Team Task Switching in Astronaut Crews on the International Space Station: Integrating Multiteam Membership, Multiteam Systems, Multitasking,& Multidimensional Networks to Monitor & Enable Functional Work Shifts in Astronaut Crews

Project: Research project

Project Details


We are at the dawn of a new era of human space exploration. Moving beyond low earth orbit and the relative safety of the International Space Station toward near-Earth asteroids and Mars present previously unimaginable opportunities as well as organizational challenges. One significant challenge is the complexity of the operating environment within which astronauts will work. This complexity will place enormous demands on astronauts, and research is needed that develops concrete countermeasures to mitigate the risks stemming from performance decrements due to inadequate cooperation, coordination, communication, and psychosocial adaptation within a team. Astronauts will push the bounds of human cognitive and social functioning as they multitask across tasks, teams, and tools working toward personal, team, and system goals. This multidisciplinary research project is designed to help them do just that. This three-year programmatic investigation into team task switching leverages: (1) agent-based models to understand how task shifting behavior and performance-related switching costs occur based on dynamic interplay between independent and interdependent tasks, (2) laboratory experiments conducted in two multiteam systems laboratories (one at Georgia Tech, the other at Northwestern) to test the theoretical model derived from agent-based models, (3) unobtrusive data collection strategies to capture information on the tasks and complex social network structures of ISS crew members, (4) design of interventions to enable adaptive team task switches using virtual experiments, (5) validation of intervention strategies using one of NASA’s space analogs, and (6) development of a dashboard decision aid to anticipate and pre-empt dysfunctional task switching. An innovative feature of our investigation is the use of a multidimensional network approach to characterize and model the switches between tasks, tools, teams and multi-team systems. The combined outputs of this proposed multi-disciplinary project speak directly to NASA HRP’s identified team gaps for autonomous, long duration, and/or long distance exploration missions associated with the need to identify (1) key threats to the team (Team Gap 1), (2) countermeasures to support team function (Team Gap 3), (3) validated methods that can be used to maintain team function (Team Gap 5), and (4) psychological and psychosocial factors, measures, and combinations thereof that can be used to compose highly effective crews (Team Gap 8).
Effective start/end date5/12/155/11/18


  • Georgia Institute of Technology (RF890-G1 // NNX15AK73G)
  • NASA Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (RF890-G1 // NNX15AK73G)


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