In this study, investigators sought to better understand what characteristics of individuals and teams are necessary for successful long-duration space exploration, as well as how teams can best cope with highly autonomous conditions over long periods of time. In particular, they examined optimal team composition for long-duration space flight as well as countermeasures to develop and maintain team resilience under isolated and confined conditions. They investigated conditions of autonomy and leadership as well as the utility of team debriefing in maintaining resilience under stressful conditions. By measuring the team composition variables and matching them to specific roles within a controlled environment, they were able to determine what characteristics of individuals and teams are necessary for successful long-duration space exploration.
Investigators used an experimental methodology to examine different team composition variables as well as team interventions in long-duration space exploration. Participants completed a set of measures assessing individual difference variables that are theoretically presumed to be important to individual task work and teamwork. Participants were randomly assigned to roles (i.e., helm, weapons, engineering) within the simulation. Furthermore, countermeasures such as debriefing and manipulating the formal role of mission control was part of the task to understand how to develop and maintain teamwork under these conditions. This allowed investigators to determine what characteristics of individuals, teams, and interventions are necessary for successful long-duration space exploration.
NASA’s Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) facility participants were composed of four 4-person teams, in a crossover design. All teams used the structured debriefing tool, an intervention in which team members reflect on recent experiences to prepare for subsequent tasks.
Investigators analyzed data gathered in a lab setting. They also gathered additional data in two analog settings: a) at HERA, a confined environment with teams of adults performing a 7-day or 14- day mission, and b) with a second team of astronauts during a NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) undersea training mission. In addition, investigators gathered a set of team measures, including new measures of team resilience and living preferences; and tested team self-sustaining debriefs as a target countermeasure. The pattern of results confirmed that the team debriefing countermeasure is a viable tool for sustaining team resilience and in turn, team performance.