News Release 

Northwestern scholar to talk about science of teams in space at AAAS

Complex systems expert Noshir Contractor to speak at virtual AAAS press briefing at 12 p.m. ET, Feb. 10

Northwestern University

Research News

CHICAGO --- Northwestern University's Noshir Contractor will discuss team problem-solving and human systems integration for Mars exploration at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting.

At a AAAS press briefing at 12 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Feb. 10, Contractor will discuss recent findings and opportunities for social science research on astronauts as exploration advances into deep space. The embargo will lift at the time of the press briefing.

In addition, he will present "Pairing Teams for, and (Re)pairing Teams During, Long-Duration Space Exploration" at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, Feb. 11 with Dorothy Carter, assistant professor of industrial-organizational psychology at the University of Georgia, and Sandra Whitmire, deputy element scientist for human factors and behavioral performance, Human Research Program, NASA Johnson Space Center. The session will be moderated by Contractor's collaborator at Northwestern Leslie DeChurch.

As space agencies prepare for deep-space exploration, researchers have been increasingly investigating human factors related to long-duration missions, including the psychology of human space travel. The NASA Artemis mission aims to put astronauts back on the moon by 2024 and build a lunar outpost for use as a space exploration "gateway" and model for Mars exploration, a journey that could involve 250 million miles of travel.

Missions will need to become increasingly independent of Earth-based support due to significant time delays in communication as spacecraft move farther into space, and crewmembers will require a readiness to problem-solve as an autonomous team and decreased reliance on mission control.

Contractor along with DeChurch, a professor of communication and psychology, and NASA researcher Suzanne Bell developed a computational model that predicts interpersonal conflicts between team members (such as astronauts) with 75-80% accuracy and prescribes interventions to repair their interactions and relationships.

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Contractor is the Jane S. & William J. White Professor of Behavioral Sciences in the McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science, the School of Communication and the Kellogg School of Management and Director of the Science of Networks in Communities (SONIC) Research Group at Northwestern University.

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