Astronaut Anne McClain on designing and piloting the subsequent era of spacecraft – .

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Astronaut Anne McClain on designing and piloting the next generation of spacecraft – TechCrunch

NASA Recently, the astronauts who will take part in the Artemis missions were announced, including Anne McClain, who spent 203 days in orbit and performed two spacewalks on the ISS. With the space industry not looking like it did 10 years ago and with new spacecraft and technology on the rise, McClain shares her thoughts on how she and other astronauts would view the future.

Lt. Col. McClain's time aboard the ISS was from December 2018 to June 2019, meaning that her ascent and descent were both aboard the Russian Soyuz capsules, as astronauts have been getting into and out of space since the shuttle days are. However, the Artemis missions will deploy a variety of new launch vehicles and spacecraft. And while she wasn't allowed to fly a kite pod, she was able to check one out while docked at the station.

"I was so happy to have flown the Soyuz because it's such a reliable, simple spaceship – it's almost like flying a piece of history – and I knew I could compare that to other vehicles in the future," said she said. “I had the opportunity when I was on the space station when DM-1 was flying. So when you are put in a position to look at their screens and monitors, you will immediately find that the technology is so advanced that it looks like the inside of a commercial airplane. "

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were the first to pilot a kite in orbit, and then said it was "certainly different," in part due to the reliance on touchscreens as the primary interface for many spacecraft functions. McClain stressed the difficulty of getting software to a point where someone's life can be trusted.

"Most of the vehicles we are currently using are very software-intensive – lots of touch screens, not as many valves that physically move, it's more like a software relay. However, this adds tremendous complexity to both software and authorization software reliability is difficult, as your readers are likely to know, "she explained.

We want to understand our systems well enough to be able to interact with them in ways that they may not be directly designed to.

“We are always concerned with the question of when a person should be up to date and when they should be automated. And if it is automated, how can we prove that the software is sufficiently reliable for human spaceflight? At some point you have to say : "You know what, when this happens, we'll bring a person up to date" just so you won't be paralyzed by 10 years of software testing. "

As a pilot, McClain of course has an opinion and, like Hurley and Behnken, worked with SpaceX from an early age.

"I've been fortunate to work with Bob and Doug to give SpaceX early advice on how to control the cockpit, and I think where they have gone it's a really incredible machine," she said, noting the Orion- and Starliner vehicle received similar attention from experts as she did.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley clap their fists to celebrate their historic launch on SpaceX's Crew Dragon.

Yes, that company name didn't build a spaceship – but there are people in these halls who built spaceships. The talent that built the space shuttle and space station is now spread across the commercial industry.

Flexibility was most important among the desired aspects; If things deviate even a little from the script, the tools need to be flexible and not self-limiting.

“I think pilots we always want options, don't we? Whatever happens, we want options. As much as we try to predict scenarios on the ground, we are always very much aware that something can happen that was not predicted, and at this point … we want options, "she said. “We want to understand our systems well enough to be able to interact with them in ways that they may not be directly designed to. It is therefore very important to me that the software does not take options off the table. This is one of the reasons they are looking at the Apollo 13 case at NASA when we had to use the hardware and software, as well as the vehicle, in ways that we had never predicted. "

When I asked if it was different or strange to work with newer companies like Blue Origin, McClain pointed out that the name is really the only thing new.

CG rendering of what Blue Origin and Lockheed's Moon Lander should look like."I've worked enough with these companies to know something, and that's yes, that company name didn't build a spaceship – but there are people in these halls who built spaceships. The talent that built the space shuttle and the space station is now all over the commercial industry, which is exactly what NASA wants to do. This is our human capital, "she explained." The other thing I'm confident about is the way NASA is working with these companies, extremely thorough for test programs and design reviews. Until that missile has me on a block on top, I am confident that we can make the necessary checks and balances. "

This technology helps us bring the earth with us into the spaceship.

Lastly, I asked if the conveniences of modern consumer technology made it more tolerable to spend long periods of time in space, such as the relatively new ability to make video calls. McClain was quick to respond positively.

“What you said is just that. Imagine we were in this pandemic and couldn't video chat – we already feel disconnected from our loved ones. And you know the feeling of separation is the same whether you are on the other side of the country or in space. The ability for us to see and talk to our parents' faces on the screen really works wonders, ”she said. "And it's not just morality. You know, you look at six-month, twelve-month missions, it's really about maintaining the psyche and maintaining the sanity of humans. This technology is helping us bring the earth with us into the spaceship bring to. "

McClain is one of 18 astronauts who will take part in the missions ahead of the planned moon landing. You can meet the rest here.