A Mission Architecture to Integrate Human and Spacecraft Functional Performance

Mark Shelhamer, John R. Gersh

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


After initial human excursions to the moon and Mars, space flights will become even more ambitious, with longer sojourns (beyond Mars), longer surface stays, and more ambitious activities (building habitats, long-term settlement, mining and resource extraction). These missions will eventually be so complex and dangerous that we will no longer be able to depend on either the humans or the spacecraft systems to be at peak performance throughout the entire duration (due to injuries, breakdowns, and normal degradation). Yet, this human-spacecraft system will be called on to perform for extended periods at a very high level. We can't expect people on missions of this duration and complexity to dig in and tough it out. They will need help. The same applies to the machines. It will be necessary to have constant monitoring and customization of the spacecraft to the crew and mission, as they all change over the course of a flight. Just as the human crew must maintain spacecraft capability, so it will be part of the role of the spacecraft to help maintain the capabilities of the human crew. There are many aspects of this, which reach far beyond traditional considerations of health and medicine. Overall performance-and in particular the ability to carry out tasks that are critical to mission success-must be prioritized, and the crew and machine (spacecraft and its subsystems) must work together to make decisions as to how to maintain that performance in the face of demanding and changing conditions. A flexible architecture, based on identifying, tracking, modifying, and retaining the ability to carry out mission-critical tasks, will be of utmost importance. We propose such an architecture: • Sensors and embedded measures, to monitor physiological and environmental status, and human and spacecraft performance. • Guided activities as needed, to assess human capabilities for mission tasks (e.g., specific monitored exercise to evaluate upper-body strength before an EVA). • A model of factors, connections, capabilities, mission tasks, and expected outcomes and a method for using this model to understand and predict the effect of the factors on mission success. • Prediction of the likelihood of being able to successfully carry out mission goals given the current and anticipated status of the crew and spacecraft-and prescribed interventions and mitigations as needed to maintain those capabilities. • Interventions (automated or advisory) to modify some aspect of the crew's situation (lighting, food, schedule, workload, etc.) in order to maintain capabilities and avoid undesired adverse critical transitions. • Help with what-if scenarios to reassess goals as circumstances change (spacecraft and crew capabilities). • A model in the form of a Contributing Factor Map [1], augmented with a set of mission tasks [2], and an overall framework to maintain performance [3].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2023 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2023
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
ISBN (Electronic)9781665490320
StatePublished - 2023
Event2023 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2023 - Big Sky, United States
Duration: Mar 4 2023Mar 11 2023

Publication series

NameIEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)1095-323X


Conference2023 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBig Sky

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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