Owner’s Manual to Human Spaceflight

Orion Heat Shield

To be human is to explore.

“Humans completely introduce a new element to the space exploration equation,” stated Cynthia Hudy, the Human-Systems Integration Lead on Orion.

One day, astronauts will explore the Martian planet, unlocking mysteries of our solar system and universe. That journey started with Exploration Flight Test-1. We’re pushing our systems to the limit and developing a human-rated Orion spacecraft.

From inception to recovery, from the flight crew to ground support personnel, human-rating requirements play a fundamental role in expanding our presence throughout the solar system, and returning safely to Earth.

Imagine the cockpit of your car, when designing the dashboard, automobile manufacturers must consider the feasibility for the operator to control the steering wheel and reach the radio controls without taking their eyes of the road. Similarly, a spacecraft’s controls need to be usable for human operation – even when the crew is fully suited.

It’s not enough for a spacecraft to include accessible radio buttons; rather it’s important to include controls manageable with a gloved hand and visible while wearing a helmet.

Caution: Rough Road Ahead

Think about all the things you may take for granted – now imagine you’re living in a car seat.

If you forget to take the trash out at home, you may be subjected to a stern lecture. In space, however, imagine all of that trash hurtling around your head. Thanks to gravity, a requirement exists that a trash management system should not allow the release of trash in the habitual environment.

Not only do we consider how hardware can influence a crew – we must also consider how humans impact the hardware. An astronaut floating at zero gravity can pack a powerful punch if they accidently kick a piece of technology.

To ensure the safety of the crew – and hardware – the team is incorporating a human systems integration document with 500 plus requirements into the development of the Orion spacecraft.

A requirement exists for everything from the font type and size on the displays, to ensuring a radiation-safe haven for the crew.

No Wrong Turns

The impacts of space exploration are far and wide – in fact, many of today’s human-rating standards are products of past exploration missions.

“Lessons that you learn early are etched into stone for future missions,” stated Bill Johns, Chief Engineer on Orion.

Each new discovery feeds our appetite to explore. And, each new challenge we are presented with, brings with it an opportunity for scientific improvements.

Why Humans?

Human exploration of space makes the discoveries and benefits of the farthest reaches of our universe accessible to all. With Orion’s first flight, Exploration Flight Test -1, the lessons we’ll learn will shape future human-rated missions – bringing us one step to closer on our journey to Mars.

November 25, 2014