New tool helps identify astronauts with better spatial skills


October 30, 2013

Today, all incoming astronauts complete extensive training to learn to operate a robotic arm on the space station. But the operation isn’t intuitive, and there’s a steep learning curve for some. MIT researchers in the Man Vehicle Laboratory (MVL) are looking for ways to streamline this lengthy training process. They administered standard cognitive spatial tests to 50 astronauts, and compared these initial results with the astronauts’ performance in NASA’s 30-hour Generic Robotics Training (GRT) course. The researchers found that the initial spatial tests were able to predict the top performers in the more extensive course.

The results, says MVL director Charles Oman, suggest that the initial spatial tests may be used as a screening tool to place low-scorers on an in-depth training track, while accelerating high-scorers through a shortened course. Oman and his colleagues have published their results in the journal Acta Astronautica. The paper’s co-authors are research scientists Andrew Liu and Alan Natapoff, and graduate research assistant Raquel Galvan. Continue reading the article on MIT NewsPhoto by NASA.

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