The effects of training on anxiety and task performance in simulated suborbital spaceflight

Rebecca S. Blue, Frederick Bonato, Kimberly Seaton, Andrea Bubka, Johnené L. Vardiman, Charles Mathers, Tarah L. Castleberry, James M. Vanderploeg

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Scopus citations


    INTRODUCTION: In commercial spaceflight, anxiety could become mission-impacting, causing negative experiences or endangering the flight itself. We studied layperson response to four varied-length training programs (ranging from 1 h-2 d of preparation) prior to centrifuge simulation of launch and re-entry acceleration profiles expected during suborbital spaceflight. We examined subject task execution, evaluating performance in high-stress conditions. We sought to identify any trends in demographics, hemodynamics, or similar factors in subjects with the highest anxiety or poorest tolerance of the experience. METHODS: Volunteers participated in one of four centrifuge training programs of varied complexity and duration, culminating in two simulated suborbital spaceflights. At most, subjects underwent seven centrifuge runs over 2 d, including two +Gz runs (peak +3.5 Gz, Run 2) and two +Gx runs (peak +6.0 Gx, Run 4) followed by three runs approximating suborbital spaceflight profiles (combined +Gx and +Gz, peak +6.0 Gx and +4.0 Gz). Two cohorts also received dedicated anxietymitigation training. Subjects were evaluated on their performance on various tasks, including a simulated emergency. RESULTS: Participating in 2-7 centrifuge exposures were 148 subjects (105 men, 43 women, age range 19-72 yr, mean 39.4 ± 13.2 yr, body mass index range 17.3-38.1, mean 25.1 ± 3.7). There were 10 subjects who withdrew or limited their G exposure; history of motion sickness was associated with opting out. Shorter length training programs were associated with elevated hemodynamic responses. Single-directional G training did not significantly improve tolerance. DISCUSSION: Training programs appear best when high fidelity and sequential exposures may improve tolerance of physical/ psychological flight stressors. The studied variables did not predict anxiety-related responses to these centrifuge profiles.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)641-650
    Number of pages10
    JournalAerospace Medicine and Human Performance
    Issue number7
    StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


    • Acceleration
    • Anxiety
    • Anxiousness
    • Commercial spaceflight
    • Emergency
    • G exposure
    • Layperson
    • Panic
    • Spaceflight participant
    • Tolerance

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Medicine (miscellaneous)
    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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