Assessment of the effects of isolation, confinement and hypoxia on spaceflight piloting performance for future space missions - The SIMSKILL experiment in Antarctica.

Nathalie Pattyn, Emilie Dessy, Miquel Bosch Bruguera, Andreas Fink, Valerie Schroder, Santiago Lopez Bermudez, Reinhold Ewald, Carole Dangoisse, Floris van den Berg, Carmen Possnig, Nadja Albertsen, Greig Lawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Interplanetary human missions to Mars and beyond will suppose a very demanding physical and psychological
environment for future astronauts. Isolation, confinement, hypoxia or hypercapnia in a less pressurized atmosphere, darkness and other factors are expected to endanger a mission’s success, directly influencing human
performance. In order to study the effects of such environmental conditions on human beings, the SIMSKILL
Experiment aims to investigate how spacecraft piloting performance decays over time by deploying a Soyuz flight
simulator on the Antarctic research stations Halley VI and Concordia, which feature similar living conditions as
those of a space mission, leading eventually to muscular atrophy, loss of cognitive capacities, and reduction of
psycho-motor skills. This paper offers an analysis on the recorded data from the scientific campaigns in
Antarctica, compared to those of the subjects in a control group in Stuttgart, Germany. An overall total of 69
subjects and more than one thousand approach and docking flights to the ISS performed in a Soyuz-TMA
simulator have been analysed using a performance assessment methodology. The post-processed simulation
dataset allows to recognize collective trends and find which are the essential parameters that affect the pilot’s
skill evolution. The results obtained from this analysis show how the influence of isolation, confinement and
hypoxia in Antarctica is crucial to understand how differences in performance appear between subjects. The
significance of the obtained results has been proven by means of statistical models, which show that a one-month
training refreshing delivers satisfactory performance for a docking simulation, whereas a frequency of 3 months
follows to a loss of piloting reliability. Moreover, the effect of isolation and hypoxia aggravates the loss of flight
performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-483
Number of pages12
JournalActa Astronautica
Volume179
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

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