NASA and SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will use touch screens for first manned flight

When NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken fly to the International Space Station this week aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, they will not only be the first astronauts to take off from the U.S. mainland since the space shuttle era, they will also be the first to fly into space using touch screens. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will take off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday. The mission is part of NASA’s commercial crew program.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, veteran astronauts of the space shuttle era, are used to flying spacecraft under full manual control. The fully automated Flying Dragon spacecraft is capable of docking autonomously on the International Space Station, and if they do need to intervene and control it, the astronauts will do so through touch screens rather than switches.

The astronauts will be on the mission in custom-designed space suits, complete with special gloves and touch the screen. Designed by SpaceX in collaboration with costume designer Jose Fernandez, the space suit also comes with a single umbilical cord connection for cooling and communication systems, as well as a 3D-printed helmet.

While Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were among the first humans to fly the Dragon, SpaceX plans to bring privately paid regular passengers into the seven-seat, three-window capsule as early as 2021.

NASA and SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft will use touch screens for first manned flight