Science & Technology

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
In 28+ lessons, the former commander of the International Space Station teaches you the science of space exploration and what the future holds.
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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...

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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.

Discipline Vision Commitment Incrementalism Assiduousness Diligence

Got a new perspective on exploration not just space but with anything new outside my scope of reality

Really quite amazing! I took the class just to learn something new and different. Chris Hadfield is a brilliant teacher and commentator. He is able to explain extremely complex ideas, scenarios, and theories in a simplistic fashion for anyone to follow and understand. I thoroughly enjoyed the course!

Really helped with my thought process and goal setting. Thanks Chris for sharing your experience and knowledge!


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.

Keith S.

It's a shame we only die once, it would be a great learning experience. Contingency simulators are vital for spaceflight success.

Hans J.

Can you imagine if we could run kids/ everyone through various “ life” simulators in high school? We would all be much more prepared for life. Chris Hadfield is so correct: training and preparation not only alleviate’s fear, it makes you more confident and you enjoy the “ ride” because you know what’s coming.........maybe. Fantastic job, I watch this every spare minute I have, like a book you cannot put down. Hans Juergensen

A fellow student

Great!!!!! This is the most enjoyable course and beautifully presented by Hadfield. Thank you!

Pedro C.

Interesting reflections about the benefits of preparing through practice, and simulation when real practice is not possible. It was nice also to know about international differences and collaboration. Nevertheless, It would have been great to experience what is being told, using videos or any other resource available through the web.

Terry W.

Prepare, prepare, and prepare some more. Who plans the sequence of simulations? I suppose there is learning on that end to be sure all contingencies are covered in the astronauts' learning. The contingency of the death of an astronaut must be the toughest. I liked the old school (eyes and watch) solution to closure rates and alignment. So much to wonder about and, once again, Cmdr Hadfield's story-telling is an art in and of itself. That is giving us a simulation of sorts...very vivid :)

Christopher L.

Everything in this class has been amazingly interesting, but, to me, the most fascinating—& most useful/applicable—thing by far is the anecdote about connecting the docking adaptor/tunnel w/the Mir in the "Visualize and Prepare for Failure" subchapter. As the saying goes, amateurs practice until they get it right, but professionals practice until they can't get it wrong.

Karim E.

The contingency sim in your life is useful and practical advise. This episode gave me a sense of why he would make a great commander. Nerves of steel, courage under pressure, faultless precision, stamina, solid problem solving, and decision making. The Right Stuff. I love this guy. Please adopt me.