This five-part experiment studied the human interaction with equipment, their environment, and each other in microgravity. U.S. and Russian crewmembers have often complained about in-flight noise levels that regularly disrupt sleep, make communication difficult, and increase tension in an already demanding environment. Some crewmembers have worn ear plugs, which may have protected against hearing loss, but was not an acceptable solution to the overall problems of noise. An objective of this study was to assess acoustic noise levels in order to document impacts on crew performance, collect in-flight sound level measurements, compare noise levels across missions, obtain preflight and postflight audiometry measures from crewmembers, and evaluate Shuttle acoustic criteria. Another goal of this study was to determine the effect of vibration on crew comfort and task performance. This was accomplished by postflight crew questionnaires, by ground personnel monitoring the mission during crew waking hours, by analysis of videotape, and by correlation with quantitative acceleration data from the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS).
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Assessment of how crews cope with the on-orbit environment was performed, and factors which affect crew productivity were identified and studied. One part of the study evaluated equipment stowage and deployment techniques, crewmember restraint techniques, and management of loose equipment cables in a microgravity environment. The second part of the study evaluated noise levels in the Spacelab to determine if the noise could interfere with crew performance. The third part of the study examined excessive vibration and its effect on crewmember task performance. A fourth part of the study sought to determine some of the factors influencing the amount of time needed to perform tasks in space as compared to on Earth. The fifth part of the study investigated crewmember navigation through the tunnel connecting the Shuttle to the Spacelab.
Part 1: Handling of small items was found to be more difficult in microgravity than on
Earth. Multiple items stored in one stowage compartment, lack of Velcro, and excess
packaging were some problems noted by the crew. Discrepancies about where certain items
were stowed and the distribution of related experiment equipment across multiple stowage
areas slowed some experiments.
Part 2: Noise levels were confirmed to exceed NASA standards
and were noted by crewmembers as impacting sleep, concentration, communication, and relaxation.
Part 3: While vibration was noted by the crew, it did not affect their performance.
Part 4: The number of interruptions experienced by crewmembers once an activity was initiated, and the number of malfunctions associated with certain experiment hardware, were the most influential factors in extending task completion times.
Part 5: Crew comments confirmed that the design of the tunnel connecting Spacelab with the
Shuttle was sufficient to meet mission activity requirements.
Koros A, Wheelwright C, and Adam S. An evaluation of noise and its effects on shuttle crewmembers during STS-50/USML-1. 1993. NASA-TM-104775. [NTRS]
Mount FE, Adam S, Mckay T, Whitmore M, Merced-Moore D, Holden T, Wheelwright C, Koros, A Sr., Oneal M, and Toole J. Human factors assessments of the STS-57 SpaceHab-1 mission. 1994. NASA-TM-104802. [NTRS]
Computer task completion, minutes
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Paper task completion, minutes
Sound level, decibels
Sound level, hertz
Translation times, seconds