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520-day Mars mission simulation
Date:6/3/2010

udy involving a six-man international crew in 2009. The 520-day mission is broken into 250 days for the trip to Mars, 30 days on the surface, and 240 days for the return to Earth.

During the simulation, Dinges and his colleagues are using miniaturized wristwatch-like devices to measure crew members' sleep-wake patterns and specially programmed computers with brief assessment tests to gather information throughout the mission on crew members' performance and emotions. Dinges is working in collaboration with Matthias Basner, M.D., from Penn, Dimitris Metaxas, Ph.D., of Rutgers University, and Daniel Mollicone, Ph.D., of Pulsar Informatics, Inc. Igor Savelev, Ph.D., NSBRI's International Liaison, oversees the onsite implementation of the study and works in coordination with the Dinges team.

A key component of the computer-based assessment is the Psychomotor Vigilance Task (PVT) Self Test. This three-minute test measures the stability of sustained attention, psychomotor speed and impulsivity. PVT Self Test is also undergoing evaluation on the space station, where it is known as the Reaction Self Test.

"We've learned from laboratory experiments, other mission analogs and the Russian's 105-day isolation study that the PVT is sensitive to fatigue and other factors that degrade the ability to pay attention and respond quickly," said Dinges, who leads NSBRI's Neurobehavioral and Psychosocial Factors Team.

PVT Self Test was developed through Dinges' work with NSBRI, NASA, the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health. The user watches for a signal and responds when it appears, allowing the measurement of reaction times at a high degree of precision. Dinges also implemented PVT in studies involving astronauts in other space analog environments, such as on the ocean floor in NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) program.

"As soon as he completes the PVT Self Test, the crew member receives an assessm
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Contact: Kathy Major
major@bcm.edu
713-306-3532
National Space Biomedical Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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