At Home in Space: How astronauts adapt to life on the ISS

Humanities and Social Sciences

At Home in Space is Canada’s first psychosocial experiment on board the International Space Station (ISS). It examines how astronauts from all over the world make the Station feel like home, far from friends and family, in an often stressful space environment.


Astronauts spend years training for their missions, but no amount of groundwork can truly prepare them for the unique, spontaneous adaptations they must make when living in space. They are faced with isolation, loneliness, high stress levels, and cramped quarters with new roommates.

At Home in Space takes a closer look at how crewmembers adapt to living with each other by creating a shared culture. Its findings could help develop guidelines to enhance the well-being of space travellers during longer trips to faraway destinations like Mars.

Earth from the International Space Station
The crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) spends about six months away from family, friends and familiar surroundings. How do astronauts—and other people who work in extreme or isolated environments—cope with being far from home? (Credit: NASA)


At Home in Space aims to:

  • gain a better understanding of the mental, emotional, social, cultural, and environmental adjustments that astronauts make during their missions
  • examine the creation of a “space culture” that transcends cultural differences
  • describe the strategies astronauts use to cope with a long absence from family and their life on Earth
  • identify aspects of the astronauts’ backgrounds that might have affected their ability to adapt to life in space

 Impacts on Earth

The findings of this study could be applied to people living in remote environments. Expeditions to polar regions, military deployments, voyages on cargo ships, and jobs on oil rigs are extreme experiences that feature small quarters and having little contact with family for long periods of time.

A greater understanding of cooperative living could also help nursing homes learn how to ease a new resident’s transition into a shared space.

How it works

Twelve astronauts will participate in this study. They are asked to fill out questionnaires at five points before, during and after their journeys:

  1. Pre-flight questionnaire: four to five months before the space mission
  2. First in-flight questionnaire: two to three weeks after arrival on the ISS
  3. Second in-flight questionnaire: three to four weeks before return to Earth
  4. First post-flight questionnaire: one month after return
  5. Second post-flight questionnaire: six months after return

They are also encouraged to take pictures of celebrations or any other examples of a “space culture” being created and of their customized living quarters.

Astronauts in space have Internet access! Laptop computers are available for personal use like email and social media. This helps them stay connected to life on Earth. You can follow your favourite astronaut on social media for updates as they make a home away from home on board the ISS.


At Home in Space began in 2015 and is expected to be completed in 2019/2020.

Astronaut Thomas Pesquetexplains how crews cope with living in space

Current position:00:00:00

Total time:00:01:33

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet explains how crews cope with living in space. (Credits: Canadian Space Agency, ESANASA)

Research Team

Principal Investigator

  • Dr. Phyllis J. Johnson, University of British Columbia


  • Dr. Peter Suedfeld, University of British Columbia

Explore further

Date modified:


Leave a Reply