Mars simulation aims to study astronauts’ performance

Moscow – Yesterday, six Russian and European astronauts walked out of an isolation chamber after 105 days carrying out a simulated Mars mission.

The mission included experiments and realistic scenarios, including emergency situations and 20-minute communications delays, and was a rehearsal for a 520-day mission scheduled for 2010.

The isolation facility consisted of several interconnected modules containing medical and scientific research areas, living quarters, a kitchen, greenhouse and exercise facility.

US research teams looked at conditions that impact work performance. The projects evaluated lighting interventions to counter sleep disruption due to shift work or long hours, tested two objective methods of measuring the impact of stress and fatigue on performance, and assessed interactions between crew members and mission control. The three projects were funded by the Houston-based National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI).

“The mission allowed us to look at the feasibility of certain technologies developed for improving performance by deploying them in an extremely demanding work environment. In this realistic setting, will crews use the technologies and will we get good data?” said Dr. David F Dinges, leader of the NSBRI group. “Additional goals were to see how different mission situations affected the various performance measures and to evaluate whether the interventions could indeed improve performance.”

Final data will be received in the coming weeks, and the teams will begin detailed data analysis.

Detailed summaries of each project are available on NSBRI’s Russian Chamber Study web page.