BSc Management (Marketing) with Industrial/Professional Experience / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
From Antarctica to Outer Space: Surviving and Thriving in Extremes

Course unit fact file
Unit code UCIL20142
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Social Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


For centuries, humans have chosen extremes for purposes of exploration, adventure and scientific discovery. Since sailing off the edge of the map, we have scaled Earth's highest mountains, crossed polar ice caps, dived to the ocean floor and stood on the surface of the Moon. Today, people continue to live, work and play in some of the most extreme environments on earth and beyond. Why is it that, despite the risk, people remain drawn to these extreme places? Who has the right stuff for extremes and what is it that allows them to thrive at the limits? What, if anything, can we learn from these people and how might that help us tackle challenges faced in everyday life?

This unit introduces key historical, cultural, physiological and psychosocial perspectives on human life, survival and thriving in extremes. Using case studies and contemporary theory, we explore the physical, psychological and social demands faced by people in extreme settings, what motivates them to go to these places and what they do to cope.

Throughout the unit, you will journey through a range of study topics including the history of bravery and heroism in polar exploration, how to select astronauts for a mission to Mars, the mental health of humanitarian aid workers, and lessons for trauma, resilience and psychological wellbeing in an extreme world. You will explore how you can apply what you learn to your own challenges, including how you cope with stress in daily life, make effective decisions under pressure and lead others in times of crisis.



This unit aims to provide a broad interdisciplinary perspective on surviving and thriving in extreme environments.

You will be encouraged to think critically and consider how you can apply what you have learnt to tackle challenges faced in other areas of life and work.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Describe historical and contemporary perspectives on human life and survival in extremes
  • Discuss the cultural, physiological and psychosocial theories that explain differences in surviving and thriving in extreme environments
  • Apply findings from the study of people in extremes to challenges faced in everyday life
  • Create evidence-based summaries and reports for both non-academic and academic audiences


  • What are extreme environments?
  • Historical and cultural perspectives on adventure and exploration in extremes
  • Physiological and psychological basis of surviving and thriving in extreme conditions
  • Why people take the risk (+ seminar)
  • Extreme stress and unusual experiences (e.g. hallucinations, social conflict, scapegoating)
  • New exploration frontiers and challenge for human life
  • Selecting people for extreme activities from the South Pole to the solar system (+ seminar)
  • Trauma, recovery and mental health in the aftermath of disasters and emergencies
  •  Leadership on the edge, in crisis and outside the norm
  • What extreme environments can teach us about everyday life

Teaching and learning methods

The unit includes contributions from leading researchers located in Manchester and around the world.

The unit is delivered via Blackboard with two face-to-face supplementary seminars in weeks 4 and 7. The unit is made up of 10 x online modules which will be released at intervals.

The unit is interactive and uses a variety of learning materials, including academic and popular texts, historical records and video and audio insights from well-known 21st century explorers.

Assessment methods

  1. Ongoing end-of-module assessments (20%)
  2. 1500 word report (choice of task) (50%)
  3. Public engagement resource (30%)

Feedback methods

Via Blackboard

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Tutorials 39
Independent study hours
Independent study 61

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Emma Barrett Unit coordinator

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