The Behavioral Health and Performance (BHP) Element conducts and supports research to reduce the risk of behavioral and psychiatric conditions. These include performance decrements due to inadequate cooperation and communication within a team and the risk of errors due to fatigue resulting from sleep loss or work overload.
Long-duration missions, beyond low Earth orbit, will require crews to adapt to increasingly autonomous operations in isolated, confined, and extreme environments. Crews are faced with other challenges such as long periods of heavy workload, separation from home, and altered day-night/light cycles. Microgravity, carbon dioxide, and radiation are other factors that may also lead to debilitating neurobehavioral and performance outcomes. BHP’s strategy for addressing its risk reduction research is derived in a systematic manner and driven by operations. Spaceflight analogs and other research environments are carefully assessed to ensure that the individual, team, environment, and mission characteristics fit the research question at hand. To address these concerns, BHP categorizes research into three areas: Behavioral Medicine, Team Risk, and Sleep Risks. The Behavioral Medicine Risk area aims to develop self-assessment tools for early detection and treatment that use unobtrusive and objective measures of mood, cognitive function, and other behavioral reactions to living and working in space. The Team Risk area examines team performance and other team-related outcomes, including crew cohesion and communication, to develop tools and technologies that monitor and support teams throughout autonomous operations. The Sleep Risk area focuses on countermeasure development, including lighting protocols, medication recommendations, education, and tools that optimize work-rest schedules. The end result is to provide technologies and tools that will optimize the adaptation of the individual and crew to the space environment, and maintain motivation, cohesion, communication, morale, wellbeing, and productivity.