From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Ergonomics for Astronauts

You have just been given the task of designing a workstation. You have spent hours researching the available anthropometry data, you have set out dimension and task guidelines, but there’s still one thing missing: gravity. If you are an ergonomist with NASA, gravity is what is missing from your equation.

Does gravity make a difference? It does. The absence of gravity actually changes a person’s body. This makes designing workstations in spacecraft particularly challenging. Among the changes the human body will experience in weighlessness is an increase in height due to lengthening of the spine, a change in chest, waist, and limb circumference due to fluid shifting, and loss in weight and leg volume. NASA points out that space programs of the past have allowed for astronauts to be chosen based on physical fitness and ability. The space programs of today focus more on a person’s knowledge increasing the potential population which may don a space suit or board a ship.

To address ergonomics and human factors in design at NASA, a standard was developed. The NASA-STD-3000 was created to provide a single, comprehensive document defining all generic requirements for space facilities and related equipment which directly interface with crewmembers.

This document provides specific user information to ensure proper integration of the man-system interface requirements with those of other aerospace disciplines. These man-system interface requirements apply to launch, entry, on-orbit, and extraterrestrial space environments. This document is intended for use by design engineers, systems engineers, maintainability engineers, operations analysts, human factors specialists, and others engaged in the definition and development of manned space programs.

A chapter on Anthropometry and Biomechanics presents quantitative information about human body size, posture, movements, surface area, and mass.

A chapter on Human Performance Capabilities documents the significant ways the performance capabilities of humans may change when they go into space.

A chapter on Workstations covers workstation design, including layout, controls, displays, labeling and coding, and user/computer interface.

Other chapters include topics such as safety, health management, architecture, hardware and facility management.

Although written for application to the space environment, much of the information contained in the NASA-STD-3000 can be used for human interface/engineering problems down here on earth too.

The document is available at