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A bit of a strange question that comes from "The Martian" - in Chapter 12 is a sequence about the entire crew waking up and some complaining about it. I would expect that on a 31 day mission every second would be planned. What about actual missions? Were/are there astronauts who are not morning people and who take a while to wake up in the morning?

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    $\begingroup$ An anecdote I have on this that somewhat applies: a former NASA astronaut once told me that the ISS crew schedules are usually detailed down to 5-minute increments. $\endgroup$ – CourageousPotato Nov 11 at 5:25
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    $\begingroup$ Define "morning." Sunrise happens every 90 minutes in LEO. $\endgroup$ – reirab Nov 11 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ @reirab Morning and sunrise are not mutually dependent. "The 'day' as defined on the station by when the crew is awake," space.stackexchange.com/questions/312/… $\endgroup$ – Bob516 Nov 13 at 3:31
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There are at least two papers by Jack Stuster on an ISS crew conditions study: Behavioral Issues Associated with Isolation and Confinement: Review and Analysis of Astronaut Journals. They anonymize and collect/collate excerpts from crew journals (which I believe the project also pushed astronauts to use...it's been a while since I've read these papers in detail) to assess various human factors onboard.

In the first paper, NASA/TM-2010-216130, sleep comes up on page 32. Some relevant excerpts (all of these are quotes from the paper):

  • I was awakened in the middle of the night by the ground telling me to close the shutter on the lab window. It is beyond me why it couldn’t wait until wake up time.

  • Very tired. Woke up at 2 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Finally fell asleep and overslept.

  • The morning started disastrously. I slept through two alarms, one set for 0600 and another a half-hour later to remind me to take some COE pictures. My body apparently went on strike for better working conditions.

Some of that paper's more general analysis on sleep-related entries:

We all eventually succumb to the need for sleep. The numbers of journal entries about being tired and poor sleep recorded during the first quarters of ISS expeditions, and the numbers of entries about long sleep during the first and second quarters suggest that astronauts learn their limits of reasonable deprivation and develop effective strategies during the initial period; that is, they learn to sleep in space. The diminishing frequency of references to poor sleep supports this explanation.


The second paper, NASA/TM-2016-218603, seems to have succumbed to link-rot so I had to use the Wayback Machine. The sleep section of that paper starts on page 56, and is longer (and more categorized) but I don't see anything about having difficulty waking up in this one. There is some complaining about getting woken up, including an editorial word substitution for what I assume is an expletive.

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    $\begingroup$ Excellent links, thank you! And this is way OT but I found this gem in the first paper listed: "Only now do we understand the depths of [a different previous crew’s] plunder of our food! X took all of Y’s canned fish, including those in his bonus containers! Fortunately, we have some left. We joked with them on a scheduled air/ground conference, but are a little sore about it." (In fact, nearly the entire food section reflects very poorly on the mission provisioners.) $\endgroup$ – davidbak Nov 12 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ They contain lots of gems! I came across the papers by following @ISSarchaeology on Twitter and I recommend them as well for getting a more in-depth look at the station and her crews. $\endgroup$ – Erin Anne Nov 12 at 22:47
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On the Apollo 7 and Apollo 8 flights the crew slept in rotation, such that there was always at least one waking crew member. There were much complaints about the difficulty of sleeping, and the poor quality of sleep, in such a small craft with other people awake and being generally distracting.

I am not sure on which mission the sleep schedule was changed, but I believe that the moon landing missions had all the crew sleep at the same time. I know that the surface crews slept at the same time.

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    $\begingroup$ I suspect part of the change was also due to increased confidence in the capsule's ability to function autonomously or under remote control. The original decision to make Apollo a 3 person capsule was made on the assumption that there would be a 24/7 need for a human to operate systems; and that doing so would require a 3 person crew. (This was done early in the Mercury program, prior to the decision to use it for the moon mission.) $\endgroup$ – Dan Neely Nov 12 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ @dotancohen There were a number of other missions planned for the CSM as part of the Apollo Applications Programme: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Applications_Program even including a Venus flyby. In the end, the only non-lunar applications were the Apollo-Soyuz and Skylab missions. $\endgroup$ – Michael MacAskill Nov 12 at 22:09
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    $\begingroup$ @dotancohen Assuming I haven't recycled it, I'll scan the relevant page from the NSS's Apollo 11 50th anniversary issue (my source) later tonight. $\endgroup$ – Dan Neely Nov 12 at 22:22
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    $\begingroup$ This is from pages 43/44 of the 2019-2 issue of Ad-Astra i.imgur.com/VXWYyzc.png $\endgroup$ – Dan Neely Nov 12 at 23:47
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    $\begingroup$ @dotancohen if you're a member of the NSS you can get access to it in their online archives. space.nss.org/ad-astra-spring-2019 $\endgroup$ – Dan Neely Nov 13 at 13:49
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Other answers have covered specific sleep issues pretty well, but I'd like to point out that space missions aren't quite as strictly scheduled as you might think, not after Skylab 4. During Skylab 4, the workload was so severe, and time so strictly scheduled, that the crew essentially went on strike. They got fed up with being overworked and took a day off, without permission, essentially. This might be the most expensive strike in history, as it cost about $22.4 million to keep Skylab manned for a single day.

So while I'm sure some astronauts are not morning people and may be a little grumpy when they wake up, NASA makes more time for R&R now, so as to not repeat Skylab 4.

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    $\begingroup$ I was going to comment on the Skylab "strike" - which I recall from reports at the time ... hmmm ... only 46 years ago :-). . My now suspect recall is that they were heavily criticised for this action including by astronauts who had been through the same program. Memory may lie :-). $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Nov 12 at 7:35
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    $\begingroup$ The 2016 Stuster paper from my answer actually brings up the Skylab strike too, on page 80, claiming the strike was the result of them working through their first three "days off" (which were supposed to be every 10 days) and then insisting on taking the fourth one. $\endgroup$ – Erin Anne Nov 12 at 22:52
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Many astronauts have reported difficulty sleeping due to cosmic ray visual phenomena which are often perceived as bright flashes of light even when the eyelids are closed. Buzz Aldrin reported them on Apollo 11 and NASA subsequently developed the ALFMED experiment flown on Apollo 16 and 17 to investigate the phenomenon. It was concluded the flashes were due to cosmic rays which are much more prevalent in space than on the ground. This article has some images of how the flashes appear to astronauts.

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