Last Published:  07/30/20 02:45:13 PM (Central)
Responsible Element: Human Factors and Behavioral Performance (HFBP)
Status: Open

The research conducted thus far on the effects of autonomy on teams, while limited, has identified several significant outcomes of increased autonomy, including effects on problem solving, task performance, personal strain, team cohesion, and well-being. However, the majority of the work on autonomy has been conducted in ground-based organizations; we know little about the possible effects of autonomy in a spaceflight environment, where the level of autonomy will shift as a function of distance and communication delays, requiring increased autonomy with more distance. Current spaceflight missions are heavily dependent on communication with the ground in terms of guiding team choices and actions. Current ISS operations are based on a six-person, international crew living and working for six months in low Earth orbit. These missions are supported by a significant infrastructure of both social and operational support. Little work has been done examining the effects of increased decision-making discretion by individual astronauts and the crew team with regard to ground and spaceflight crew performance, health, and well-being. Exploration missions will involve shifting autonomy in increasingly earth independent operations, potentially impacting on one of the major countermeasures currently available for ISS missions: Social support that can include health, psychological, and technical systems such as communication aids or tools. Teamwork, represented by cooperation, communication, and coordination among individuals, affects both the health and the performance of the team. It is known from ground research that selection, training and social support systems have the largest impact on teamwork outcomes. Additionally, the effects of reducing crew autonomy on a return trip are unknown. A more complete understanding of the effects of shifting levels of autonomy on team functioning, for both the ground and flight crews, is needed to properly characterize the risk to the team. The absence of a ground-based social support system is not known for long duration exploration missions (<6; 6-12; >12 months) beyond low Earth orbit. 


This gap serves to identify the critical effects of shifting levels of autonomy and increasingly earth independent operations on team performance and well-being. It is also intended to provide the countermeasures necessary to support the ground and crew in terms of their technical task performance as well as their social team interactions (while addressing their psychosocial needs) in managing a mission in an autonomous long duration environment.  Countermeasures developed encompass pre-, during- and post-mission phases.


Target for Closure

Identify set of key outcomes of shifts in autonomy (both increased and decreased) at multiple levels and across multiple mission lengths (<6; 6-12; >12 months) along with a set of validated team support countermeasures and standards targeting autonomy-related outcomes that maintain team function and psychosocial health. Closure will occur in two stages: (1) Identification of key outcomes of shifts in autonomy on team function specific to ICE environments based on variance across different mission durations (<6; 6-12; >12 months), quantifying the impact of different levels of autonomy on team and mission outcomes and defining how these impact the key indicators of team function in Team-101 gap and thresholds of team function in Team-102.(2) Development of countermeasures targeting maintenance and enhancement of key team outcomes, as defined in Team01, influenced by shifting levels of autonomy in increasingly earth independent operations; countermeasures that have been (a) verified, (b) validated, (c) targeted to pre-mission preparation, (d) in-flight self-sustainment and team readiness, and (e) post-mission transition/rehabilitation.

Risk Risk of Performance and Behavioral Health Decrements Due to Inadequate Cooperation, Coordination, Communication, and Psychosocial Adaptation within a Team
You are here! Gap Team-105: We need to identify a set of countermeasures to support team function and enable multiple distributed teams to manage shifting levels of autonomy for all phases of increasingly earth independent, long duration exploration missions.

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