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An Operational Approach to Long-Duration Mission Behavioral Health and Performance Factors

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Flynn CF. An operational approach to long-duration mission behavioral health and performance factors. Aviat Space Environ Med 2005; 76(6, Suppl.):B42–51.

NASA’s participation in nearly 10 yr of long-duration mission (LDM) training and flight confirms that these missions remain a difficult challenge for astronauts and their medical care providers. The role of the astronaut’s crew surgeon is to maximize the astronaut’s health throughout all phases of the LDM: preflight, in flight, and postflight. In support of the crew surgeon, the NASA-Johnson Space Center Behavioral Health and Performance Group (JSC-BHPG) has focused on four key factors that can reduce the astronaut’s behavioral health and performance. These factors are defined as: sleep and circadian factors; behavioral health factors; psychological adaptation factors; and human-to-system interface (the interface between the astronaut and the mission workplace) factors. Both the crew surgeon and the JSC-BHPG must earn the crewmember’s trust preflight to encourage problem identification and problem solving in these four areas. Once on orbit, the crew medical officer becomes a valuable extension of the crew surgeon and BHPG on the ground due to the crew medical officer’s constant interaction with crewmembers and preflight training in these four factors. However, the crew surgeon, BHPG, and the crew medical officer need tools that will help predict, prevent, monitor, and respond to developing problems. Objective data become essential when difficult mission termination decisions must be made. The need for behavioral health and performance tool development creates an environment rich for collaboration between operational healthcare providers and researchers. These tools are also a necessary step to safely complete future, more autonomous exploration-class space missions.
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Keywords: aerospace psychiatry; extreme environments; space medicine

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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