NASA Human Research Program Investigators' Workshop (2012)
C.A. Miller1, P.Wu1, S.Schmer-Galunder1 and J.M. Rye1
{cmiller, pwu, sgalunder, jrye}
Smart Information Flow Technologies
211 1st St. N., Suite 300
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Long duration missions present unique challenges to the behavioral health of astronauts. Factors such as lack of
team coherence, workload, social monotony, access to family and psychosocial support, and interpersonal and
cultural differences can affect both crew welfare and task performance. NASA has identified the psychological state
of astronauts, and the integrated “social” state of the team of astronauts and astronaut-ground relations, in its risk
assessments for the Human Research Program Integrated Research Plan (IRP). In Appendix A of the IRP, NASA
has identified Gap Team1as the need to identify “…the most likely and serious threats to task performance,
teamwork, and psycho-social performance” during long duration flight. Such threats occur in the context of
individual and cultural differences in perceptions and expectations, leadership and team dynamics, workload, and
meaningful work, etc.
Metrics and methods for assessing these factors are complicated because some are inherently qualitative, while
others may not be amendable to self reports. Yet, an ability to assess team cohesion and psychosocial issues is a
necessary precursor to determining the “most likely and serious threats,” much less to developing countermeasures
for them. If such assessment could be done reliably, dynamically and with low intrusion and effort, it would a huge
asset in team selection and composition, in determining and improving team readiness, and in countermeasure
development. In each case, improvements in mission performance quality, accuracy and speed would result, and an
improved human interaction “atmosphere” that promotes and/or maintains good citizenship would make mission
performance more productive and satisfying for those involved. Such assessment might be obtained through
extensive surveys or interviews, or through ongoing biometric data, but such intrusions would at best detract from
any benefits gained and, at worst, would provoke or exacerbate the very problems it strives to detect and measure.
Even ongoing research involving the use of position and interaction tracking badges [e.g., 1] or a wrist device to
assess rest vs. movement [2], while potentially very valuable, remains intrusive on astronauts time and autonomy.
Instead, we note that most interpersonal states are affected, even largely the product of, interpersonal
communication. Even individual psychological states are inferred by others through the communication behaviors
and appearance of the individual. Furthermore, there are already rich sources of interpersonal communication
data—both intra-crew and between flight crew and ground-- which are created and archived during International
Space Station (ISS) missions. We propose to use recent advances in the analysis of auditory, textual and video
interaction data streams, which are already being extensively captured on the ISS, to accomplish these psycho-social
state assessments in a non-intrusive fashion—that is, relying only on data recordings which are already captured as a
normal part of daily life and work onboard ISS. Recent research by, ourselves and others (e.g., [3,4,5), suggests that
verbal and non-verbal communications can be automatically processed in a variety of ways to provide insight into
team cohesion, affective relationships and team performance. We will leverage prior work in cultural and sociolinguistic theory to develop standardized, non-intrusive and largely automated methods for data collection and
knowledge extraction about factors salient to crew psychosocial wellbeing from existing communications data
streams. We are beginning work to develop candidate assessment techniques, configure them for ISS operations and
then test, tune and validate them in a series of experiments involving first ground-based archival data but leading to
an ISS Flight Definition study or analog ground study. The assessment technologies created will enable the
identification and tracking of serious threats to individual and group behavioral health and task performance,
providing empirical data with which countermeasures and training and crew selection approaches can be
systematically created.
[1] Kozlowski, S.W. (2010) At HRP Wkshp. Avail:
[2] Koninklijke Philips Electronics. Avail: . [3] Miller, C.,
Schmer-Galunder, S. & Rye, J. (2010). In Proc. IEEE 2nd Int’l Conf. Social Computing, 540-545. [4] Pennebaker,
J.W. (2011) The Secret Life of Pronouns. [5] Landauer, T., Foltz, P. & Laham, D. (1998). Discourse Processes 25,