8.13.2007

Astronauts go underwater to develop Cognitive tools
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U.S. scientists have gone underwater to develop psychological tools that can be used in space to assess stress, fatigue and cognitive fitness.

"On exploration missions, quick self tests could allow astronauts to assess how they are functioning," said David Dinges of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute's Neurobehavioral and Psychosocial Factors Team. "In this mission, we'll gather data to help refine the self tests and develop an interface component that provides immediate feedback to the user."

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Extreme Environment Mission Operations Project 13, or NEEMO 13, is based in Aquarius -- the world's only underwater research habitat -- in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, 63 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

The NEEMO 13 environment is similar to lunar and other exploration missions in many respects, said Dinges. There is isolation, confinement to a small habitat and work area, the need to work together as a team, extravehicular activities, and no immediate rescue in the event of an emergency.

NASA astronaut and aquanaut Nicholas Patrick is leading the Aug. 6-15 NEEMO 13 project, with astronaut Richard Arnold, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, and Christopher Gerty, a NASA engineer.

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