For all past and current human space missions, the final scheduling of tasks to be done in space has been devoid of crew control, flexibility, and insight. Ground controllers, with minimal input from the crew, schedule the tasks and uplink the timeline to the crew or uplink the command sequences to the hardware. Prior to the International Space Station (ISS), the crew could make requests about tomorrow s timeline, they could omit a task, or they could request that something in the timeline be delayed. This lack of control over one's own schedule has had negative consequences. There is anecdotal consensus among astronauts that control over their own schedules will mitigate the stresses of long duration missions. On ISS, a modicum of crew control is provided by the job jar. Ground controllers prepare a task list (a.k.a. "job jar") of non-conflicting tasks from which jobs can be chosen by the in space crew. Because there is little free time and few interesting non-conflicting activities, the task-list approach provides little relief from the tedium of being micro-managed by the timeline. Scheduling for space missions is a complex and laborious undertaking which usually requires a large cadre of trained specialists and suites of complex software tools. It is a giant leap from today s ground prepared timeline (with a job jar) to full crew control of the timeline. However, technological advances, currently in-work or proposed, make it reasonable to consider scheduling a collaborative effort by the ground-based teams and the in-space crew. Collaboration would allow the crew to make minor adjustments, add tasks according to their preferences, understand the reasons for the placement of tasks on the timeline, and provide them a sense of control. In foreseeable but extraordinary situations, such as a quick response to anomalies and extended or unexpected loss of signal, the crew should have the autonomous ability to make appropriate modifications to the timeline, extend the timeline, or even start over with a new timeline. The Vision for Space Exploration (VSE), currently being pursued by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), will send humans to Mars in a few decades. Stresses on the human mind will be exacerbated by the longer durations and greater distances, and it will be imperative to implement stress-reducing innovations such as giving the crew control of their daily activities.
Cybernetics, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics