Scientists are now conducting controlled experiments that isolate several people for weeks or months, and Research on teams in remote areas such as Antarctica, to begin to reveal what problems and behavioral patterns participants (astronauts) will have in different stages and missions of Mars exploration.
Scientists say the goal of the study isDevelopmentA system that detects subtle signs of tension and helps the astronaut team orient itself to avoid problems before team cohesion collapses and performance is impaired. "Our computer models are ready to see what we can do to prevent potential team problems," says Noshir Contractor, a professor of behavioral science at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
The Human Exploration Research Simulation (HERA) project is located at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Dr. Nohill is one of the researchers on the project. Last Sunday, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, he and his colleagues presented some of their findings.
The HERA project started in 2014 and four people lived in a closed, isolated habitat for up to 45 days. During this period, communication delays with the outside world may gradually increase to up to five minutes to simulate what future Mars explorers will face as they get farther and farther away from home.
In fact, the Mars mission will require a crew of astronauts to stay together for at least three years and cannot leave ahead of time because the journey between the Earth and Mars has been timed accurately. In the course of the mission, the two-way transmission time of radio signals to and from the earth will increase to more than 40 minutes. In this case, astronauts will have to rely more on their peers than on any previous human space mission.
Leslie DeChurch, a psychologist on the project, also works at Northwestern University. He said that enough people have experienced HERA experiments, so they can make good predictions about what might happen deep in space. One of them is that they realize that teams are often the most vulnerable in the third phase of a task, no matter how long it lasts. In the Mars mission, this phase is also known as the return phase, when the novelty experience has disappeared, but there is still a long way to go. "At that time, astronauts would start to think,'I'm not loved anymore'," she said.
At this time, the ability of astronauts to solve problems in a cooperative way combined with their own expertise has declined significantly. The results seem to be largely unrelated to gender factors. Dr. De Church pointed out that although HERA conducted experiments with a team of all male and all female members, the results did not distinguish between good and bad.
A longer-lasting simulation mission was carried out at the Hawaiian Space Exploration Simulations and Simulations (HI-SEAS) remote high-altitude facility, and the results were similar to those of HERA. Researchers have found that problems may arise when a small group of people must learn to live under pressure to achieve common goals.
Steve Kozlowski, an organizational psychologist at Michigan State University, is working with HI-SEAS. He believes that team cohesion breaks have occurred in many experiments over six months. Separation usually starts with a few crew members and then spreads to the entire team at the end of the mission.
Dr. Kozlovsky said: "We have reason to worry about what will happen between the astronauts sent to Mars."
Jeffrey Johnson, an anthropologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, studied the impact of Antarctic research stations and other Antarctic facilities on team dynamics. He said that a key factor for some teams to avoid such a split is that there is a loved member of the team who has a strong sense of humor, can defuse tension and bring the team together.
Overall, Dr. Nohill adds, these new findings suggest that NASA's initial choice of astronauts, the right Stuff, published in 1979, has a well-known description that depicts astronauts as a group of square-jawed, resilient male pilots, is not suitable for future missions to the moon.
Dr. Nohill said: "For a team that wants to go to Mars, is a group of square, persistent male astronauts the right candidate? We believe that this is not the case." (Author/Liangbi)