Is there life on Mars: NASA, Moon to Mars, and teams

Suzanne Bell, PhD, senior scientist at KBR/NASA Johnson Space Center, will visit the NIU College of Business to deliver a guest presentation for the Department of Management’s Faculty Research Series. Bell’s talk on October 4th is entitled:  “Composing Teams that are Out of this World.”

Abstract. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and its international partners plan to send humans to Mars in the 2030’s. The agency’s “Moon to Mars” initiative will challenge the frontiers of human collaboration as the crew lives and works in an extreme environment that includes prolonged isolation and confinement over the course of a two-and-a-half year journey. The small crew will need to work together as a team. They’ll also need to rely on one another for social support, keep interpersonal conflicts manageable, and coordinate seamlessly to execute complex tasks such as landing on Mars.

Who should go on this incredible journey? How will NASA build a team that can excel in this extreme environment?

This NASA-funded research conducted by Bell and her colleagues takes the study of team composition to the extreme. They frame their research as “Mission to Mars.” Their methodology includes collecting data from teams living and working in a small habitat at Johnson Space Center and using computer simulation to model the combinations of team members that are likely to excel on this extreme and incredible journey. During her presentation in Barsema Hall, Bell will discuss the composition of future space crews, as well as the implications for team composition research back on Earth.

Biography. Suzanne Bell is senior scientist at KBR/NASA Johnson Space Center and a professor of industrial and organizational psychology. She received her PhD from Texas A&M University. Her research focuses on team composition and selection, team effectiveness, predictors of job performance, organizational training, feedback acceptance, and cross-cultural issues. Her research appears in top peer-reviewed journals such as American Psychologist, Journal of Management, Journal of Applied Psychology, and Organizational Research Methods, and has been covered in Harvard Business Review, Live Science, Scientific American, Discovery, and Smithsonian Magazine among others. Bell is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, and a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Photo from the NASA website. This artist’s concept depicts astronauts and human habitats on Mars. NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will carry a number of technologies that could make Mars safer and easier to explore for humans.

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