An ongoing research study called the Functional Task Test allows scientists to measure the changes in astronaut performance after spaceflight. The test documents astronaut responses to a set of physical challenges that represent mission-critical tasks and measures changes in physiological function to help scientists objectively assess crew functional capabilities immediately after landing and identify key factors that contribute to reductions in performance. These assessments will lead to better human factors designs that will aid astronauts landing in remote locations such as Mars. They will also help scientists develop countermeasures to offset the deficits that would otherwise pose a risk to crew members attempting to perform mission-critical tasks on long-duration missions.
"Exploration-class missions beyond low-Earth orbit are challenging the human experience on every level," says John Charles, Ph.D., chief of the International Science Office in
"The field test is a joint investigation with our colleagues from the
Scientists already know there is great variation in individual capabilities following flight. According to Reschke, they can use these variations to design the appropriate countermeasures that may put crew members on equal footing and reduce risk.
This research has Earth-based implications as well. Data can be used to design interventions and rehabilitation programs for subsets of the population like the elderly who experience changes in multiple physiological systems that lead to a decline in functional performance and increased risk of falling.
In this way, the benefits of
Keywords for this news article include: Aerospace,
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