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Play astronaut with SpaceX

Experience the simulated thrill of docking the SpaceX Crew Dragon with the International Space Station. Be advised, it takes a deft touch.

SpaceX continues to touch new highs, literally and otherwise, since the last few weeks. The June 3 launch that propelled 60 satellites aboard the Falcon 9 rocket into orbit was the eighth Starlink mission. The launch came barely a week after the seventh mission connected with SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellite project that will provide low-cost internet to remote locations through a constellation of 12,000 micro satellites. In January 2015, Elon Musk said “We’re really talking about something which is, in the long term, like rebuilding the internet in space,” when revealing the project.

Astronaut-ing comes to a screen near you

SpaceX launched a new browser-based simulator, more like a game, that provides a simulation of what it would be like to manually dock its Crew Dragon spacecraft, the first manned spaceship the company has developed. The simulator is close to the real thing that Crew Dragon astronauts likely experienced on the test flight carried out on May 27.

The opening screen for the simulator states that it’s designed to familiarise you with controls of the actual interface used by NASA astronauts to manually pilot the Space X Dragon 2 vehicle to the International Space Station (ISS). In reality, Crew Dragon docks with the ISS autonomously, but astronauts can take manual control if necessary, which is what the simulator provides.

Slow and steady gets to dock

The simulator appears deceptively easy to operate, but only until you begin the docking process. It displays distance, roll, pitch and yaw (deflection). A dial in the center displays green numbers that show corrections that are necessary to reach the space station. Docking is successful when all the displayed correction numbers are below 0.2. The blue numbers on the dial show the rotation rates or speed in space.

Your target is the green diamond marked on the docking adapter. SpaceX advises using precise movements, not large, sudden moves that will make you veer away from the ISS or worse, crash into it. When you are less than 16 feet (5 metres meters) from the space station, keep your rate below minus 0.6 feet per second (minus 0.2 metres per second), as measured by the display.

The simulator can be played on any digital screen, including your smartphone, but is best experienced on a computer or laptop screen. Step off the gas, steady your hands and focus on the target. Safe docking to you.

Deetox.com is going to space

Space is the flavour of the week on Deetox.com. From June 8 to June 14, we’ll take you on a virtual voyage into deep space with stories, mysteries, do-at-home projects and fun stuff about humankind’s flight to distant skies.

By Romeo Coutinho

Rationalist, truth seeker, full time writer, part time dreamer.

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