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International Space Station a Virtual Reality at Iowa State

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AMES, Iowa -- The International Space Station has come to Iowa State University, at least a simulated version of it. Researchers are using the C-6 Virtual Reality Simulator to recreate the inside of the station.  The mission, to explore how astronauts aboard the station handle stressful situations in terms of decisions they make.

"My main interest is to see how mission critical operators make decisions under acute stress," said Nir Keren who works with Agricultural Biosystems Engineering and the Virtual Reality Applications Center in Howe Hall at ISU.  "In case of emergencies it's impossible to run away."

Dr. Warren Franke is a Professor of Kinesiology who works gathering the medical data with the Virtual Reality Applications Center. "There have been some novices that handled the stress situations very well," said Franke. "Some people are more reactive than others." Franke has also worked with firefighters in a simulated burning building to see how they react.

The computer-driven simulator is creating various scenarios of what happens when something goes wrong on the station.  The biggest fear for astronauts aboard is a fire. "In case of emergencies its impossible to run away," said Keren.

The simulator runs through what can happen in case of a fire, and how astronauts would react to that in terms of decision making. "We're tying to look at how people respond in real-world situations that are in their professional contexts as firefighters, or astronauts." said Franke

NASA supplied the data for the life size projections inside the 6 screen room.  That includes four walls plus floor and ceiling. ISU is hoping to supply data to NASA as a means of building a relationship with the space agency.