NASA to use sensor-based badge to monitor Mars astronauts’ mental state

May 30, 2013
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We've written about the Mars One project extensively, a plan to select, train, and send astronauts to Mars, where they will live out the rest of their lives. Other future projects won't necessarily involve a permanent life on Mars, but all will require a substantial number of years, and as such will require a very stable psychological state to handle. For its part, NASA is looking into monitoring the psychological state of its astronauts with a sensor-based "badge."

Imagine for a moment the nature of life on Mars. Residents will live in special - and likely cramped - housing, devoid of the vast majority of comforts they've spent their lives enjoying, and perhaps not the kind of comforts you are imaging. Things like a stroll in the park, a drive across the state, and other things we do to relax - and decompress when stressed, angry, or hurt - are no longer an option.

Because everyone responds to certain situations differently, and because humans living on Mars is unprecedented, it can be hard to anticipate the psychological effects of these planned missions and projects. A lot of research is being done in the area by NASA, which has reportedly paid $1.3 million to Michigan State University psychologists, who will work on the development of a sensor-based badge that the agency's astronauts will wear while on Mars.

The sensors would serve as a kind of quasi mental-social warning apparatus, monitoring such things as conversation length and vocal patterns. Such a badge could advise a wearer when he or she is acting in a manner that is interpreted as aggressive, could advise someone that their actions are inappropriate, watch for signs of depression, and other such things. If the sensor picks up particularly worrisome signals, such that indicates the wearer could be in or heading towards a precarious mental state, it could relay the information to a ground crew, who could then take steps to intervene.

In addition to the sensor, NASA is also helping fund a project that creates a digital therapist, which the astronauts would be able to utilize as necessary. Work is also being done in determing how to best select compatible teams, as well as trying to anticipate what things might stress the teams and individuals so they can be dealt with ahead of time.

SOURCE: The Verge


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