Learning to Live on Mars
Mission controllers investigating the martian landscape are required to communicate with the rover on martian time. This unusual schedule poses a great challenge as our internal body clock has evolved to expect a 24-hour light-dark, not a 24.65 h 'day', making it difficult to sleep, wake and work. "Our study, which was conducted during the Phoenix Mars Lander mission, investigated the effectiveness of a pilot program to educate the mission personnel on how to reset their body clocks more quickly and how to improve their sleep, alertness and performance," explained Steven W. Lockley, PhD, neuroscientist at BWH, and senior investigator on this study.
"While adapting the human sleep-wake and performance cycle to a 24.65 hour day is a substantial challenge, our study has provided the foundation to develop comprehensive fatigue management programs for future missions, which may eventually include manned missions to Mars," explained Laura Barger, PhD, an associate physiologist at BWH and principal investigator of the study. "Such a program could decrease the risk of fatigue-related mistakes during these high profile and expensive missions."
Researchers suggest that these findings may also prove helpful to other groups that work on unusual 'day-lengths' such as submariners who have traditionally lived on an 18-hour day.