I’m going to give you all a bit of a break-down of the research we’re doing for NASA, since it takes up a bunch of our time and is the whole point of this trip anyways. There are 6 major studies being done by NASA through various universities and research centers in the US.
#1: MSU – Is interested in our interactions with other crew members over the course of the mission. To that end, we have to do:
- 3 surveys a day
- a 4th survey on Wednesdays
- complete a game on Wednesdays that involves choosing a site on Mars to explore, and convince other team members to explore your site
- wear a white badge all the time that records our proximity to other crew members, and maybe a few other things
- another badge on the game day, that also records things like sound level and light intensity
MSU is our least favorite research group.
#2: John Hopkins – the TPT project. TPT stands for “Team Performance Task”. This research isn’t to onerous. There’s one survey on Monday, and then about 1 hour of research on Tuesdays and Thursday, involving only half the crew at a time. It’s game based again, but this time it’s a little LAN party. We set up 3 computers, and play an Excel-based game that measures the balance between teamwork and achieving individual goals and the teamwork bit gets harder. It also involves a survey at the start, and taking saliva samples before and after plain the game. This is one of our favorites so far, partly because it’s a bit competitive, and partly because Pete, the researcher from John Hopkins, is the one who trained us on all the studies, and was an epic cook for us during training week. It was SO good! So Pete, your food bribery is working 🙂
#3: SIFT – I think this is a private research company. They are testing computer algorithms for determining emotional closeness between the crew members and their family and friends back home. This involves journal writing and surveys 4 days a week, plus the involvement of a family member or two, or friend, to also to surveys throughout the mission. They’ll be using computer algorithms to see if they can detect social isolation.
#4: UPenn – Cognition Project. This is basically a spot-check of where you are performing mentally. 10 little tablet-based games, focused on memory and pattern recognition. Speed and accuracy are key. We did this 4 or 5 times during out training week to set up a baseline. We were supposed to do it before bed, but since it was our last week of freedom, we ended up doing it mostly before dinner so that our scores weren’t too, um, impaired… and we would have set a rather low baseline. Training week was a good week. Neil termed it and “extender bender”.
#5: Cornell: Food study. The first HI-SEAS mission was almost exclusively a food study. They had to weigh everything they ate. Take photos of the plates. For every meal. Every snack. It was onerous. People wouldn’t eat sometimes because it was just too much trouble. We don’t have to do that extent of work for the most part. Just 2 weeks early in the mission, and then another 2 weeks later in the mission. We still have daily surveys for it though. And we still track the foods we eat, mostly for being able to stock the foods properly, but also to roughly gauge our habits.
#6: Dartmouth: The Virtual Space Station Project. Worst name, because it doesn’t describe anything about what it is. What it actually – the holographic doctor from Star Trek Voyager. Kind of. If we had holograms like that. It’s a program to train you how to deal with stress and conflict, and has a third function as a support tool to deal with depression. It isn’t diagnostic at all, but provides a lot of resources to help you understand, recognize it, and cope. I haven’t tried it yet, but we’ll start with the stress and conflict bits soon.
We’re pretty much up and running on all the projects now. MSU was the hardest study to kick off. We tried uploading the badge data, and nothing worked. It involved Jocelyn updating all the Windows software, uninstalling and reinstalling all the MSU software, installing some drivers, then finally successfully uploading the data and sending it on to MSU. Here’s Jocelyn after getting it all to work:
It only took 2 days.