Serious Games for Team Training and Knowledge Retention for Long-Duration Space Missions

Customer NASA
Users Astronauts training for long-duration space missions
Need NASA’s Johnson Space Center is working with Stottler Henke to improve retained knowledge for long-duration space missions. How to most effectively manage retained knowledge through training is a difficult problem in general, but extremely challenging for NASA when dealing with long-duration and/or deep space missions, where it is crucial that crews be able to efficiently refresh both knowledge and team skills. Otherwise, crewmembers risk forgetting key tasks, such as accessing needed items, recalling locations, etc.; furthermore, teams, without opportunities to fine-tune their coordination, could lose cohesion. As such, exploration crews have continually expressed a need for more chances to learn to work together as a team prior to flight, coupled with the need to retain proficiency with limited room to practice during flight. Numerous factors, however, make instilling teamwork skills into deep-space astronauts extremely challenging. First, due to communication difficulties and mission duration, teams must be trained in a vast array of domains—from maintenance procedures throughout the ship, to extremely thorough medical training, to science evaluations. Second, there may be a significant delay between when such knowledge is acquired and when it is needed; for instance, several years between an astronaut learning how to diagnose, and to treat, a collapsed lung. Third, training must anticipate a huge range of conditions; the sheer length of deep-space missions when compared to shuttle missions vastly increases the number, and scope, of possible situations that could arise, making it virtually impossible to train for every scenario. To face the myriad challenges of deep-space flight, inflight training must be readily available.
Solution Our solution is a low-fidelity simulation using game-based training that leverages our experience with intelligent tutoring system (ITS) technology. Game-based training is engaging—it provides an entertaining break from the more onerous aspects of deep-space flight. Moreover, it incentivizes the practice of amorphous, but critical, teamwork skills, motivating crews to practice more frequently for either mission-related team training or generalizable team skills training. Finally, a game-based solution addresses the problem of finding the physical space in which to train when a small crew is constrained in a cramped environment for extended periods of time. Our ITS approach stresses near-term or just-in-time development and maintenance of specific teamwork knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSAs) that will be applied to imminent tasks, only without high-fidelity simulation of those tasks. Identified KSAs are grounded in team performance and team training research and are linked to the mechanics of small-scale serious games. Primary aims are practice and analysis of the teamwork skills that are critical not only for success in particular tasks, but also in maintaining an effective team given the challenging circumstances.
Status The project started in July 2013, and ended in January 2016.