As humans embark on the next big voyage into the unknown, there will need to be someone aboard the first Mars-bound spacecraft who can crack a joke.
Travelling to the red planet, astronauts will have to endure a level of isolation unprecedented in space travel, which has been compared to historic trips such Christopher Columbus’s quest for the New World.
To ensure the crew that ultimately embarks on such a mission is ideally suited, Nasa has been investigating the social makeup required to function in such challenging circumstances
It has taken its cues from teams working in isolated conditions such as on fishing camps in Alaska or on expeditions to Antarctica, and one role in particular has emerged as crucial.
“Groups work best when they have somebody who takes on the role of class clown,” said Dr Jeffrey Johnson, a researcher at the University of Florida who has immersed himself in such teams.