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News Briefs

Astronauts on Space Station Will Face Many Challenges

LOS ANGELES TIMES

When NASA launches its first crew to live aboard the International Space Station this week, there will be the usual fears of accidents and life-support glitches. There will be concerns about radiation and thinning bones.

But actually living in space introduces a new basis for fear, a very earthy and primal one: the frailty of the human mind and spirit.

“One of the biggest showstoppers we’re going to have is psychological,” said JoAnna Wood, a psychologist from Baylor University and visiting scientist at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Most previous shuttle missions have not lasted longer than 17 days. “Things get very different when you’re talking three to six months, or three years,” she said.

The upcoming four-month stay on the space station is a prelude to longer missions, and, many hope, to a three-year round trip to Mars.

“It’s still a question mark how long people can live in space,” said Kathie Olsen, NASA chief scientist. “We look at the station as a test bed.”

Requiring the ability to endure everything from 9G forces to defecating into hand-held bags, the astronaut corps has long ignored psychological factors in space travel.

But on the eve of sending Americans to live in space, behavioral and life sciences have taken new priority at NASA; chief scientist Olsen is a psychobiologist.

Tailhook Investigators Find No Evidence of Harassment

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- CARLSBAD, CALIF.

Investigators have found no evidence to substantiate a claim of sexual harassment at the August convention of the Tailhook Association, Navy Secretary Richard Danzig said Monday.

“I don’t see any likelihood of having to take any negative action toward the Tailhook Association,” Danzig said after his speech to an information-technology convention.

The harassment claim, made by a married couple attending a motorcycle enthusiasts convention in the same hotel, could have forced the Navy permanently to sever newly restored ties to the San Diego-based group.

After the group’s now infamous 1991 convention in Las Vegas, where dozens of women allegedly were mauled by drunken aviators, the Navy withdrew support and recognition from Tailhook.

This year’s convention, held at John Ascuaga’s Nugget hotel and casino in Nevada, signaled the first time that active-duty personnel had been allowed to attend a Tailhook gathering. Danzig said the couple that claimed to have been subjected to lewd comments by Tailhook conventioneers refused to be interviewed by the Navy.