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1212-ScienceReport

Science Report
12/12/2013
Chelsea Iwig

 For most of the history of human spaceflight, beginning with Yuri Gagarin’s epic flight in 1961, 
physiological and technical factors were considered the greatest hindrance to mission safety and 
success. However, with longer missions and larger crews becoming common in space exploration, 
psychological factors are gaining attention. One particular concern is the potential for 
interpersonal problems between crewmembers to threaten team functioning and performance. 

Research shows that factors associated with small-team functioning, like cohesion, coordination, 
and levels of perceived stress, are crucial to performance and the overall success of long-duration 
spaceflight (LDSF) missions. Breakdowns in team cohesion and coordination can result in 
catastrophic consequences. Kanas (2005) concluded that “disruptions in cohesion over time can 
negatively affect the ability of the crewmembers to work as an intact unit, [...] and can produce 
ineffective responses during times of danger and high stress.” It is therefore vital that space 
crews, and mission support personnel, have the capability to measure fluctuations in team function 
in a dynamic, frequent, and quantitative manner in order to recognize potential breakdowns in 
functioning and avoid major performance decrements. However, given that NASA recently called for 
research proposals on this topic, it is clear a valid and reliable approach to dynamic crew 
monitoring has yet to be identified. 

Our research addresses this need for a team assessment tool by evaluating a battery of behavioral 
and performance measures at simulated Mars habitats. The primary goal of this research is to 
develop, validate, and deliver a dynamic monitoring instrument, the Space Team Assessment Tool 
(STAT), which NASA can use to monitor crew functioning and reduce the risk of performance 
decrements due to breakdowns. To achieve this goal, we have identified potential stress, mood, and 
cohesion questionnaires to be included in the STAT and will test them with teams in isolated and 
confined settings analogous to exploration missions. Presently, we are completing the first phase 
of this project, which is to develop and test the preliminary STAT through our research here at the 
MDRS.