Assessment of Operator Proficiency Following Long-Duration Space Flight (Manual Control) - 09.17.14
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Science Objectives for Everyone
Lack of gravity causes sensorimotor deficits post-landing. This experiment's comprehensive cognitive/sensorimotor test battery will determine the relative contribution of specific mechanisms (including sleepiness and fatigue) underlying decrements in post-flight operator proficiency. These results will be critical in determining whether sensorimotor countermeasures are required for piloted landings and early surface operations, and what functional areas countermeasures should target.
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Johnson Space Center, Human Research Program, Houston, TX, United States
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)
ISS Expedition Duration
September 2012 - October 2015
Previous ISS Missions
- Evidence from shuttle landings suggests that performance of astronaut pilots is degraded after microgravity exposure. Central adaptation to the absence of gravity is thought to be responsible for a range of sensorimotor deficits (postural, locomotor, oculomotor, perception of motion) observed in astronauts post-landing. Long-term exposure to microgravity has the potential to negatively impact the ability of crewmembers to navigate, land, and perform post-landing surface operations for exploration class missions.
- Based on relevant flight studies, the investigators have developed a battery of tests to be performed on seated crewmembers pre- and post-flight. The test battery targets cognitive, oculomotor, fine motor, and vestibular mechanisms potentially underlying post-flight deficits in operator performance. Computerized simulator tasks include automobile control, T-38 landing simulations, and a rover simulation. Sleepiness and fatigue are also measured to control for the cumulative effects of in-flight sleep deprivation and workload.
- An understanding of the underlying mechanisms for any decrements in post-flight proficiency will help determine whether countermeasures are required for future exploration class missions, and what functional areas the countermeasures should target.
Long-term exposure to microgravity has the potential to negatively impact the ability of crewmembers to operate complex machinery and perform post-landing EVA. This project directly addresses the 'risk of impaired ability to maintain control of vehicles and other complex systems' identified by NASA's Human Research Program by performing pre- and post-flight assessments of sensorimotor function in ISS astronauts in conjunction with full-motion simulations to gauge the effects of microgravity exposure on operator proficiency.
The PI team developed a full-motion simulator based on a 6 degree-of-freedom Stewart platform. The single seat cabin utilizes triple scene projection covering 150° horizontal by 50° vertical. Subjects are placed in a racing seat and restrained by a 4-point harness. The control pod includes a steering wheel and joystick, and three pedals (outer pedals used for rudder input during flight; right and middle pedal used for accelerator and brake for driving simulations).
Based on a review of relevant in- and post-flight studies, the PI team developed a battery of tests to be performed on seated ISS crewmembers pre- and post-flight. The test battery targets cognitive, oculomotor, fine motor, and vestibular mechanisms potentially underlying post-flight deficits in operator performance. In addition, subjective and objective measures of sleepiness and fatigue will be obtained to control for the cumulative effects of in-flight sleep deprivation and workload on post-flight sensorimotor and operator function. The results from these test batteries will be correlated with astronaut performance on three operationally-relevant full-motion simulator tasks: control of an automobile, operation of a Mars rover, and (for experienced pilot subjects only) T-38A Talon landing simulations.
The aim is to objectively define the effects of long-duration spaceflight on operator proficiency, and identify microgravity-related sensorimotor or cognitive deficits (or combinations thereof) underlying degradation of operator effectiveness. This study will answer four critical questions:
1. To what degree does long-duration spaceflight impair a crewmember’s ability to operate a vehicle or other machinery?
2. What sensorimotor/cognitive functions underlie degradation of operator proficiency?
3. Are sensorimotor countermeasures required for lunar/Martian landings and surface operations?
4. If so, what areas should these countermeasures target?
An understanding of the underlying mechanisms for the decrement in post-flight proficiency will help determine whether countermeasures are required for future exploration class missions, and what functional areas the countermeasures should target.
The experiment calls for 4 preflight and 3 postflight sessions on a total of 8 subjects. Preflight sessions are scheduled in the L-120 days to launch timeframe with no more than 2 sessions scheduled within a 7 day period and at least 48 hrs between tests. It is desired that the final preflight session occur as late as possible prior to departure for launch. Postflight sessions are targeted for R+0/1, R+4, and R+8 days.
This investigation only requires baseline data collection (BDC) both preflight and postflight. No inflight testing will occur.
Human Aerospace Laboratory
Interior view: Subject uses a joystick to control navigation and docking during the rover simulation. Similar input devices will be used for other simulations and the physiologic test battery.
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Exterior view: The simulator cabin, viewed here from the entry portal, is mounted on a 6 degree-of-freedom (DOF) motion base. The visual projection screens are used with the 6DOF base to provide full motion simulations of driving, T38 landing and rover navigation, as well as test motion perception and ocular reflexes during dynamic motion stimuli.
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