When Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space on April 12, 1961, he rode inside what was essentially a glorified tin can, the Vostok 1 spacecraft. Now, five decades on, SpaceX has given us a glimpse of what the future of spaceflight will look like – and it looks incredible.
The Crew Dragon capsule is SpaceX’s manned variant of its existing unmanned Dragon spacecraft. The latter is used to transport cargo to space, and in 2012 it became the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the ISS. The intention, though, was always to eventually take astronauts into space – with the ultimate goal being Mars.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is being part-funded by NASA in their Commercial Crew Program, alongside Boeing’s newly named CST-100 Starliner. Earlier this year, SpaceX demonstrated the launch abort capabilities of their spacecraft. By 2017 at the earliest, they expect to start taking astronauts into space.
The screens will display information on the spacecraft's position and orbit. SpaceX.
There are seats for up to seven astronauts. SpaceX.
What the interior of Crew Dragon looks like. SpaceX.
Crew Dragon has space for seven astronauts on board, and will be fully autonomous. The new promotional video above reveals what the interior looks like, with large screens displaying information and buttons giving astronauts a limited amount of control (just, you know, be careful you don’t push the wrong button).
It’s not entirely clear what the buttons do: One is labelled “deorbit now,” presumably to tell the spacecraft to begin its descent to Earth. Another, "cabin depress," would probably close valves in the case of the cabin depressurizing, and "cabin fire" would put out a fire – not, you know, open a nice fireplace for the astronauts.
The spacecraft is entirely autonomous. SpaceX.
Better be careful not to accidentally press the wrong button... SpaceX.
How Crew Dragon will look in orbit. SpaceX.
One thing to note: These are not CGI images (well, the video of it in orbit is). These images are from an actual mock-up of Crew Dragon. Admittedly, the interior might look a bit different – and more cluttered – when the first missions to space begin. But for now it gives a good idea of what it will be like for the astronauts inside.
The spacecraft also comes with windows to afford astronauts stunning views of Earth and beyond. “With four windows, passengers can take in views of Earth, the Moon, and the wider Solar System right from their seats, which are made from the highest-grade carbon fiber and Alcantara cloth,” the company wrote on its website.
The “comfortable and safe environment” on board is maintained by an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), through which astronauts can alter the temperature from 65 to 80°F (18 to 27°C). But for the most part, their spacecraft will be left to its own devices, although closely monitored by SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California.
All in all, though, it looks pretty damn impressive. That first launch in 2017 can't come soon enough.