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24 Oct, 2019 09:10

Yes or no: Do you really, really want to go into space? Lie detectors could be used in Russian cosmonaut recruitment

Yes or no: Do you really, really want to go into space? Lie detectors could be used in Russian cosmonaut recruitment

The screening process for Russian cosmonauts could benefit from using lie detectors, an industry publication argues. It would help ensure that recruits have no secret addictions, criminal ties, or foreign allegiances.

A polygraph test could be a useful tool in ensuring that applicants for Russia’s space squad are truthful when filling out their bios, a magazine of the Russian space training center said in its latest issue.

“Instrumental detection of hidden information with the help of a polygraph is one possible way to make recruitment of cosmonauts more efficient,” the article in the quarterly ‘Manned Spaceflight’ said.


The kind of things that applicants could potentially lie about includes drug addiction, mental problems, connections to criminal circles, or certain ulterior motives. Of course, polygraph tests can be beaten, so nobody is recommending this as a primary screening method, but it could complement other ways of checking out potential space travelers, the publication said.

The suggestion seems to reflect the recent relaxing of requirements for space recruits in Russia. For decades, they had been selected from a small pool of military service members who had spent years proving they could work in stressful positions while leading highly regulated lives. But times have changed, and since 2012, the Russian space agency has accepted civilian candidates.


An applicant today has to be a healthy Russian citizen under 35, have higher education and experience in fields such as engineering and biomedicine, as well as having a body that can fit into a space capsule seat. This is great when it comes to attracting more talent, but it does risk allowing a few bad apples to slip through.

Mandatory lie detector tests are rare in Russia. FSB agents have to pass one before getting hired, and there is a draft law in the Russian parliament that would implement the same practice for the National Guard.

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In some public offices and large companies, employees can be asked to volunteer to take a polygraph test before being promoted to a sensitive job. The tests can also be accepted in a court of law as evidence, but defendants cannot be forced to take one.

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