Dr Sanity On MSNBC
Veteran NASA flight surgeon and professional psychiatrist Patricia Santy worked at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston from 1984 and 1991. She talked to MSNBC.com about NASA practices and her thoughts about potential improvements to the screening.
Working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston from 1984 and 1991, Santy eventually became a flight surgeon, or flight doctor, at Mission Control Center. She also is a board-certified psychiatrist, and helped develop psychiatric standards used to assess astronaut applicants in that period.
Santy literally wrote the book on the physiological analysis involved in choosing space flyers titled "Choosing the Right Stuff: The Psychological Selection of Astronauts and Cosmonauts." She is widely regarded as a leading authority on the psychology of human spaceflight...
“NASA won't even launch the shuttle if a screw is out of place in its hardware,” she said, “but they don't think that this kind of interpersonal stress can result in catastrophic failure in the human element of their space system...”
“No selection procedure — no matter how good — can serve to identify future problems,” she said. “The problem for NASA is that there is no routine follow-up of the psychiatric or psychological evaluation after selection.” The space agency, she believes, “has always had a lot of hubris in this area...”
“When either medical or psychiatric issues arise, astronauts will surreptitiously go outside the system because they know it will cause them to get grounded. When that is discovered — and it usually is — there have never been any serious consequences.” This practice has reportedly gone back decades, to the very beginning of the astronaut program..."