ISS astronaut, upon seeing inside SpaceX Dragon vehicle first time: "It looks sci-fi."

André Kuipers, a Dutch physician and astronaut with the European Space Agency, was on board the ISS when the SpaceX Dragon vehicle berthed. He took this photograph, and wrote,

Inside of the Dragon module. Beautiful. Spacious, Modern. Blue LEDs. Feels a bit like a sci-fi filmset. Of course it is from Los Angeles.

He wrote more about the historic space milestone here, on his blog.

Last Friday was a special day on my mission. Don and I docked the SpaceX’s cargoship Dragon to the Space Station. Dragon brings new equipment for the crew. On the 31st of May it will return to Earth with supplies from the others and myself. The Dragon mission is the operational highlight of my mission. But it is also a milestone for international spaceflight. This is the first time that a commercial spacecraft has flown to the ISS and docked with the Station. You could say a new era of spaceflight has begun. Soon private companies will take people to and from space.


  1. And the fact he’s floating above a great blue marble isn’t scifi enough?… Just asking, don’t mean to be a party pooper

          1. I can attest to this.  I bought a new alarm clock/radio a few years ago and it had a blue display.  In the well-lit store I thought it looked cool.  I got it home and after two nights went out and bought a used one from a thrift store with a red display instead.  I have since put some dark cling film on it and placed it in the kitchen, so we can use its’ CD player.

            There’s a really good reason to use red alarm clocks.  Every other color seems to be too bright and interferes with sleep.

            Since they’re not sleeping in the cargo ship, blue LEDs might actually help to keep the crew awake while working, if that’s a problem.

          2.  Well aware of this. If the device is cheap enough, I open and either clip the little blue bastards out or desolder and replace them. One of my USB wall chargers was bright enough to read by at night. A red marker over the more expensive items does the trick too.

          3. For alarm clocks, I’ve got good experiences with a green display. Blue would be just creepy, though.

        1. I’ve got the Virgin V+ box (UK cable) and it’s covered in the bloody things.  Black electric tape over all of them; no functional difference.

          HDD’s and computer cases etc., fair enough, but when it’s something that sits immediately below something that’s function is to be looked at, you do wonder who designs this crap.

          1.  There’s another rub with this sort of thing in that the old green/amber/red LEDs used to indicate things, like standby, power and so on. Now everything is just this stupid blue which tell you what? Refrigerating?

    1. In fairness, the quote is a little mangled by the headline.  He’s saying that by comparison with the space vehicles he normally works in, the interior of the Dragon module looks more a space capsule set designed for a science fiction film.  It’s no different from a lawyer walking into an unfamiliar courtroom and saying “Wow, this is the sort of dramatic-looking courtroom they’d use as a location in a Hollywood legal thriller, nothing like the dingy rooms with fluorescent lighting I usually see!”

      There may also be an implication that, owing to SpaceX being based in California and employing a high proportion of SF fans in decision-making roles, their designs might be slightly more influenced by the public perception of “that’s what the interior of a space capsule ought to look like” — partly because they’re looking to a future of commercial space tourism.  I’m not saying this is the case; I’m just unpacking a possible meaning in one comment from a guy who’s been there.

      1. You also have to factor in relative ages of the craft.  The space shuttle was very1960’s –  1970’s in terms of it’s onboard technology.  Soyouz (sp?) is 1950’s at best and the ISS for all the noise made about it started being designed in the 1980’s and 1990’s. 

        Dragon is 21st Century from the get go, it’s not bleeding edge but far closer to it than the others so for someone used to craft from earlier eras it might well seem a “little sci-fi” even if you are living on a space station. 

  2. This guy’s entire Flickr photostream looks like a sci-fi movie. It’s gotta be one of the best, if not the best, Flickr stream ever.

  3. God I wonder what the ISS interiors look like if that is what is considered modern, or something out of sci-fi? I can’t be bothered now, I’ll do it whilst I’m at work naturally.

    If I called the module “modern”, it’d have to look like something out of 2001 with red velour panels and with at least a dozen monitors showing vector graphics that are seemingly useless.

    1. Like this:

      From the same astronaut’s flickr page. No wonder he feels like Dragon is all modern and sleek.

      Part of me is sad, I generally don’t like it when public goods get privatized like this, but then I look at the cost of Dragon vs. a comparable NASA project, and I look at the efficiency, the design, the use of cutting-edge tech, etc. and I think that this is the kick in the ass NASA and space flight need. So I dunno.

      1. Depends on which part of the station you’re looking at. Some of it is pretty crowded, especially the russian segment, that’s based on 60’s design. The american/european/russian segment of the station looks a lot more like Dragon. (Image from Wikipedia.)

      2. Honestly, the section pictured looks pretty much like one would expect, even hope, an actively used research area to look. University physics lab space frequently looks pretty similar, in all but the flashiest LHC-type projects…

      3. Gahhhh! This is a free-fall environment! How in the hell do all of those exposed cables stay plugged in, when feet can and do go anywhere? The last time I had to deal with wiring closets that were that bad, we couldn’t keep stuff plugged in even when we knew what surface the contractors’ feet would be near. It was a constant experience: every couple of weeks, some service would go down in some wing of the building, and that would be our warning that there was a contractor in the service closet. “Oh, sorry, didn’t realize I’d kicked that cable.” “Oh, sorry, something in my pocket got caught on that cable.” “Oh, sorry, I needed to put something down, and I brushed against that cable.” Exposed free-floating cables in the middle of a workspace are pure Murphy bait.

        1.  That’s why they have this extensive screening process…working with experts – you might have heard of it ;)

        2. One might think that astronauts whose lives depend on the equipment not getting kicked might be more careful than contractors in a wiring closet.

          Of course, making it harder to make mistakes is certainly better.

        3.  Because when things go wrong you probably don’t want to spend that twenty minutes getting a screwdriver to open the access panel…

      4. Next time someone complains that my desk is a mess, I’ll just say I’m training to become an astronaut.

  4. Lots of space stuff like the Space Shuttle are also from Los Angeles (OK, technically the orbiter was built in Downey, but close enough).  The LA area has been a major aerospace hub almost as long as it’s been a movie making hub. 

    1.  I noticed that too. That’s a detail you didn’t see in 2001: A Space Odyssey. But they did have fake gravity to identify top and bottom, at least.

  5. Its hard to get any scale for how big the inside is from the photo – love to see some drawings or diagrams. Supposed to be able to take a crew of 7, but I wonder if the interior is still not as big as the deck of the shuttle.

  6. This story, along with Planetary Resources plans to mine asteroids, are THE most exciting things about this year so far.  It truly does feel like we are finally living in the future….

    1. Not until I have shares of everything it doesn’t. Also, Lance Henriksen needs to start a company of some kind. Something to do with robotics and the Japanese.

    1.  That’s where the billionaire fugitive who paid handsomely to be removed from the jurisdiction of all law enforcement agencies huddled during launch.

      I heard his fluffy white cat is not doing well in Zero Gee.

  7. I’m constantly amused, whenever I see pics of the inside of the ISS, that they’ve got signs littered everywhere saying “PORT” and “STBD”. I mean, it’s all relative, right? By implication, they’re defining “UP” and “DOWN”, too, and we know that’s meaningless in spaceflight.
    The signs just mean they’ve arbitrarily picked one side of the ship to “point” a particular direction, so they can describe things without getting stuck saying “y’know, over there, by the fifth computer after the blinking green light…” but those signs could just as accurately read “RHINO” and “HIPPO” or something. 

    1. True, but why create a whole new lingo when there’s already widely understood terminology available?

      1.  And, Rhino isn’t the opposite of Hippo the way Left is of Right.
        Better to pick easily recognizable labels like “WINTERFELL” and “HARRENHAL.”

        1. I’d rather see “hubward” and “rimward”, and “turnwise” and “widdershins”…

    2. It’s because when you’re on the thing trying to splash it down in the Atlantic while it’s crashing, you need to know that New York city is on the left side and open water is on the right side.

    3.  Quite a few years ago, while visiting the KSC there were a couple mockups of ISS modules you could walk through.  As I was going through one I remember asking the docent how astronauts were going to remember which way was up/down, right/left. He wasn’t sure.   I guess they found an easy solution.  :)

    1. All right then. Assuming the broadest possible definition of God, because I’m generous that way: I am also thankful for slugs (yay!), and the reproductive cycles of the jewel wasp and various xenomorphs.

      1.  The Lord in His wisdom created the fly. And then forgot to tell us why. 

        -Ogden Nash.

        1. I know I’m jabbing wildly at the Obvious button here, but that does make me think of “All things dull and ugly”

    2.  Wait… wait… Elon Musk is God?  I mean, granted he’s pretty cool, and I’d love to work for him, even if it meant genuflecting occasionally, but…  God?  He doesn’t strike me as having that big an ego.

  8.  It’s a HUGE improvement over the cramped little Soyuz. Just watched Richard Garriott’s “Man on a Mission” and had never realized how damned cramped those little ships were.

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