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Simulated manual spacecraft control under the influence of different gravity conditions during a parabolic flight

Piechowski, Sarah Madeleine and Gauger, Peter and Thiemann, Maximilian and Aeschbach, Daniel and Mühl, Christian (2024) Simulated manual spacecraft control under the influence of different gravity conditions during a parabolic flight. NASA Human Research Program Investigators' Workshop, 2024-02-13 - 2024-02-16, Galveston, USA.

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BACKGROUND: Microgravity can affect cognitive performance, spatial orientation, and the precision of previously trained motor responses which are based on force vectors and vestibular signals in normal gravity. It is still controversial, whether reported performance decrements are due to microgravity or unspecific stress factors associated with space flight. Experimental evidence on the influence of microgravity on complex operational tasks comprising motor and cognitive demands is especially scarce. Therefore, we investigated the influence of varying gravity levels during parabolic flights on performance in the manual control of a spacecraft, a safety-relevant operational task. METHODS: During parabolic flights, 27 trained participants (8 women and 19 men, 18-61 years old, 9 previously exposed to a parabolic flight) performed 15 manual control tasks of varying difficulty based on the docking simulation 6df. Within this simulation, a spacecraft had to be aligned continuously with a rotating space station in fixed distance by controlling six degrees of freedom with manual levers. Each task encompassed 80 seconds centered around either the incoming or outgoing hypergravity segment of a parabola and thus included to equal parts a 0g, 1g, and 1.8g phase. We compared manual control accuracy between phases of microgravity, hypergravity, and normogravity during the parabolic flight by using a linear mixed effects model. Additionally, we assessed the effects of task difficulty and previous experience with parabolic flights on performance. RESULTS: Manual control performance was significantly impaired during microgravity phases, whereas performance did not differ between normal gravity and hypergravity. Performance differed according to task difficulty, but there was no interaction of gravity phase and difficulty. Prior experience with parabolic flights did not affect manual control performance. DISCUSSION: The decrease of manual control performance in microgravity, but not during hypergravity, suggests a higher relevance of impaired spatial orientation due to confounding vestibular signals compared to the mere change in force vectors. Even during easy tasks, participants were not able to compensate for the effects of microgravity. The results were independent of prior parabolic flight experience, indicating that novelty or increased stress are unlikely sources of impairment.

Item URL in elib:https://elib.dlr.de/202943/
Document Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)
Title:Simulated manual spacecraft control under the influence of different gravity conditions during a parabolic flight
AuthorsInstitution or Email of AuthorsAuthor's ORCID iDORCID Put Code
Piechowski, Sarah MadeleineUNSPECIFIEDhttps://orcid.org/0000-0002-3790-376X155890518
Thiemann, MaximilianGerman Aerospace Center (DLR), Institute of Aerospace MedicineUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Date:15 February 2024
Refereed publication:Yes
Open Access:No
Gold Open Access:No
In ISI Web of Science:No
Keywords:parabolic flight, microgravity, sensorimotor performance, manual spacecraft control
Event Title:NASA Human Research Program Investigators' Workshop
Event Location:Galveston, USA
Event Type:international Conference
Event Start Date:13 February 2024
Event End Date:16 February 2024
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport
HGF - Program:Space
HGF - Program Themes:Research under Space Conditions
DLR - Research area:Raumfahrt
DLR - Program:R FR - Research under Space Conditions
DLR - Research theme (Project):R - Human-machine interaction
Location: Köln-Porz
Institutes and Institutions:Institute of Aerospace Medicine > Sleep and Human Factors Research
Institute of Aerospace Medicine > Cardiovascular Medicine in Aerospace
Deposited By: Piechowski, Sarah Madeleine
Deposited On:20 Mar 2024 16:20
Last Modified:24 Apr 2024 21:03

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