January 10, 2005:
Weakened bones, radiation-damaged cells, spacecraft malfunctions — when you think of journeying through space, these are the threats that come to mind. Yet, there’s another issue equally critical.
That issue is teamwork.
Astronauts don’t travel through space by themselves. They go in pairs or threesomes or even larger groups. Maintaining a successful team in a risky, isolated environment calls for finely honed people-skills. It means that astronauts must develop a keen awareness both of themselves, and of the way they interact with those around them.
This is a NASA and new media issue with interesting consequences on the design side. The approach
includes an interactive simulator set onboard a virtual space station akin to the International Space Station (ISS). It allows an astronaut to role-play interpersonal conflicts on the computer. For example, the simulator might present this situation: one crewmember (represented by an actor) accidentally damages a piece of equipment, and asks a crewmate (the role assumed by the astronaut working through the program) for help in concealing the damage. The astronaut decides how to answer the request, and then the program responds, based on that answer.