Task Automation in Procedures: Guidelines for Allocating Tasks for Performance (Completed)
Last Published:  04/20/22 11:43:24 AM (Central)
Short Title: Allocating Tasks for Performance
Responsible HRP Element: Space Human Factors and Habitability
Collaborating Org(s):
National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI)
Funding Status: Completed - Task completed and produced a deliverable
Procurement Mechanism(s):

As crewed missions move deeper into space and communication latency increases, strategies for carrying out tasks must shift. Astronauts will be unable to depend on real-time support from flight controllers; controllers will not be able to perform procedures in the same way they do for the International Space Station, nor to advise on changed applicability of procedures in real-time. This change threatens to increase astronaut workload, decrease efficiency, and increase the risk of suboptimal task execution.

  1. Developed procedure and simulation software and conduct a pilot study in preparation for the further experiments, 
  2. Conducted an experiment with human subjects to assess performance, ease of learning, and degree of generalization when using interfaces organized around procedural units of work to allocate tasks to humans and automation.
  3. Conducted a second experiment with human subjects to assess these same metrics with revised task allocation strategies from Aim 2.

Automation is an important resource for adapting to the deep space environment. To help rather than harm, however, automation must be effectively integrated with the humans it supports.

This project tested the hypothesis that selecting units of work to automate based on procedures designed for humans would improve the human-automation interface. This methodology will be useful during longer-duration flights when astronauts may not be able to depend on real-time support from flight controllers. Project outcomes were of great interest to managers and scientist within the SHFH Element, in particular because astronauts on extended missions will have a longer time lag between task training and execution. They will also need to perform more tasks, and many diverse tasks, resulting in increased astronaut workload, decreased efficiency, and the likelihood of increased errors. A greater reliance on spacecraft automation is critical for safety and effective performance. This project aimed to optimize the number and types of automated versus manual tasks as well as providing user flexibility between selecting and melding the two modalities of operation.
The project developed strategies for using human procedures to identify units of work for adjustable automation, built a test environment with software for manual or partially automated executive or procedures, and used this environment to evaluate the effectiveness of alternate strategies for executing procedures.