Research Areas Offering Long-Term Payoffs

Adaptation to Different Gravitational States. Astronauts' adaptation to microgravity and subsequent readaptation to Earth's gravity might be accelerated by understanding and manipulating the fragile transition between the two states. Evidence from everyday life and biomedical research—including a rapid increase in understanding of the central nervous system and its plasticity—points to an inherent biological capability for dual adaptation. A combination of pharmacological intervention and appropriate training and exercise might effectively prepare astronauts for adaptation to alternating gravitational states.

Software for Emotion-Mediated Learning. In humans, emotional states mediate decision making and learning. Software for robotics systems could be designed to exhibit emergent system behavior mediated by emotion and anxiety, and a learning process augmented by emotion. Such systems might meet needs for software reliability and configurability, effective human-machine collaboration, improved situational awareness, and optimal decision making.

“Principal Investigator (PI) in a Box.” Given the complexity and new challenges associated with long-term human exploration of space, astronauts might benefit from having instant access to a database of the accumulated experience of previous astronauts. The database could support dynamic mission planning and execution strategies and improved problem solving and could be self-organizing to respond to immediate needs. Biology-based concepts could also be applied to the presentation of data. For example, algorithms based on the survival instinct might present data on the most-life-threatening situation first.

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