I believe saw a documentary, a while back, of concepts for future, interplanetary crewed spacecraft. I thought the discussion included studying the interior colors, and the importance of gradating the colors from slightly darker to lighter, from the floor to the ceiling, for psychological reasons.

Is there documentation of such studies and if so, what would be the psychological advantage in varying how light and dark the colors are?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not quite sure on interior color as in paint however NASA has preformed extensive research on optimal lighting color for different tasks and mental states (focused, relaxed) and uses these tuned lights on the ISS.bbc.com/news/technology-20753888 $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Jun 9, 2019 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ slightly related: Why are these astronauts green? and the currently unanswered Is the new RGB solid state LED lighting on the ISS ever set to colors other than white? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 1, 2020 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Dragongeek it's possible that that BBC news item may lead to an answer to my 2nd linked question above. It's from 2012 so probably it can't be used as a source directly, but there may be newer articles now that at least some RGB's are installed (though not sure about "sleeping quarters") $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 1, 2020 at 13:17

1 Answer 1


I'm not quite sure what the documentary you saw was referring to in particular, but it seems likely that Galina Balashova's design work in the Soviet space program is relevant.

From the article:

Notably, she integrated a lack of gravity into her design, choosing dark colors for the floor and bright colors for the ceiling. There was an important psychological effect to this, given that astronauts, so accustomed to life on Earth, would be less likely to get disoriented inside the Soyuz's habitation module. Balashova was also responsible for lighting and furnishing design, including living areas, a cabinet equipped with a bookshelf and a folding table, all with a range of colors intended to improve human orientation in zero gravity.

The "psychological reasons" being referred to are almost certainly related to orienting oneself inside a spacecraft. How much it helps is probably up for debate; the International Space Station doesn't follow such a color scheme, for example.

  • $\begingroup$ In this answer to Since there is no proper “ceiling” in the ISS where do they put the lights? there's an image that suggests there may be an increasing brightness gradient from "floor" to "ceiling" but I don't know if it is perceptible by astronauts (consciously or otherwise). Also see the quoted passage in When reading “the writing on the wall” in the ISS, which way is up? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 7, 2020 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ A very interesting article about Galina Balashova. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Jan 7, 2020 at 11:46
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh note also that the laptops in Node 2 also all more-or-less agree on what direction up is. I think at least some of that, along with the relative lack of working surfaces on the "floor" and "ceiling," are to make it easier for the in-gravity ISS training areas to match what's on orbit, but I doubt I'd be able to find a reference saying so $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Jan 7, 2020 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ @ErinAnne Of possible interest - the "ISS Interior Color Scheme" NASA doc snebulos.mit.edu/projects/reference/International-Space-Station/… "Implementation of these requirements will assure consistent spatial orientation cues for crewmembers in a color environment which is psychologically acceptable. " $\endgroup$ Jan 8, 2020 at 1:38
  • $\begingroup$ Organic Marble's doc seems to validate uhoh's suggestion, though I think they accidentally covered almost all the color differences in clutter by now. I certainly didn't notice the blue nadir standoffs until I saw that in the document and then squinted at the photo $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Jan 8, 2020 at 2:46

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