In space, astronauts are in the relative calm of microgravity. However, the trip to and from space is not a smooth, easy ride for crew members due to extreme vibrations and gravity levels that could reach as much as four times normal gravity. These conditions can limit the ability of the crew members to do their jobs successfully.
Dr. Lee Stone's research project will measure, analyze and model human performance in display navigation and flight control tasks during periods of high vibration and altered gravity similar to what is expected to occur in NASA's new Crew Exploration Vehicle. Performance measurements will be made during simulated ascents and descents. The researchers will then identify and model human capabilities and limitations during these conditions in order to provide design guidelines for the development of displays and controls. The project's ultimate goal is to reduce mission risks and enhance safety.
Lee Stone, Ph.D.
NASA Ames Research Center
The next generation of human-rated spaceflight vehicles will expose astronauts to altered gravito-inertial forces and elevated vibration levels during launch and landing that can affect their ability to perform their assigned tasks. Furthermore, current plans call for crew action in critical tasks, including the override of flight automation in off-nominal conditions. At this time, the crew may be exposed to nearly four-times normal gravity combined with vibration levels potentially higher than those experienced during Apollo and Shuttle. The risk associated with these dynamic phases of flight becomes even more acute when critical tasks are performed by deconditioned crew returning after a long-duration spaceflight. Altered gravitational environments experienced in spacecraft impact human manual and gaze control. High-frequency vibration is also a serious challenge to visuomotor performance and gaze control.
Unfortunately, our current quantitative knowledge of these effects is too limited to develop and validate operationally-relevant predictive models of crew performance of sufficient reliability to support interface design or requirement verification. In particular, the interactions between increased gravity and vibration and between subject and display vibration are poorly understood.
The goal of the research is to measure, analyze and model human performance in display navigation and flight control tasks during centrifugation and vibration (in isolation and combination) to simulate ascent/descent conditions of spaceflight. The research will measure performance (and associated workload) in operationally-relevant display navigation and manual control tasks under simulated ascent and descent conditions and will compare the effectiveness of a variety of potential display and controller configurations. These data will enable us to identify and model the human capabilities and limitations in order to provide validated quantitative design guidelines for displays and controls to support crew-cockpit design engineers and operations/training development. This research will enable the development of validated spacecraft interface design guidelines and human-system verification tools with the ultimate goal of reducing mission risks and enhancing safety.
Lee Stone, Ph.D.
NASA Ames Research Center
The research will determine the impacts of transient and sustained acceleration on human sensorimotor performance. The benefit of this research for NASA is that it will fill a critical knowledge gap that is currently hampering the optimal design of astronaut and pilot displays and interfaces needed to maximize performance and safety while minimizing human error. The benefit of this research for humanity, above and beyond enabling safer and more productive space exploration, is two-fold. First, the human performance databases (and models) generated will allow for better design of aircraft and other vehicles, thereby ultimately faciltiating the enhancement of safety for the travelling public by supporting improved cockpit/interface design and training. Second, the performance assessment technologies developed and validated in this project may have medical applications for enhancing diagnostic methods to identify sensorimotor deficits due to disease or injury.