Astronauts, Robots, and Organizational Design: Contributions of Organization Theory to Research on the Space Station

By Claudia Bird Schoonhoven
1985| Working Paper No. 824

This paper offers a research agenda for analyzing organizational problems in permanent organizations in outer space. Substantial opportunities for organizational research exist in the environment of space, where one faces questions about how to organize professional workers in a technologically complex setting with novel dangers and uncertainties present in the immediate environment. Organizational theory and behavior have always had important implications for research on human habitation in outer space, yet research on these issues has been limited. A U.S. space station will be operational by the mid-1990’s. Because a space station requires the long term organization of human and robotic work in the isolated and confined environment of outer space, organizational issues will become increasingly important. When an organizational analysis of the space station is undertaken, there are research implications at multip.e levels of analysis: for the individual, small group, organizational, and environmental levels of analysis. The paper reviews the research relevant to human habitation in outer space and offers suggestions for future research.