Training for International Space Station (ISS) expeditions is comprehensive and is intended to prepare astronauts for all tasks they are likely to perform during their increments and many emergency tasks they hope will not occur. On-orbit task performance is monitored closely by ground personnel who provide real-time procedural assistance and verification to ensure correct performance. The relatively brief durations and proximity of ISS expeditions make this comprehensive and directly-supported approach to training possible. However, some trained skills are extremely perishable and increasing lag-times in communications on planetary expeditions will render real-time monitoring by support personnel difficult, and eventually impossible. For these reasons, future long-duration expeditions to asteroids and the planets will require different training strategies from those used to prepare crews for the ISS, in order to minimize the risks associated with performance errors resulting from training deficiencies.
The primary objective of this study was to identify the generalizable abilities that will be required of crew on expedition-class space missions. In this regard, investigators addressed the following specific aims.
This study applied a proven method to identify the abilities and skills necessary to perform the work expected of exploration crews, and to develop recommendations for crew selection and optimal training. The investigator team first developed a list of relevant tasks required for exploration missions after a search through relevant literature and through NASA mission planning documentation, and by consulting with NASA Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Using the Critical Abilities and Tasks (CAT) method, each task statement was phrased systematically beginning with an action verb, followed by the object of the task, how it was performed, and the reason for the action. SMEs completed a survey of these tasks to identify the frequency, difficulty, and importance of each one. The study used research methods that were developed to analyze the work performed by a variety of civilian and military occupational specialties and is consistent with Human Factors methods. The study began by developing a comprehensive inventory of 1,125 tasks that might be performed by crewmembers during the 12 phases of the first human expeditions to Mars, from launch to landing 30 months later.
Sixty SMEs rated expedition tasks in terms of (likely) frequency, difficulty to learn, and importance to mission success using five-point Likert scales. A fourth metric, labeled criticality, was derived by combining the mean ratings of the three dimensions.
Seventy-two SMEs placed 58 physical, cognitive, and social abilities necessary to perform the tasks in order of importance for specialist domains identified by the task analysis using a card-sorting procedure. The research team then identified, 1) Abilities, skills, and knowledge that can be retained and generalized across tasks; 2) Optimum training strategies; and, 3) Implications for crew size and composition. Study results also led to recommendations concerning equipment, habitats, and procedures for exploration-class space missions.