Almost two hours after NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley became the first astronauts to launch into space on a private rocket, they also became the first to pilot a spacecraft using only commands to touchscreen.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon avoids the famous labyrinth of manual controls and switches found on retired spaceships like the Space Shuttle or the Apollo Command Modules. Instead, Crew Dragon pilots only have three large touch screens in front of them and a few spare buttons below. So, during the few times that they have to manually control the spacecraft, they do so using a video game style interface on these screens.
Behnken and Hurley were able to take this interface for a brief test drive on Saturday afternoon when SpaceX had them manually maneuver the Crew Dragon to make sure everything was working.
The company released test footage during its live broadcast, and although it was only a few clicks away, it was an amazing thing to see the astronauts pushing their spacecraft to use the same technology. display we use to tweet, check on Instagram, scroll through emails, or swipe to view Tinder dates. It is also remarkable that the user interface is so similar to the online flight simulator that SpaceX released just two weeks ago. (To be fair, the simulator Is say it has the “controls of the real interface used by NASA astronauts to manually pilot the SpaceX Dragon 2 vehicle. ”)
The test appears to have worked well, although Behnken noted that the view of the Earth’s thermal camera below was briefly cut off when Hurley maneuvered the spacecraft. (SpaceX recognized the flickering and later told the astronauts that it was normal – the cameras had just turned on and had not yet reached “thermal balance”.) And as advertisers said on the current, the flight test was the “last major task” for astronauts today other than dinner.
Most of the Crew Dragon’s maneuvers are supposed to happen independently, so if all goes well during the Behnken and Hurley mission, they will no longer need to play with these commands. And while it might not be as outrageous as the spaceship controls we often see in science fiction movies, watching them use the touch interface to control SpaceX’s Crew Dragon certainly seemed like a big step forward to the future.