New manned space launch built on public-private partnership, takes flight with new controls


It’s official – tomorrow, two American astronauts will going to space on a Falcon 9 rocket, as part of a resumption of long-awaited human spaceflight that’s been a dormant part of the American program since the closure of the national space shuttle program decades ago.


These new explorers are are also going to be returning to the blackness of space with some very new technology.


Amid fanfare of the planned joint space mission, the first of its kind in many of our lifetimes, CNET provides some interesting input on the controls for this newfangled rocketship:


“The fully automated Crew Dragon is capable of docking with the ISS autonomously, and if they do have to intervene and take control, the astronauts will do it with swipes, not switches,” writes Claire Reilly today, adding remarks by astronaut Doug Hurley.


“You’ve got to be very deliberate when you’re putting an input in with a touchscreen, relative to what you’d do with a stick,” Hurley says. “When you’re flying an airplane for example, if I push the stick forward it’s going to go down. I have to actually make a concerted effort to do that with a touch screen.”


Why the touchscreen? Spokespersons and analysts talking about spacecraft controls describe the space shuttle stick controls as “dated,” and in broader comments, the other soon-to-be-flyer, Bob Behnken, says new controls are suited to the “flying task (which) is very unique.”


This isn’t yesterday’s space program: many aspects of the new journey will be built on NASA’s new Commercial Crew Program (CPP) and collaborations with the private SpaceX firm, which government officials don’t view as a “startup” any more.


“While every previous U.S. space program was a government venture, Nasa signaled a switch of direction in 2010 with the initiative to subcontract low Earth orbit operations to private industry while concentrating its own efforts on longer-term goals, such as returning to the moon by 2024,” writes Richard Luscombe at The Guardian.


After years of development, these two stakeholders now seem poised to give manned space travel a go.


The launch is planned for tomorrow at 4:33 Eastern Time: tune in to see a new chapter in America’s space program take off.