NASA is pairing up with the U.S. Navy submarine force to research the effects of deep space on astronauts as part of a proposed manned voyage to Mars.
According to an Associated Press story on Yahoo News, NASA is working with a military lab in Groton, Connecticut at the Naval submarine base. Researchers will study teams during month-long space flight simulations and measure how well they cope with stress.
The idea is that astronauts and submarines face many similar challenges while traveling through outer space and deep ocean depths. Teams on either mission type are isolated for long periods. Crewmates learn to rely on one another in environments that can be inhospitable, remote, and lonely.
NASA has a shared interest with the Navy, according to Brandon Vesssey, a scientist with NASA’s human research program. “When you stick people together for a long period of time, how are they going to do?” he said to The Associated Press.
We have a shared interest with the Navy in team resilience. When you stick people together for a long period of time, how are they going to do?
The Navy began research five years ago at the Groton-based Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory, which examined ways for tactical teams to work together better, reports The Daily Mail.
Navy scientists developed a system to evaluate how well teams perform after observing crews on submarines. The study included important team practices including decision-making, critical thinking, and dialogue. The research, made available to submarine commanding officers a year ago, piqued NASA’s interest.
NASA is expected to begin their experiment in January or February. The space agency is looking into the ability to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s, and is taking a bigger interest in human behavior issues.
NASA will simulate space missions using a capsule the size of a two-bedroom apartment, where four volunteers will live and work together for 30 days. Known as the Human Exploration Research Analog, the experiment will send video and audio recordings to scientists in Connecticut for analysis.