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Understanding Key Components of Successful Autonomous Space Missions (NNX16AM16G)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Human Factors and Performance Team
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Future space exploration missions will require that crewmembers maintain effective task and teamwork while confined in an isolated environment over long-duration missions. Space crews will need to manage tasks more autonomously and self-sufficiently than in current operations, although they will continue to be part of the Multi-Team System (MTS) comprised of members in space and in Mission Control (MC). Because communication with ground support will be significantly delayed during Long Duration Exploration Missions (LDEMs), or may be disrupted or unavailable during portions of the mission, space crews will be required not only to manage their own behavioral health and team performance during periods of autonomy, but also to navigate varying levels of autonomy as needed to coordinate and collaborate with MC despite communication challenges.

The investigators will conduct a series of ground-based analog missions that simulate work and living conditions during LDEMs such as, confinement for a long periods, social isolation, communication delay with MC, mission objectives, and off-nominal events. These conditions will examine and model the impact of crew autonomy implementations on both the crew and the MTS of crew and MC, and to determine whether its impact changes over time. The modeling effort will also examine the role of various team processes (e.g. communication, group dynamic) and states (e.g. team cohesion and efficacy) that the team literature has identified as critical backgrounds to team effectiveness but that have not been systematically addressed in team autonomy studies.

Investigators will use relevant research data available through NASA’s Life Sciences Data Archive (LSDA) not only to supplement the data they will collect from the simulations, but also at the onset of the project to develop models of the crew autonomy. In addition, they will use the data collected in space analogs and from the International Space Station (ISS) to develop models of the individual- and team-level relationships between crew autonomy, emergent states, and team performance. These models will be refined and validated using data from the simulations, and an additional model of the autonomy–performance relationship at the MTS level will be derived. Based on the LSDA data analyses and the analog simulations, investigators will identify leverage points for interventions in LDEMs and provide recommendations for countermeasures to mitigate threats to effective MTS functioning in long-duration missions.

This study has the following specific aims:

  1. Create a scientifically grounded model of the causal relationship between crew autonomy and team effectiveness, and the cognitive, interpersonal and motivational/affective mechanisms that explain how crew autonomy influences team effectiveness of the crew and for the MTS comprised of crew and MC.
  2. Examine how different implementations of autonomy affect crew effectiveness with respect to task completion and in response to several unanticipated off-nominal events.
  3. Develop recommendations for LDEM work design as well as countermeasures to support members of the MTS during autonomous space missions.

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Data Information
Data Availability
Archiving in progress. Data is not yet available for this experiment.

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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
HERA Campaign 5 02/15/2019 03/09/2020 Four 45 day missions

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
Johnson Space Center LSDA Office
Project Manager: Pamela A. Bieri
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Proposal Date
Proposal Source