Feeds

NASA ponders stressful stress-test device for astronauts

I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

Security for virtualized datacentres

American trick-cyclists have developed a new handheld device which they reckon will be able to tell if an astronaut is too stressed out, tired, or otherwise unfit to carry out a difficult task in space.

According to an article in New Scientist, David Dinges - chief of Pennsylvania University's Unit for Experimental Psychiatry - has developed a gizmo called the Psychomotor Vigilance Task (PVT). When an astronaut is about to do something tricky like pilot a space shuttle in a docking manoeuvre or chuck an old fridge off a space station, he or she quickly grabs the PVT and takes the three-minute test, which involves pressing buttons when lights come on.

Provided the spaceman or woman isn't knackered, drunk or, erm, a trifle loosely wrapped - perhaps due to a stressful, potentially violent love-triangle incident - the test will give the OK. But if the astronaut is a bit mad, blotto, sleepy, or otherwise sub-par, the PVT will issue a no-no: perhaps by a recorded voice saying "I can't let you do that, Dave."

The need for such tests is seen as vital.

"In high-performance jobs like an astronaut's, you want them as close to optimal performance as you can get them all the time," Dinges told New Scientist. "The consequences of a human error are grave."

Apparently, Dinges developed the device while working with "aquanauts" in NASA's underwater space habitat simulator off the coast of Florida. The simulator creates conditions just like those in space, except that there is water instead of empty vacuum. Dinges monitored the aquatic spacemen's sleep patterns and cortisol levels to see whether the PVT worked.

There would seem at least some chance of the PVT actually creating the conditions it seeks to detect. Astronauts might develop pre-PVT stress, leading to them failing the test even if they were previously fine. The only logical thing would then be to develop more tests, in order to work out if people have pre-PVT stress syndrome. Perhaps some kind of invasive in-orifice probe, constantly monitored by teams of trick-cyclists in relays.

Or they could just let the beleaguered astronauts get on with their jobs and let them have a beer occasionally. It's no wonder the space aces occasionally get a bit twitchy if this is the sort of thing they have to put up with all the time.

More from New Scientist here. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.