OCT 5, 2015: Matthew Miller and Prof. Karen Feigh's research to design and evaluate a decision support system for human Extravehicular Activity (EVA) in the context of time delayed communication was featured in the FY'15 GT-AE Annual Report. The text for the article, "Feigh: Supporting Deep Space Travel" is copied here:
Research underway by Prof. Karen Feigh and doctoral candidate Matthew Miller of the Cognitive Engineering Center is seeking to understand how the roles of astronauts and mission control will change as missions go deeper and deeper into space.
Funded by a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship, Feigh and Miller’s work focuses on a problem that arises when a vehicle travels into deep space: the farther it travels, the longer the radio waves take to transmit information. As NASA eyes future missions to asteroids, Mars, and beyond, the delays presented by these distances could substantially delay communications transmissions, making extra vehicular activities (EVAs) like space walks more risky than they already are.
“Currently, communications are essentially real-time,” said Feigh. “But in the future they could take 5-20 minutes just to travel the distances. That could present problems for EVA.”
Feigh’s team is utilizing cognitive engineering methods to develop automated systems that can support changes in the roles played by ground controllers, on-board astronauts, and astronauts performing EVAs. To better understand that environment, Miller has participated in three simulated EVA exercises. Thus far, they have developed several models – Information Flow, Abstraction Hierarchy, Contextual Activity and Decision Ladder – which they will use to develop a prototype support system over the next year.
Initial findings suggest that the astronaut most in need of support is not the one doing the space-walking.
“When ground control is out of direct contact, it’s that on-board astronaut who helps with things like troubleshooting and keeping the EVA astronaut’s timeline intact,” says Feigh.