planetary exploration missions: the Tara expedition and the Mars-500 experiment. We examined the issue of distinct environmental factors, isolation vs. confinement, which may have different or similar impacts on crews' behavioral manifestations for long-term adaptation, such as on a Mars mission. The Tara expedition was a 507-d polar drift of the Tara schooner embedded in the Arctic ice with two successive periods of summer and winter-over in an isolated environment. The Mars-500 experiment took place in Moscow and was a 520-d simulation of a trip to Mars, the Mars landing, and the return trip to Earth in a confined environment.We used the ethological method based on observation, description, and quantification of individual and interindividual behaviors. These events were scored from video recordings made during daily life activities and aggregated according to the summer period and to the outgoing trip for the whole crew (N = 6) for each situation, respectively.We did not observe differences in the frequency of facial expressions and in the duration of body interactions. Conversely, there were differences in the frequency of collateral acts and in the duration of personal actions with the highest levels during the Mars-500 experiment (0.52 /min and 41,799 s); the highest level of visual interactions was observed during the Tara expedition (33,167 s).We found that confinement generates stress manifestations vs. isolation, that isolation enhances social relashionships vs. confinement, and that the crew adapted positively to both environments.