You don’t have to train as an astronaut to know what it’s like to pilot Crew Dragon — you just need a web browser and some patience. TechCrunch notes that SpaceX has launched a web simulator that lets you dock the capsule with the International Space Station using the “actual interface” the crew relies upon. The input is simple, and your only goal is to keep the pitch, roll, yaw and positional values green as you make your approach. It’s fulfilling that goal which is tricky. You’re guiding a ship slowly through microgravity, so you need to adjust your expectations accordingly.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said he completed the physical simulator on the “first try” back in 2019, although it’s clearly easier for him to understand as a former Air Force pilot.
This is clearly a marketing tool for SpaceX. It wants to sell the public on the concept of Crew Dragon and ensure a steady stream of business. At the same time, it shows just how much spacecraft interfaces have progressed over the decades. Instead of complex, aircraft-like controls, astronauts now have the same kind of touch interface you’d expect from a mobile game. The challenge is less about fighting the controls and more about understanding spaceflight itself.