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VOLUME 35, ISSUE 10

LEARNING TO LIVE ON A MARS DAY: PHOENIX MARS LANDER MISSION
Learning to Live on a Mars Day: Fatigue Countermeasures during the Phoenix Mars Lander Mission

http://dx.doi.org/10.5665/sleep.2128

Laura K. Barger, PhD1,2; Jason P. Sullivan, BS1; Andrea S. Vincent, PhD3; Edna R. Fiedler, PhD4; Laurence M. McKenna, MEngSc1; Erin E. Flynn-Evans, PhD1,2; Kirby Gilliland, PhD3; Walter E. Sipes, PhD5; Peter H. Smith, PhD6; George C. Brainard, PhD7; Steven W. Lockley, PhD1,2

1Division of Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA; 2Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; 3Cognitive Science Research Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; 4Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX; 5Operational Psychology, Johnson Space Center, NASA, Houston, TX; 6Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; 7Department of Neurology, Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA



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Study Objectives:

To interact with the robotic Phoenix Mars Lander (PML) spacecraft, mission personnel were required to work on a Mars day (24.65 h) for 78 days. This alien schedule presents a challenge to Earth-bound circadian physiology and a potential risk to workplace performance and safety. We evaluated the acceptability, feasibility, and effectiveness of a fatigue management program to facilitate synchronization with the Mars day and alleviate circadian misalignment, sleep loss, and fatigue.

Design:

Operational field study.

Setting:

PML Science Operations Center.

Participants:

Scientific and technical personnel supporting PML mission.

Interventions:

Sleep and fatigue education was offered to all support personnel. A subset (n = 19) were offered a short-wavelength (blue) light panel to aid alertness and mitigate/reduce circadian desynchrony. They were assessed using a daily sleep/work diary, continuous wrist actigraphy, and regular performance tests. Subjects also completed 48-h urine collections biweekly for assessment of the circadian 6-sulphatoxymelatonin rhythm.

Measurements and Results:

Most participants (87%) exhibited a circadian period consistent with adaptation to a Mars day. When synchronized, main sleep duration was 5.98 ± 0.94 h, but fell to 4.91 ± 1.22 h when misaligned (P < 0.001). Self-reported levels of fatigue and sleepiness also significantly increased when work was scheduled at an inappropriate circadian phase (P < 0.001). Prolonged wakefulness (≥ 21 h) was associated with a decline in performance and alertness (P < 0.03 and P < 0.0001, respectively).

Conclusions:

The ability of the participants to adapt successfully to the Mars day suggests that future missions should utilize a similar circadian rhythm and fatigue management program to reduce the risk of sleepiness-related errors that jeopardize personnel safety and health during critical missions.

Citation:

Barger LK; Sullivan JP; Vincent AS; Fiedler ER; McKenna LM; Flynn-Evans EE; Gilliland K; Sipes WE; Smith PH; Brainard GC; Lockley SW. Learning to live on a Mars day: fatigue countermeasures during the Phoenix Mars Lander mission. SLEEP 2012;35(10):1423-1435.

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