Mars simulation mission focuses on improving work performance on Red Planet

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Washington, July 14 (ANI): A six-man international crew has completed a 105-day Mars simulation mission that was full of realistic scenarios, with experiments evaluating solutions to conditions that impact work performance.

The experiment was carried out in an isolation chamber in Moscow from March 31 to July 14.

The crew, composed of four Russians and two Europeans, simulated the 105-day Mars mission full of experiments and realistic mission scenarios, including emergency situations and 20-minute communications delays.

US participation in the mission consisted of three research teams with experiments evaluating solutions to 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 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 funded from University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Rutgers.

"Additional goals were to see how different mission situations affected the various performance measures and to evaluate whether the interventions could indeed improve performance," he added.

The 105-Day Mars Mission, a partnership between Russia's Institute of Biomedical Problems and the European Space Agency, is the precursor to a 520-Day mission scheduled for 2010.

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

For researchers, the opportunity to run experiments in this type of environment was invaluable.

"We've done experiments in the sleep lab to test the efficacy of lighting interventions, but that is a highly controlled environment," said Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, leader of the NSBRI project funded from Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and University of Colorado.

"By transitioning studies into an operational environment, like the 105-Day Mission, we have the opportunity to learn how to best deploy interventions in a realistic mission setting. This analog is a great intermediate step before implementation on an actual spaceflight," he added.

Participation from the crew and mission controllers was excellent. All three NSBRI projects received data throughout the mission.

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

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