Mars Exchange
Astronaut Selection Process Q&A with Dr. Norbert Kraft

Astronaut Selection Process Q&A with Dr. Norbert Kraft

by Natasha Schön on Wednesday, 9th September 2015 in Astronaut Selection, Inside 360, People, Norbert Kraft

On February 16th, 2015 we announced that 100 hopefuls have been selected to proceed to the next round of the Mars One astronaut selection process. This exciting turn in events provided the world with a glimpse into who the first people on Mars could be. The selection results sparked a lot curiosity, which is why we asked what questions you have surrounding our Astronaut Selection Process. We gathered your input and posed your questions to Dr. Norbert Kraft, Mars One's Chief Medical Officer. Here are the top questions and his answers! Additionally, check out our press release and Mars One Round Three trailer for more exciting information.

“I know NASA astronauts have to go through a rigorous physical and psychological evaluation. Are the standards for Mars One evaluation just as stringent?” - Stephan M Grima

Mars One and NASA have different objectives, which would lead to different evaluations and standards for each organization. There are also circumstances in which Mars One has more stringent standards than NASA, for example: after the training all candidates will have to have extensive knowledge in all needed professions on Mars such as medicine, dentistry, engineering, geology, biology, botany, toxicology, etc. Overall, a candidate may be suitable for Mars One but not for NASA and vice versa.

“What type of psychological tests do the candidates have to go through? I can imagine this mission will be something that requires someone of a sound and determined mind” - Alex G Orphanos

In spaceflight missions, the primary personal attributes of a successful astronauts are emotional and psychological stability, which should be supported by personal drive and motivation. This is the foundation upon which a mission to Mars must be built. Once the astronauts land on Mars, there are no means to return to Earth. Mars is their home. Therefore, a grounded, deep sense of purpose will help each astronaut maintain his or her psychological stability and focus as they work together toward a shared and better future.

Mars One cannot stress enough the importance of a candidate’s capacity for self-reflection. Without this essential foundation, the five key characteristics resiliency, adaptability, curiosity, the ability to trust, and creativity/resourcefulness cannot be utilized to the fullest potential.

Mars One will be observing and evaluating the candidates as they undergo specific tasks that demonstrate that they meet the requirements above and more.

“How will you make sure that astronauts don't end up going a bit funny in the head?” - Richard Last

The candidates under training will have a yearly medical evaluation, which will also include psychiatry.

“How will life be as in to procreate- will it be accepted, will it be allowed?” - Jessica Stone

Mars One will generally advise the first inhabitants on Mars not to attempt to have children due to a number of reasons. Firstly, the first years of the settlement may not offer a suitable place for children to live in. Secondly, the growth of a fetus in reduced gravity is not fully understood. On the other hand, Mars One does recognize that a true settlement does require procreation and therefore this will be an important point of research. In the end, our final candidates will make the right decisions depending on the circumstances.

“During your participation in the isolation simulation, have you or other participants encountered any difficulties related to the lack of privacy/private space and do you have any methods on dealing with that that you could recommend?” - Lucie Ferstová

I personally did not have any difficulties relating to the lack of privacy but some of the participants did encounter some difficulties. These participants also had interpersonal difficulties with other crewmembers, which lead to a bloody fistfight, sexual harassment and one member quit and left earlier than scheduled. During a mission to Mars, you need to be able to handle a lack of private space. Therefore, a mission to Mars is not the right choice for those with difficulties related to lack of privacy. For example, if you have fear of flying, you probably shouldn’t apply to become a pilot.

“We have learned that the aspiring martians will have the group activity testing in the second half of 2015 and that the 4th round will involve isolation. But at what point will the candidates enter full time training and in other words be required to leave their current occupations?” - Joel Hâland, David Halligan

After the fourth round, 24 candidates will be selected for full time training and will be offered the opportunity to be a full time employee of Mars One. Full time training and selection will continue for each candidate right up until they leave to Mars. To find out how we will screen 24 candidates from 100, then check out the our article “Screening from 100 to 24” on Mars Exchange.

“Very drastic cut was done, in my opinion. Why only 100 from the list of 660?” - Vastitas Borealis

The cut may have seemed very drastic, but for others the cut was not drastic enough. 100 candidates is an ideal number for our selection process and upcoming rounds, which will include group challenges.

“What were the top 3 criteria you based the cuts from round 2 to round 3 on?” - Jacqueline E K Poole

The top three criteria that were used to decide which candidates will proceed to Round Three were understanding risks and dangers, having team spirit, and having the right motivation to go to Mars. Without the motivation to learn the proper knowledge you cannot survive on Mars; communication can be disrupted and will always be delayed. Teamwork and team spirit insures your survival on Mars and is key for mission success. If a candidate has the wrong motivation, they will not to be able to perform as well as others and could put the team and mission at risk.

“Which part of the interview was more effective in selection, a) technical questions b) psychological perception?” - Ramin Azar

In general, more candidates were selected out due to lack of knowledge. However both of these parts were equally important and both were needed to continue. The technical questions provide an insight into how well the candidates knew the risks and dangers of the mission while the psychological questions were used to understand their team spirit.

“The interview had questions about remembering numbers. What is the significance of remembering numbers? How weighty is the factor of the candidates’ patience and their flexibility with others? Will this be an easy trait to find in the candidates?” - Will Robbins

The act of remembering numbers demonstrates the ability of our candidates to study and equally importantly, their commitment to study. The knowledge questions were also about understanding risks and dangers. If a candidate does not know how much radiation they will be affected by, how much shielding is needed, how much water and oxygen need to be stored, etc., they will not be able to understand and prepare for the risks and dangers of the mission.

Mars One asked the candidates to study a given content. If the candidates decided only to learn some parts of the material, then they are putting their teammates at risk. For example, if a candidate needs to give an anesthetic but he/she does not know the amount, then the wrong dosage can be lethal. NASA, for example, requests in some circumstances 1000 flight hours to determine candidate's’ ability to follow procedure and protocol and to be able to carefully handle sensitive instruments. As a pilot, you need to know numbers too e.g. flight speed or altitude.

Team spirit is just as important as being able to study and have knowledge for the mission. Both are equally valuable and you need to demonstrate both to continue.

You can find more information here:

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