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Understanding Key Components of Successful Autonomous Space Missions

Dr. Tofighi

Project Principal Investigator/s:
Dr. Davood Tofighi

Funding Agency:
Georgia Institute of Technology

Amount Awarded:
$200,000

Period of Performance:
07/2017 - 06/2019

Goals and Aims of Study

Exploration space missions will require that crewmembers maintain effective task and teamwork while confined in an isolated environment over long durations. Communication with ground support will be significantly delayed during long duration exploration missions 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 mission control despite communication challenges. To date, we lack a scientifically grounded model of the relationship between crew autonomy and team effectiveness, and the cognitive, interpersonal and motivational/affective mechanisms that explain how crew autonomy influences team effectiveness of both crew and mission control.  As a result, we do not know how best to prepare crewmembers and mission control personnel throughout these long duration exploration missions.  The proposed research will address these gaps.  We will conduct several ground-based analog missions that simulate work and living conditions during long duration exploration missions (i.e., confinement for a long period, social isolation, communication delay with mission control, mission objectives, off-nominal events) to a) examine and model the impact of crew autonomy on both the crew and mission control, and b) to determine whether its impact changes over time.

How this Research Will Benefit Society

The research is a part of NASA Human Research Program’s effort to investigate and mitigate the highest risks to astronaut health and performance in exploration missions. Findings of our research will be used to provide human health and performance countermeasures, knowledge, technologies, and tools to enable safe, reliable, and productive human space exploration. The scope of this goal includes both the successful completion of exploration missions and the preservation of astronaut health over the life of the astronaut.