Nearly two hours after NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley became the first astronauts to launch space on privately owned rockets, they became the first pilots to steer the spacecraft with touch screen controls alone.
SpaceX & # 39; s Crew Dragon avoids the famous manual control and switch mazes found on retired spacecraft like space shuttles or Apollo command modules. Instead, the crew pilot has three large touch screen panels on the front and a few spare buttons. So, for a few hours that require manual control of the spacecraft, we use the video game style interface on that screen.
Behnken and Hurley said SpaceX took the interface for a simple test on a Saturday afternoon. Operate the crew dragon manually to see if everything is working properly.
The company broadcasted a test video during a live stream and consisted of several taps, but it was surprising. Move the spacecraft using the same display technology that astronauts use for tweeting, checking Instagram, scrolling emails, or swiping Tinder dates. Also, the user interface is very similar to the online flight simulator, so SpaceX was released just two weeks ago. (Equivalently, the simulator features [thecontrolfunctionoftheactualinterface used by NASA astronauts to manually control the SpaceXDragon2 vehicle] . Benken pointed out that Earth's thermal imaging camera view was briefly interrupted, but it seems to have progressed well (SpaceX acknowledged the flicker and later told astronauts that the camera had just turned on and has not yet reached "thermal equilibrium". ) As the announcer said in the stream, the flight test was "The last major mission for astronauts other than dinner tonight."
Most crew maneuvering must occur autonomously, so if everything goes well on Behnken and Hurley's mission, these There's no need to re-use the controls, it's not as absurd as the spacecraft controls you see in sci-fi movies, but controlling the crew of SpaceX using a touch screen interface seems like a big step towards the future.