Earth Orbit to Lunar Surface
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The Crew's Location During Descent

In this essay, I describe the control station that the crew will use during their descent to the moon as conceived for the original reference mission. We are also seriously considering an option where the crew rides down to moon and controls the descent in the Ascent Stage.

In the original reference mission the crew is inside the habitat as the initial lunar base descends to the moon. They are at a pilot's station oriented 90 degrees to the rest of the spacecraft. That particular station will only be used for the flight from lunar orbit to the surface, so the equipment would be designed to be dismounted and used elsewhere on the lunar base. The crew could take the hand controller modules outside and plug them into the ascent vehicle when they're ready to come home, but it's just as like that we will keep them at the lunar exploration base to control robots on the moon.

They'll have a redundant set -- a rotational hand controller and a translational hand controller at each of two pilot stations. During descent, the hand controllers will actually be operating through the ascent vehicle's computer system. We didn't see a reason for making the controls more complex than they need to be, so we plan to have hull penetrations for signals from the controllers to the descent propulsion package (descent stage), which would be wired directly to the ascent vehicle's computers.

The crew will be down low, close to the engines, so the pilot can see the lunar surface through the habitat windows during the landing phase. They'll be standing on a locker next to the aft bulkhead of the moon base.

We're hoping we can train the pilot to the point that at the last moment before touchdown he can rotate the vehicle for the best view and lighting from the habitat windows.

The descent stage is really just a propulsion package, tanks, engines, engine controllers and gimbals. In the reference mission we even take it apart, using one of the five descent engines for the ascent vehicle. The landing gear serves as a launch pad for ascent. The descent fuel tanks stay at the lunar base to be used for atmospheric gas storage. We're trying to make everything do double duty on that flight, so we'd get as much moonbase as we could.

Earth Orbit to Lunar Surface

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