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Long-duration spaceflight adversely affects post-landing operator proficiency
journal contributionposted on 04.05.2020, 00:00 by Steven MooreSteven Moore, V Dilda, TR Morris, DA Yungher, HG MacDougall, SJ Wood
Performance of astronaut pilots during space shuttle landing was degraded after a few weeks of microgravity exposure, and longer-term exposure has the potential to impact operator proficiency during critical landing and post-landing operations for exploration-class missions. Full-motion simulations of operationally-relevant tasks were utilized to assess the impact of long-duration spaceflight on operator proficiency in a group of 8 astronauts assigned to the International Space Station, as well as a battery of cognitive/sensorimotor tests to determine the underlying cause of any post-flight performance decrements. A ground control group (N = 12) and a sleep restriction cohort (N = 9) were also tested to control for non-spaceflight factors such as lack of practice between pre- and post-flight testing and fatigue. On the day of return after 6 months aboard the space station, astronauts exhibited significant deficits in manual dexterity, dual-tasking and motion perception, and a striking degradation in the ability to operate a vehicle. These deficits were not primarily due to fatigue; performance on the same tasks was unaffected after a 30-h period of sleep restriction. Astronauts experienced a general post-flight malaise in motor function and motion perception, and a lack of cognitive reserve apparent only when faced with dual tasks, which had recovered to baseline by four days after landing. © 2019, The Author(s).