An important consideration of long-duration spaceflight operations is interpersonal dynamics that affect crew cohesion and performance. Flight surgeons have stated the need for unobtrusive monitoring to help detect if crews are having difficulties coping with long-duration spaceflight environments.

NASA has tens of thousands of procedures for the International Space Station, and any new flight vehicles or habitats will also rely heavily on automation and have thousands of procedures. While procedures are, at the time of this reporting, authored in Microsoft Word, NASA is planning to use an XML representation of procedures that facilitates automatic translation. Nominal performance metrics can be determined during training and then compared during the actual missions. Deviations between the nominal and current performance can be flagged for additional attention. Since crewmembers can perform upwards of hundreds of procedures a week, there will be substantial data with which to assess crew behavioral performance. Social interactions are also a significant factor in team cohesion and performance that can be compared against social metric norms using Sociometric Badges and communications (spoken and text) analysis.

The long-term goal of this project is to develop a set of applied technologies that can monitor crew health and cohesiveness in an unobtrusive manner, and identify potential abnormalities for feedback to astronauts and flight surgeons for further investigation. A set of recommendations was developed regarding technologies and techniques to accomplish these. The conceptual design of an ABCAT system was developed that implements those recommendations.

The ABCAT approach is an innovative design that integrates commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) data acquisition technologies with specially designed, NASA-specific data acquisition software modules. It then cleans, integrates, and fuses the data through a two-staged processing architecture to create principled models of crew cohesiveness, performance, and mental state.

The military has teams of individuals working in high-stress environments over long durations. Examples include submarine crews, aircraft carriers, embedded special operations forces, and ground-based pilots flying unmanned air vehicles for hours at a time. The ABCAT approach could transfer to military applications. A variety of commercial activities also have similar characteristics to NASA missions. Air traffic controllers work in a high-stress environment where small mistakes can be costly. Likewise, teams of operators control nuclear power plants, petrochemical plants, oil refineries, etc. They often perform standard operating procedures and need to be monitored closely for degraded performance. Even in situations in which lives or property are not at risk, monitoring and detecting problems with individual and team performance is useful for managers interested in achieving peak performance. Further possibilities include competitive sports teams in which team cohesiveness and performance are significant concerns.

This work was done by Marcus Huber of Cybernet Systems, David Kortenkamp of TRACLabs, Eduardo Salas of the University of Central Florida, and Daniel Olguin of MIT for Johnson Space Center. NASA is seeking partners to further develop this technology through joint cooperative research and development. For more information about this technology and to explore opportunities, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. MSC-25508-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the February, 2017 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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