How Nasa astronauts use IT on the International Space Station

Summary:An astronaut's view on iPads in space, system outages and zero-G typing

An astronaut's view on iPads in space, system outages and zero-G typing

Clayton Anderson is an astronaut who logged 167 days in space, including five months on board the International Space Station in 2007. During silicon.com's recent visit to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas he spoke to senior reporter Nick Heath about running and repairing the station's computers and why the iPad could be suited to life among the stars.

As they circle the earth at 17,500 miles an hour, the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) depend on the smooth running of their onboard computer systems.

The ISS command and control computers are the heart of the station, controlling everything necessary to keep its crew alive - powering systems ranging from life support to communications.

The crew of the International Space Station rely on computers for their physical and psychological wellbeing

The crew of the International Space Station rely on computers for their physical and psychological wellbeing
(Photo credit: Nasa)

The crew use laptops to access the command and control computers, using a GUI that allows them to navigate through schematics of the station's various systems - for example, heating or electrics.

According to Anderson, the central command systems interface is as easy to pick up as an off-the-shelf word processor, although the system requires extended training to master.

"It requires extensive training but the concept is like Microsoft Word. You can look at the software package and begin to use it relatively quickly," he said.

"All the displays are standardised and, as you begin to play with them, you know what buttons to push and how to operate the standard graphical interface."

Less critical to station safety, but almost as important to the astronauts, is...

Topics: Hardware

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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