Considering we live in an age of unmanned spacecrafts, with computers more than capable of managing everything from attitude control, burns, to docking and insanely precise powered landings; how much manual control, if any is done during today's manned missions.

Is Soyuz flown completely by the computer, or does the crew take the control during critical phases of the flight? Does it even allow for manual control? Can it be flown manually in a case of some major system failure? Did something like that ever occur?

And what about other upcoming manned spacecrafts? Will something like the manned Dragon capsule even have any joysticks or controls or will it likely be "passenger only"?

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    $\begingroup$ The alternative approach to designing a spacecraft to allow for manual control in case of a major system failure, is to design the spacecraft such that the major system failure does not occur in the first place. That's part of the reason why spacecraft have traditionally been so conservatively designed. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jun 7, 2017 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ Related: space.stackexchange.com/questions/19442/… $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2017 at 15:56
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    $\begingroup$ As a point of reference, note that the Space Shuttle was only flown manually in cases where the human eyeball was used as a primary sensor (and was considered superior to any associated automated procedures) - for example during the final phases of landing, final stages of rendezvous, and for point updates to the IMU's (manually pointing at a particular star while in orbit). Also note that crews received extensive training in manual operations to be performed in the event of various system failures... $\endgroup$
    – Digger
    Jun 8, 2017 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ Apollo, also, was generally flown automatically or semi-automatically most of the time. Even when manually controlled, it was almost always in a fly-by-wire mode. $\endgroup$ Jan 10, 2018 at 22:25

1 Answer 1


According to "Ask an Astronaut" by Tim Peake, the Soyuz is flown entirely by computer during a typical launch to the ISS, but is designed to be flown manually in close control & docking as a backup, which occurred on his flight because a pressure sensor in a thruster failed so the automatic approach aborted.

I'd presume there's no manual control for the launcher though other than an abort switch.


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