Publication Date

Fall 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Sean Laraway


Mission Control, NASA, Shift Work, Sleep, Telerobotic, VIPER

Subject Areas

Psychology; Experimental psychology; Cognitive psychology


Real-time, reactive telerobotic mission control operations require personnel to actively operate remotely controlled vehicles or robots in real time. Due to the physical separation of the vehicle from the operator, such operations present additional factors that can influence fatigue (degraded mental performance) and workload (mental and physical cost of task requirements), making it difficult to assess how long an individual can conduct operations safely. The upcoming Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover will involve remotely controlling a lunar vehicle from an Earth-based mission control station. In order to determine how long personnel could successfully maintain alertness and performance while operating a rover, we studied seven trained operators in a simulated mission control environment. Operators completed two five-hour simulations in a randomized order, beginning at noon and at midnight. Performance was evaluated every 30 minutes using the Psychomotor Vigilance Task (PVT), Karolinska Sleepiness Scale (KSS), and NASA Task Load Index (NASA-TLX). On average, participants rated themselves as sleepier on the midnight drives compared to the day drives. Workload was rated higher during the noon drives compared to midnight. Lastly, participants had no change in average reaction time between the two drives. From the analysis, performance showed degradation after approximately three hours of driving. Our findings suggest that rotating drivers at least every three hours would be prudent to allow for breaks, and to minimize performance degradation, particularly during midnight shifts.