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Identification of Aerobic Fitness Standards for Exploration Mission Tasks (Mission_Task_Aerobic)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Biomedical countermeasures
Cardiovascular physiology
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

The physical demands of exploration mission tasks, like any job, can vary depending on the task and environment. During the original Apollo missions certain tasks like photography needed little effort whereas construction and shoveling type tasks required increased physical exertion. Planned missions to terrestrial surfaces (e.g., asteroid, the moon, and Mars), where crewmembers will spend an extended period of time in a microgravity setting, may result in a plausible scenario in which at some point within the mission critical tasks may become physically challenging enough that a decrease in performance and safety results. Therefore, it is critical to understand the relationship between the ability to complete specific mission critical tasks and aerobic exercise capacity. To mitigate the risk of an unacceptable scenario in which crewmembers are unable to perform critical mission tasks due to inadequate aerobic exercise capacity, a set of easily administered predictor tests must be developed and used to evaluate both countermeasure effectiveness and ultimately, whether a crewmember is ready and capable of performing various physiologically demanding tasks. Therefore, the overall goal of this proposed work is twofold: develop a thorough understanding of the physiological parameters associated with the ability to complete simulated mission critical tasks, and develop a battery of predictor tests that will provide critical information regarding a crewmember’s readiness and capability to perform these tasks.

This study had the following specific aims:

  1. Determine values and ranges for aerobic fitness variables that can individually or in aggregate (a) map to the level of success for a given mission critical task and (b) provide an aerobic fitness standard.
  2. Using the information obtained from Specific Aim 1, design predictor testing protocols that can be performed with in-flight hardware and astronaut time constraints.

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Sutterfield SL, Alexander AM, Hammer SM, Didier KD, Caldwell JT, Barstow TJ, and Ade CJ. " Prediction of planetary mission task performance for long-duration spaceflight. Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise. 2019. August; 51(8):1662-70. [DOI]

Alexander AM, Sutterfield SL, Kriss KN, Hammer SM, Didier KD, Cauldwell JT, Dzewaltowski AC, Barstow TJ, and Ade CJ. Prediction of emergency capsule egress performance. Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance. 2019. September 1;90(9):782-7. [DOI]

Aerobic capacity
Task performance and analysis

Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. Data sets are not publicly available but can be requested.
Data Sets+ Request data

Aerobic capacity VO2pk
Aerobic exercise capacity
Critical power (CP)
Peak power output (PPO)
Respiratory exchange ratio (RER)
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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Ground 05/01/2009 In Progress

Human Research Program (HRP) Human Research Roadmap (HRR) Information
Crew health and performance is critical to successful human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The Human Research Program (HRP) investigates and mitigates the highest risks to human health and performance, providing essential countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration. Risks include physiological and performance effects from hazards such as radiation, altered gravity, and hostile environments, as well as unique challenges in medical support, human factors, and behavioral health support. The HRP utilizes an Integrated Research Plan (IRP) to identify the approach and research activities planned to address these risks, which are assigned to specific Elements within the program. The Human Research Roadmap is the web-based tool for communicating the IRP content.

The Human Research Roadmap is located at:

+ Click here for information of how this experiment is contributing to the HRP's path for risk reduction.

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Alternate Experiment Name
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
Directed Research