Testing by Simulations
We could do an awful lot of testing by simulations, and even by running
real hardware against a simulation of the rest of the system. For example,
the Boeing 777 was certified without an extensive program of real-life
flight, largely on the basis of simulations.
This is why there are so many math models in the "things you can do" list. And somewhere
in there might be a real microwave oven and a control panel for the
communications system, being tested for its function in the integrated
system, while the ground support center practices receiving data from
remote sites (We fake it with geosynch comsats, but the remote stations are
But none of that will tell us how the whole vehicle, plus the crew, will
perform in zero gravity. The underlying question is: how confident are we
of our ability to imagine what it will be like for the crew? A lot of us have
put hours of skull sweat into trying to imagine what it would be like, and
to communicate those thoughts in stories, but is imagination good
To argue the opposite point for a moment, though: do we have any
evidence from past space flights that imagination was not good
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