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  • Brigitte Opel

Culture clash in space?


In the afternoon of June 6th 2018, a Sojuz rocket left Baikonur. On board 3 passengers: German Astronaut Alexander Gerst, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev and US astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor. For Alexander Gerst, it’s the second stay at ISS, the others are on their first visit. During the preparation of their trip to space, the astronauts have undergone very intense trainings of their balance, orientation and stress levels with VR tools, computer simulations, spinning chairs and pressure under water.  As commander of the mission for the next 6 months, Alexander has to ensure good communication between the teams in space and on the ground, he calls it ‘keeping the family together’. Sounds very basic. But when we look at the differences in their cultural dimensions, it’s clear that it’ll be a very unique challenge: 


As a German, he grew up in an egalitarian environment, same is true for the US astronaut. The Russian cosmonaut has been more exposed to hierarchy and authority. There’s a good chance that the expectation of initiative can clash with the expectation of instruction.  Also the need for structure and organization to be prepared for the unknown can be different: This is a lot higher in Germany and Russia than in the US. Fortunately, there are strict protocols in space, a thorough planning seems secured.

But I’d love to be a mouse on ISS and see how they get on. While enjoying the view!

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