There have been many documented cases of astronauts not following direct orders during the Skylab and Apollo missions. Some of these have been publicly reprimanded but most have not. Most of the issues have been about relatively minor things - things which do not endanger the safety of anyone, but never the less have been disobedience.

What about the astronauts currently aboard the ISS? Do the astronauts exercise their own volition and flat out refuse to do some things, or do things they have been forbidden to do, or do the orders of the ground crew always come first? Is the fear of being reprimanded and thrown out of the space program big enough to ensure there are no deviations?

It is unlikely any sort an official answer could admit to any disobedience by the astronauts because of public image, but are there any 3rd party accounts or external sources that have revealed any problems?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Generally, the person at the pointy end of a problem has the best information and should decide what to do next. $\endgroup$ Commented May 3, 2016 at 21:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Somehow I can't think that this picture resulted from "following orders" .... Scott Kelly's birthday on ISS $\endgroup$ Commented May 4, 2016 at 8:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I seriously wonder if any of that would be disallowed. Getting out of exercise should be easy, just tell you sprained something and who's gonna verify that? You don't hobble in freefall. Food, outside of designated amounts is mostly unregulated, you pick what you like. And as for porn... if you close yourself in the privacy of your sleeping cabinet - are you supposed to maintain purity for a year or more? What kind of puritan sadist would think forbidding porn is a good idea? $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 19:17
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Nakedible that quote seems to be from a satire website "The European Rightly". The article just above it is titled "Homecoming FIFA football players ritually sacrificed in Spain, England, other countries " I would not give it credence. source: rightly.eu $\endgroup$ Commented May 6, 2016 at 2:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BrianTompsett-汤莱恩 That had to be condoned at some level -- someone (several people most likely!) had to approve launching the gorilla suit in the first place. You don't just sneak something of that size on orbit. $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 16:55

2 Answers 2


One ISS astronaut, Expedition 15/16 crew member Clayton Anderson, has written frankly about his conflicts with Mission Control while serving aboard the station. Chapters 13 and 14 of his very readable memoir "The Ordinary Spaceman" detail his sparring with the ground and the subsequent effect on his career.

For example, at one point he made a call to the ground "Houston, Station on Space-to-Ground 2 for inefficiency" and proceeded to list out how foolish he felt it was that Houston had had the crew open up the same panel for maintenance three separate times in a week, instead of planning the activities to access the panel once, then do all three activities.

He states:

The total number of weightless turds I launched from the ISS escapes me, but no doubt it was substantial. Safely back on the ground after a sometimes combative five months, I was sentenced to what I would call the astronaut version of "community service", otherwise known as the astronaut penalty box.

On his return from his long duration mission, he states that his flight status was "conditionally eligible." He did end up flying again on STS-131.

Edit: Clayton Anderson made a post on this subject on Quora. https://www.quora.com/Has-NASA-ever-deemed-an-astronauts-performance-on-a-space-mission-unsatisfactory

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Excellent reference! I need to buy that book it seems. $\endgroup$
    – Nakedible
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 8:25

I only experienced one instance in the three years I worked as an ISS flight controller where a crew member publicly balked at the planned schedule.

They had just completed a demanding EVA, and the ground had preemptively rescheduled the next day's activities to give the crew an extra two hours to sleep in and recover. (Which was no small feat, the ISS timeline plan is incredibly complex.)

When CAPCOM informed the crew of this during the Daily Planning Conference, the ISS Commander said it was an unacceptable amount of time and that they needed more rest. Cue Flight asking the ISS Commander to call them on their private console phone. After a few minutes, Flight came back on the loops and informed everyone in Mission Control that we would be re-re-planning the next day to accommodate the crew's request.

I could appreciate the commander looking out for his crew's best interests. They do a very difficult and challenging job, and there's no one else available to "cover their shift."

From the other side of the issue though, I don't know if the crew realized they had just signed up entire teams of planners and flight controllers to stay after work for hours in order to replan the next day.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.