From Chris Hadfield's MasterClass

Spaceships: Navigation Systems and Human Variables

Learn how astronauts use stars, planets, and instruments to understand where their spaceship is, how it’s oriented, and where it’s going.

Topics include: Orienting the Ship • Navigating the Soyuz Visually • Navigating With Instruments • Propagating State Vectors • The Future of Navigation

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Learn how astronauts use stars, planets, and instruments to understand where their spaceship is, how it’s oriented, and where it’s going.

Topics include: Orienting the Ship • Navigating the Soyuz Visually • Navigating With Instruments • Propagating State Vectors • The Future of Navigation

Chris Hadfield

Teaches Space Exploration

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Preview

How does a spaceship know which way it's navigating? How do you align the gyroscopes to determine which way is up in a spaceship? One of the things we have to learn to do as an astronaut is use the stars. And if you ever look really closely at the front of a space shuttle, there are two funny little oval-shaped doors on the front. And those are, in fact, star trackers. And they're little, super light-sensitive cameras. And one points straight up out of the shuttle, and one points out our left ear. And we, as the astronauts, have to be able to maneuver the ship so that we can line those up with a pair of stars. And then rotate the ship through a certain angle, and line it up with another pair of stars. And if you can know where these two stars were, and then where those two stars were, and you know how many degrees you turn in between the two, then suddenly, you know how your spaceship is aligned in the universe. It's pretty weird. And even harder than that, we have to be able to do it visually. We have a little, tiny telescope, a little optical alignment site sitting out the top of the shuttle. And if those automatic systems fail, we have to learn how to move the ship manually, while staring through a little tiny telescope to find the star we want. And then go, mark. And then rotate the whole ship, and bring it around, and get pointed at another star. And then go, mark. And from that then, be able to build all of the information so that the systems inertial navigation platform can align itself into the three-dimensional reference frame of the universe. Something most people don't think they have to learn when they're showing up the first day as an astronaut. Here's a fundamental question. How do you know where you are? How do you navigate when you're onboard a spaceship? You know, on Star Trek, that was Sulu's job and Chekov's job. I don't know what they were looking at. But they always seem to know where we were in the universe. But onboard, say, a space shuttle or a Soyuz, you're going blisteringly fast. Five miles a second. You're crossing continents in minutes. The world is turning underneath you. Where are you exactly? How do you even tell someone where you are? I'm over top of Poughkeepsie. Or I'm somewhere between the Earth and the moon. Or I'm this, you know-- what reference frame do you even use? It's less clear than you might think. One of the simpler vehicles that I've flown, as far as navigation, was the Russian spaceship, the Soyuz, that I was the left seater. Sort of like the Bort Inzhener, or the flight engineer, or maybe like the co-pilot, whatever you want to call it. Left seater on a Soyuz. It's a beautifully elegant solution to answering the question of where are we. Because you can do it completely visually. They have a periscope on the Soyuz, like-- like you use in a submarine. And you can use it to stare straight out of the ship. So you could pivot and look straight at the horizon, or you can ...

Explore the unknown

Impossible things happen. At age nine, Chris Hadfield knew he wanted to go to space. He eventually went there three times, becoming a commander of the International Space Station. In his MasterClass, Chris teaches you what it takes to explore space and what the future holds for humans in the final frontier. Learn about the science of space travel, life as an astronaut, and how flying in space will forever change the way you think about living on Earth.

Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

He makes the experience of being in space very real. For every/any ‘would be’ astronaut.

i have learnt how to persue and look at where you want to be.

This is better than I imagined and you people should be proud on getting Chris Hadfield to speak. Mr. Hadfield should be extremely proud to. This was utterly exceptional.

I absolutely loved how Chris Hadfield hardly ever used the word "I". It was always about the team, the crew, the mission, the goal, the ship. Caused me to think that there isn't an "I" in leader! and Chris did a great job teaching me that.

Comments

Jerry R.

Interesting how we call it a space "ship" and we navigate using stars just like ancient mariners. And we can do that from regular planes, too.

Traci

All the things we take for granted like the GPS system... I have a very good sense of direction thankfully but I imagine as an astronaut, they have it too. I bet the stars and planets are beautiful.

Bruce A.

Todays Office Hours session was simply FANTASTIC! Many thanks to Chris, Molly, and all the elves involved! p.s. Here's a picture of the Inertial Guidance Platform from the Hound Dog. I wanted to give "kids" an idea of how we navigated to the moon. I've got to finish up that video someday! I was able to buy a Kollman Astrotracker on eBay to go with it. As Deke would say, "Keep The Dream Alive!"

Dennis M.

Hey, commander, what stars would those be? (Canopus, Polaris, Arcturus?) Are they always the same ones?

Russ D.

It’s great to see how the astronauts all train to determine the spaceship’s orientation manually. I knew there was a lot to learn about navigation, but it seems that it would be a great adventure!

Terry W.

I enjoyed learning of the challenges ion orienting a space craft and the solutions available for knowing where you are and how you are oriented. I liked the Soyuz periscope solution, too. I am a bit overwhelmed with all the knowledge that astronauts have to gain and master with so that each one is prepared for "manual" operation and navigation. I felt a little stressed with this lesson, but Cmdr Hadfield made it all seem so matter-of-fact. I appreciated his communication skills as the knowledge becomes more complex.

Vickie R.

PS Also when I first enrolled in the UCLA space program class I wrote him a letter and told him about it. Don't know if he even read it or not because he is so busy but ironically three days later, Prez Trump said he was thinking about investing more money in the US Space Program??? But I haven't heard anything new about the Space Program ever since. That was about 9 months ago?

Vickie R.

I don't even have a GPS device in my old Crown Victoria police car. I wouldn't know the first thing to do with a GPS device in a space ship??? Maybe they'll have UBER in space someday? Never been to Cape Caniveral in Florida but is Naples Florida a military town? Are there pilots in Naples Florida? How far Is Cape Canerval from Naples Florida? My favorite cartoon in the 60s was The Jetsons and remember they used SMART phones in that show???? They did. They also drew a kind of SKYPE for peopleto see each other and talk on? Great cartoon that was way ahead of it's time.

Varun P.

I have one question, Is earth or other planets moving towards the Sun? If Yes, Was Venus in the place where Earth is today? Will one day Mars replace the earth's position and have the temperatures like Earth and Earth replacing Venus? (Ignoring the lack of gas and atmosphere in mars for now)

Tabor D.

Dirk Weiler, I did miss when he say when the automatic system fails. But it then makes me wonder what is the automatic system? Is that automatically rotating the shuttle to take pictures out of 2 windows? I was imagining a constant automatic system capturing a 3d panoramic of the stars with continuous position recognition rather than rotate the whole ship. The other question I would have, is why does the automatic system fail and what would be the solution to make it more consistently reliable? I wonder what it would take to make such a system.