To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact

Science & Tech

Training and Learning: Simulations

Chris Hadfield

Lesson time 19:21 min

Chris teaches you the principles behind simulation setup, the mindset you need to learn as much as possible from simulations, and how astronauts prepare for worst-case scenarios.

Chris Hadfield
Teaches Space Exploration
The former commander of the International Space Station teaches you the science of space exploration and what the future holds.


Simulation is not just important. It's critical to success. Think about how you learned to ride a bicycle. Someone took the handlebars and showed you how they turn. They showed you how the pedals turn, or showed you how the wheels turn. You did sort of a background study of a bicycle. And then someone put you on a bicycle, but made sure that you couldn't fall. That was really a bicycle simulator. They were giving you a simulation of what it was going to be like to ride a bike, but without the consequence of failure. A safe set of circumstances to practice your technique. And you turned the handlebars the wrong way many times, and you started leaning. Or maybe they stuck training wheels. On it was a bicycle without pedals you could work on one skill at a time. But eventually, through incremental simulation you gained the skill. So for that very first time you could launch. And you could get on the bike and start pedaling, and you were away. And now you could do something that you couldn't do before. It was because of a training program and simulation. That you could do that thing. That you could ride that bike. And a spaceship is really just a super complicated bicycle. We go through exactly the same process. And you train on your own with a steadily more complex integrated environment in the simulator, until finally you've gotten to a level of comfort and understanding that now other crew members can get into the cockpit with you. And then you start with a perfect flight. You launch and everything behaves itself. And you learn what it's really going to look and sound like. And then the instructors can start injecting failures, and failing one system that you have to deal with. And then you're watching as your system is failing, then on the other side there's some other system failing, and someone has to realize that those two systems actually affect each other. And it becomes steadily more and more complex. And what your training team is hoping, the people that are trying to get you ready for spaceflight. They're hoping to show you every single thing they possibly can, somewhere along all of your simulation preparation. So that no matter what system fails, no matter what combinations of systems have any probability of failing, you are going to be able to handle it. And the place that you really perfect those skills is in the simulator. It is the crucible where you grind everything together and see whether you're ready for spaceflight or not. There's something I want you to remember. This is really important, especially in a career of an astronaut. And that is all simulators are wrong. Seems counterintuitive. But it's a simulator. It's not the real thing. And even if it's really, really close, even if it's Kerbal Space Program, or even if it's some sort of great asteroids game, it may have some similarity to what you're really going to do in space. But it's going to be slightly different. There are lots of classic examples of...

About the Instructor

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.


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

So interesting and well-explained. Chris makes space exploration possible for anyone, even if you're not an astronaut.

This class has allowed me to better understand the intricacies of space exploration and the preparation and dedication required. This class is wonderfully instructive about having a dream and doing the steps to make it a reality.

The class is out of this world. I enjoyed this so much. Listening and learning from an extraordinary individual is almost spiritual.

A outstanding class where Chris keeps the view engaged with is wealth of knowledge that is presented in such a way that I want to meet him!


Bernardo F.

Sure there's a huge gap between riding a bicycle and beein in charge of the ISS haha, but yeah, I agree, you prepare for all sort of scenarios, mostly the bad ones as they require you ready for giving a solution, for making the right decisions. I may be wrong, but I suppose that some of those scenarios are practiced because they were a real threat in a mission and now is an element that can help a future one. About the future of simulations, it's posible that VR become more popular, but still there are many things that can't be simulated and will continue for a long time just as theory in paper.

Karthik V.

Is all the simulators are wrong, i play the simulator of spacex dragon spaceship. It is in the website.


I like how Mr. Hadfield gives examples to help describe his lessons. Some Masterclass instructors just talk non-stop for 15 minutes, lesson after lesson without a single white board, graphic, or as much as a verbal example to help illustrate the point. And it becomes exhausting trying to keep imagining things on your own. But Mr. Hadfield is a better instructor in this regard.

William D.

This is one of the best lessons so far. Chris's point about simulators aren't real is very real. This is the philosophy of the US Navy Nuclear Power Program. We trained on actual working Naval Nuclear Reactors. Our failures could have serious consequences. HOWEVER: simulators have their uses and allow training on casualties that can't be done on the real thing. Don't downplay the usefulness of simulators. Chris's story on the F-14 first flight crash is WRONG! The aircraft lost hydraulic flight controls due to undetected harmonics that caused fatigue failure of the hydraulic system. The description of the F-16 control issue is accurate (I have video of that incident.) In Training you learn more from failure than you do from doing it right. It's training, don't worry about making mistakes. Learn from them and don't do the same mistake twice. Don't beat yourself up about it. (I had to constantly reinforce this with trainee's on my vessels when they did a maneuver wrong.) The devil's in the details. Nail everything down and practice, practice and practice. Lastly, always ask yourself "what if?" Then you can go through what you would or wouldn't do "BEFORE" the casualty actually happens.

Uday R.

how do you launch the international space station into space? Isn't it too big and heavy?

Maddie W.

Very insightful discussion on how astronauts prepare for spaceflight. I also enjoyed learning about how future technology will help us train even more efficiently. This technology could also be used on Earth to train for other dangerous or less accessible jobs. Some great astronaut advice for everyday life: if you want to be more prepared for something, just run a contingency sim! It's sort of amazing to me how much astronaut training applies to life on Earth. I'm really thankful that Chris has decided to share these things so we can all benefit from his experiences and knowledge.

Steve H.

Louis Pasteur said " Chance favors the prepared mind." This chapter is an excellent reminder of the preparation needed to handle any eventualities. Failures are expected in the simulations and are probably the most cogent experiences.

Jamal M.

My favorite part of this lecture, despite all of the excellent analogies and information, was that he knew the game Kerbal Space Program. It's a great game.


This is a good lesson about space exploration. Really good advice. Thanks Chris

Jim C.

Syncronicity. Just today I began formulating a plan for in my mother-in-law dies, and we have to take care of my father-in-law with dementia. Who do we contact, where are important documents, ... I never thought of it as a simulation, but it is.