Date of Award

May 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Member

Marissa L Shuffler

Committee Member

Dorothy Carter

Committee Member

Fred Switzer


As long duration exploration missions (LDEMs) become the norm for spaceflight, it is important to understand the factors that may influence how astronaut crews and ground control teams work together. Although there are numerous efforts underway to continue to push boundaries in space exploration, much of the existing work to examine teamwork is designed to primarily address intrateam issues, not considering how inter-team factors may predict team and mission performance. Given the potential future challenges and uncertainties of LDEMs, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has identified a need for risk-mitigating spaceflight multiteam system (SFMTS) interventions designed to resolve or prevent inadequate cooperation, coordination, communication, and psychosocial adaptation, both within and between component teams. This study serves to begin to break apart the specifics of how shifting inter-team autonomy is exhibited within teams (i.e., crew claiming, mission control granting) in space and what team boundary work (i.e., buffering) looks like in SFMTSs. Regarding inter-team autonomy shifts, we saw that the majority (65%) of the 100 critical incidents coded exhibited this shift. Further, most of these autonomy shifts were triggered by the space crew claiming its autonomy from Mission Control. Almost half (46%) of the critical incidents exhibited an inter-team autonomy shift triggered by “crew claiming”. Additionally, our findings focused around team boundary work showed that multiple types of team boundary work were often exhibited per critical incident. Buffering and Reinforcement were identified as the top team boundary work types, followed closely by Reinforcement and Spanning. The results show that very rarely is only one type of team-boundary work shown when there is an inter-team autonomy shift. The current team boundary work patterns found indicate the types of functional boundary work needed for inter-team autonomy shifts in complex spaceflight multiteam systems. These patterns were derived using the critical incident method and are descriptive of behaviors that could be used as the basis of team boundary and inter-team autonomy shift training for SFMTSs in LDEM. Implications of the findings from this study and future directions are further discussed.



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