NEEMO 14 Topside Report No. 8, May 21, 2010
NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations

Mission Day 9-10 - "Health and Performance Research"


Over the last two days, the crew will be finishing up their suite of extravehicular activities (EVAs) using their center of gravity (CG) rigs on the seafloor. This will wrap all of the activities using the lander, rover and cranes, and begin the focus on exploration traverses around the site.

In addition to the activity outside of the habitat during NEEMO missions, we have a wide variety of research inside happening at any given time. One of the most extensive of these, which takes place on every mission day, is our research involving the health and performance of our crew. Here is some background on those studies:

Behavioral Health and Crew Performance

In preparation for exploration missions, the NASA Human Research Program (HRP) Behavioral Health and Performance (BHP) Element conducts and supports research to address three human health risks: Risk of Behavioral and Psychiatric Conditions; Risk of Performance Decrements Due to Inadequate Cooperation, Coordination, Communication, and Psychosocial Adaptation within a Team; and Risk of Performance Errors due to Sleep Loss, Fatigue, Circadian Desynchronization, and Work Overload.

There are three studies being conducted under the BHP Element during the NEEMO 14 mission. The Cognitive Performance and Stress study is collecting data daily, and the SPIFe (Scheduling and Planning Interface for Exploration) software is being used daily to plan and schedule the mission's activities. The Team/Autonomy measures are collected on mission days 4, 6, 10, and 11.

Cognitive Performance and Stress in A Simulated Space Environment.

One of the scientific studies being conducted during the NEEMO 14 mission is by investigators at the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University, and is sponsored by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (www.NSBRI.org). The NEEMO 14 mission provides an analog environment for astronauts/aquanauts living in the Aquarius underwater facility in conditions similar to those that crewmembers experience aboard the space shuttle and the International Space Station.

The purpose of this study is to continue development of technologies that can be used in spaceflight to track astronauts' neurobehavioral functions. It includes gathering data on sleep-wake activity, cognitive performance and stress information on aquanauts and mission support personnel, in order to (1) identify periods of fatigue and stress during analog missions; and (2) to develop normative databases on fatigue and stress in analog environments for comparison to spaceflight.

Our project has four main goals for the NEEMO 14 mission:
  • We will test the usefulness of three brief, validated cognitive performance tests collected on a customized laptop computer that has a solid state hard disk drive (SSD) to avoid atmospheric pressure problems that can affect a normal laptop in the Aquarius facility.
  • We will test the feasibility of using optical computer recognition (OCR) on video of aquanauts' facial expressions during cognitive performance tests. These facial videos will be run through special computer algorithms to train a computer to recognize individual crew member's facial expressions for detection of moods, stress and fatigue.
  • We will collect saliva samples for analysis of cortisol, a measure of physiological stress.
  • Crew members will also wear a small wristwatch-size device called an Actiwatch® that records a crewmember's motion and provides an activity-based measure of sleep-wake cycles throughout the mission. The crew will also fill out some questionnaires that will tell us about the quality of their sleep.
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NEEMO Topside