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Sleep. 2012 Oct 1;35(10):1423-35.

Learning to live on a Mars day: fatigue countermeasures during the Phoenix Mars Lander mission.

Author information

  • 1Division of Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA. lkbarger@hms.harvard.edu

Abstract

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.

KEYWORDS:

Shift work; circadian; light; performance; sleep

PMID:
23024441
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3443769
Free PMC Article

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