Organizing for Mars: A Task Management Perspective on Work within Spaceflight Multiteam Systems

Alina Lungeanu*, Jessica R. Mesmer-Magnus, Ashley A. Niler, Leslie A. DeChurch, Noshir S. Contractor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine how task, social, and situational factors shape work patterns, information networks, and performance in spaceflight multiteam systems (MTSs). Background: Human factors research has explored the task and individual characteristics that affect decisions regarding when and in what order people complete tasks. We extend this work to understand how the social and situational factors that arise when working in MTSs affect individual work patterns. Methods: We conducted a complex multi-site space analog simulation with NASA over the course of 3 years. The MTS task required participants from four teams (Geology, Robotics, Engineering, and Human Factors) to collaborate to design a well on Mars. We manipulated the one-way communication delay between the crew and mission support: no time lag, 60-second lag, and 180-second lag. Results: The study revealed that team and situational factors exert strong effects: members whose teams have less similar mental models, those whose teams prioritize their team goal over the MTS goal, and those working in social isolation and/or under communication delay engage longer on tasks. Time-on-task positively predicts MTS information networks, which in turn positively predict MTS performance when communication occurs with a delay, but not when it occurs in real-time. Conclusion: Our findings contribute to research on task management in the context of working in teams and multiteam systems. Team and situational factors, along with task factors, shape task management behavior. Application: Social and situational factors are important predictors of task management in team contexts such as spaceflight MTSs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1199-1220
Number of pages22
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • dual task
  • shared/team mental models
  • task switching
  • team cognition
  • team collaboration
  • team coordination
  • time sharing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Applied Psychology


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