The only place some of us can safely go to escape these troubled times? Space! In real life and virtually. This month, the SpaceX Crew Dragon will leave for the ISS with a handful of astronauts, and, while we’re not invited, we can still hitch a ride virtually, as SpaceX just made a simulator of the trip available online.
The simulator challenges you to test your parking skills. It effectively puts you at the helm of the spacecraft, waiting to see if you’re able to dock it to the International Space Station.
In theory, this seems a breeze; but things are different in space. You don’t just have to maintain the course and go forward, left, and right. You also have to take into account the six degrees of freedom, meaning you’ll have to pitch and roll, too.
Any deviation and badly-chosen angle will keep you stuck at the entrance of the dock, unable to park to the ISS. Thankfully, there’s a heads-up display that can show you exactly how you’re positioned at all times.
If you’re curious, no, astronauts don’t have to dock manually when they reach the ISS. There’s an “auto pilot” in place but they are trained to take over, if the need arises, and the NASA crew, made from astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, will fly manually at some point to test the spacecraft.