What role should training play both for managers and other personnel if the individuals selected are assumed to have the requisite skills and knowledge for their specific job assignments? Training has two essential elements for personnel heading out for a lunar assignment. The first element is to acquaint every individual with the assorted operational and safety issues for the facility and its environs.
Learning what to do and what not to do during a variety of possible emergencies should constitute a significant part of the pre-departure training activity. Early Russian space missions found that tasks conducted in the weightless environment almost always took longer than training on earth accounted for. The mismatch in the actual time it took to do things versus the agreed upon expected time to accomplish experiments and other tasks contributed to increased stress and conflict among crews and ground controllers (Ivanovich 2008).
Practice for emergencies and assorted serious situations also needs to be repeated until a person’s responses become second nature. For example, knowing where a critical switch, value, or tool was located even in the dark might make all the difference between having a problem or a life or death situation. Typical training could range from blind navigation exercises to practice with a wide variety of simulations from power outages, air loss, to simple water leaks. Simulations will need to convey a sense of seriousness and immediacy not unlike that created in ship and submarine disaster control exercises used by various navies. Managers cannot assume that the appropriately trained person will be in the necessary location at the time of an emergency. Therefore, they must make sure that everyone has a base level of training and sufficient experience to fill in any gaps that might occur, at least on a temporary basis. Making sure that everyone stays up to date with needed information and general facility training will be an ongoing management consideration. Other more specific training needs would include things such as spacesuit use, maintenance, and emergency repair.
Spacesuit training alone could take several weeks. Current designs for space – suits are not intended for casual use. It is very likely that enhanced suit designs would be developed for various facets of lunar activity. Some suits would be intended for deployment on the lunar surface for exploration or construction. These suits would have to be built to deal with the rigors of the terrain while also being very reliable and easy to repair. Other suit designs might only be used to move from one part of the facility to another or from a transport to the facility. Such suits might not require the extra ruggedness of an exploration suit. Still, the need to practice tasks while wearing spacesuit gloves could be an important part of predeparture training even for individuals unlikely to venture outside for prolonged periods. Familiarity with how it feels to do various tasks while encumbered with a spacesuit and the inherent loss of touch sensitivity when using gloves would be critical in preparing people for lunar assignments. Every person selected for a lunar-based assignment would be required to show a minimum level of proficiency in spacesuit operation and use before being cleared for transit to the moon.
The ability to operate within a spacesuit should not be assumed. For example, it is not uncommon for even experienced swimmers to behave somewhat erratically when learning to scuba dive. Losing one’s mask, mouthpiece, or air supply are common events for which divers need to be prepared. Diving instructors frequently force students to experience these types of events in the comparative safety of the training environment. It is far better to see how an individual responds in a controlled situation with plenty of help around than to find out they are prone to panic in an actual problem situation. Some individuals are never comfortable underwater even with extensive training. Others are actually unable to adjust their responses to correspond to what is required while diving. Recreation divers often forget their training when they lose their air supply and break for the surface. Such actions potentially endanger the diver and others with the diver. Training alone does not necessarily ensure that when critical situations arise that an individual will respond appropriately. Experience with Russian spacesuit designs has many analogs for future lunar missions (Abramov 2003). People expected to function in spacesuits must be exposed to situations that test their ability to work within a suit. Those experiences must also create sufficient stress so to mimic real lunar emergencies. Training combined with appropriate reality-based activity is much more likely to reveal deficiencies in either the individual or their preparation. Preparing prospective employees for the unexpected would appear to be a critical link in all proposed lunar activities. Lunar managers would need to make preparation training and ongoing refresher training specific priorities for everyone involved as the unexpected may not be that uncommon on the Moon. Previous space training practice required extensive repetition until every possible action was virtually automatic. Business requirements in the future may preclude costs associated with extensive practice for low probability events. Eventually a balance will be found between preparing for possible events and preparing for probable events much as it has in commercial aviation.
In the past, there has been significant cost involved in the launch of a few people into space for just days. Consequently, every space activity, especially an EVA (extra-vehicular activity), was extensively rehearsed for weeks or months on Earth to maximize the efficiency for the actual time-constrained performance in space. We now live in a time when humans of several nations are currently living or planning to live in space. With ever- increasing frequency, they are being asked to respond to challenges without proceeding terrestrial practice. In the future, there will be even less opportunity to train for events in advance as humans move to explore and work in environments that we have yet to experience (Thomas and McMann 2006, p. 342).
The second element in essential training may be understanding group behavior and getting along with different people in a fairly rigid and isolated environment. Examples of difficulties that may be encountered range from cultural expectations to what constitutes standard work practices. Training for potential cultural conflicts and their resolution will be important for anyone working and living on the moon. It will also be important to recognize that operating and work practices vary across the range of prospective employees. At the absolute minimum, common nomenclature, measures, tools, warning colors and similar types of things must be standardized prior to putting large numbers of people in a lunar facility. Training with these common elements must be conducted so that when an individual uses a tool, checks a measurement or responds to a critical situation the potential for confusion is removed. Any lunar operation may well have participants from dozens of nations attempting to work collaboratively in a very complex and dangerous environment. Experience suggests that managers and workers will face serious and continuing problems in the absence of comprehensive cultural preparation, training and implementation. Problems such as: “facing unexpected language barriers requiring special expertise by their translators (e. g. technical terms having
different meanings…); having long cross-cultural discussions with apparent agreement, only later to be surprised by their counterparts’ different understanding.. (Harris 2009, p. 160)” Managers can expect to spend some time dealing with issues arising from cross-cultural misunderstandings. However, proper training should reduce the number of such incidents and their impact.