Risk of sensory-motor performance failures affecting vehicle control during space missions: a review of the evidence
NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) has identified a number of potentially significant biomedical risks that might limit the agency’s plans for future space exploration, including missions back to the Moon and on to Mars. Among these risks is the: “Risk of Impaired Ability to Maintain Control of Vehicles and Other Complex Systems.” We examine the various dimensions of this risk by reviewing the research and operational evidence demonstrating sensory-motor performance decrements during space flight that might affect vehicle and complex system control, including decreased visual acuity, eye-hand coordination, spatial and geographic orientation perception, and cognitive function. Furthermore, we evaluate this evidence to identify the current knowledge gaps that must be filled through further research and/or data mining efforts before the risk can be fully mitigated. We conclude that the true operational risks associated with the impacts of adaptive sensory- motor changes on crew abilities to control vehicles and other complex systems will only be estimable after the gaps have been filled and we have been able to accurately assess integrated performance in off-nominal operational set- tings.