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Leadership Challenges in ISS Operations: Lessons Learned from Junior and Senior Mission Control PersonnelThe International Space Station (ISS) is operated by a multi-national, multi-organizational team that is dispersed across multiple locations, time zones, and work schedules. At NASA, both junior and senior mission control personnel have had to find ways to address the leadership challenges inherent in such work, but neither have had systematic training in how to do so. The goals of this study were to examine the major leadership challenges faced by ISS mission control personnel and to highlight the approaches that they have found most effective to surmount them. We pay particular attention to the approaches successfully employed by the senior personnel and to the training needs identified by the junior personnel. We also evaluate the extent to which responses are consistent across the junior and senior samples. Further, we compare the issues identified by our interview survey to those identified by a standardized questionnaire survey of mission control personnel and a contrasting group of space station crewmembers. We studied a sample of 14 senior ISS flight controllers and a contrasting sample of 12 more junior ISS controllers. Data were collected using a semi-structured qualitative interview and content analyzed using an iterative process with multiple coders and consensus meetings to resolve discrepancies. To further explore the meaning of the interview findings, we also conducted new analyses of data from a previous questionnaire study of 13 American astronauts, 17 Russian cosmonauts, and 150 U.S. and 36 Russian mission control personnel supporting the ISS or Mir space stations. The interview data showed that the survey respondents had substantial consensus on several leadership challenges and on key strategies for dealing with them, and they offered a wide range of specific tactics for implementing these strategies. Interview data from the junior respondents will be presented for the first time at the meeting. The questionnaire data showed that the US mission control sample reported a level of support from their management that compared favorably to national norms. American mission control personnel and Russian crewmembers reported higher supervisor support than American crewmembers and Russian mission control personnel. We will present the specific issues underlying these findings and compare and contrast the results from the two datasets. Although specific to space station personnel, our results are consistent with recent management, cultural, and aerospace research. We aim to use our results to improve training for current and future mission control personnel.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Clement, James L.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Ritsher, Jennifer Boyd
(California Univ. San Francisco, CA, United States)
Saylor, Stephanie A.
(California Univ. San Francisco, CA, United States)
Kanas, Nick
(California Univ. San Francisco, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2006
Subject Category
Astronautics (General)
Meeting Information
57th International Astronautical Congress (IAC)(Valencia)
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