ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen tries out a model of the touchy-feely joystick that he will use in space during his 10-day ‘iriss’ mission. Part of the Haptics-1 experiment, the joystick is the first sustained test of how astronauts experience touch-based feedback in weightlessness.
The experiment comes down to a deceptively simple-looking lever that can be moved freely to play basic Pong-style computer games.
Performance readings from these games, along with follow-up questionnaires, will analyse the effects on human motor control when exposed to long-term weightlessness, and how feedback feels in orbit.
Behind the scenes, a complex suite of servo motors can withstand any force an astronaut operator might unleash on it, while generating forces that the astronaut will feel in turn – just like a standard video gaming joystick as a player encounters an in-game obstacle.