In this screenshot from the recent Soyuz TMA-12M launch, a crewmember is seen using a stick to enter commands into the computer:

enter image description here

Is this stick standard, taken on all Soyuz flights? Also, why aren't the input devices moved such that they can be used without a pointer?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Inanimate carbon rod! $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Mar 25, 2014 at 22:53
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ In Rod we Trust. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Mar 25, 2014 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ Just so long as the computer does not come to a sticky end ... It may, of-course, simply be a case of 'spare the stick, and spoil the computer' $\endgroup$
    – Everyone
    May 29, 2014 at 3:51
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe it also has to do with the high G-forces at launch. youtube.com/watch?v=AVvgpKt5uCA#t=384 $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    May 30, 2014 at 18:31

1 Answer 1


It's really hard to answer this without complicating about how Soyuz spacecraft designers obviously didn't. Or crack a joke or two. It's a cramped little space vehicle and that space between the three crew, the seats they occupy and the control panels is pretty much all the space they have to crawl into it and later out of it.

Moving the panels closer would simply leave too little space with all the gear surrounding them, the hatch wouldn't open all the way down, and a stick to push buttons happens to be good enough for the job. Here's how the Soyuz capsule looks from inside:

   enter image description here

Yes, that's all the space there is. Actually, even less, as I don't see the backup parachutes and a few other pieces of equipment. Because it's from a training vehicle / simulator. OK, let me try once more:

   enter image description here

    ISS crew members, U.S. astronaut Daniel Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, crowded
    inside their Soyuz capsule shortly after landing in Kazakhstan, on April 27, 2012. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov)

Comfy! And this is how "big" it looks from the outside on landing:

   enter image description here

    Russian support personnel work to help get Expedition 29 crew members out of the Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft shortly after the
    capsule landed on November 22, 2011. (AP Photo/NASA/Bill Ingalls)

That wide open compartment on the capsule on the last photograph is where the drogues and main parachutes are stored, and is not where the crew comes out of. The orange thing with white stripes inside is an inflated "airbag" that pushes the chutes out. And there are three astronauts / cosmonauts inside, and ...

The reentry capsule also contains life-support systems, batteries for the descent phase of the mission, primary and backup parachutes and solid-propellant engines for landing. The reentry capsule is also equipped with eight small attitude control thrusters, which are used exclusively during the descent phase of the flight.

Source: RussianSpaceWeb.com

So the "stick" it is. And a small furry toy mission mascot that the spacecraft commander usually receives from his / her daughter / son / other family member, hangs it in that little free space left and in front of the onboard crew camera to double as a "weightlessness indicator".

Not wanting to leave you completely empty-handed and dismissing your question with "that's how it is", here's a nice blog post that I found searching for these photographs above: How To Fly A Soyuz Space Capsule.

Here is a nice video, showing where the crew sit, and why a stick is a useful extension tool. Inside a Soyuz capsule

  • $\begingroup$ Having sat in a trainer, it's pretty clear that for the size of the craft, it's pretty much necessary to have the instrument panel that far away. Otherwise, there's no way to get in and out of the capsule. The distance does feel pretty awkward though. $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Mar 26, 2014 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Tristan Indeed, but the access to the training vehicle (the simulator, there are others for survival training, pool,...) is through an opening in the chutes compartment, right? I'm guessing, but you were probably lucky enough not having to crawl out of it via the hatch above? :) $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Mar 26, 2014 at 18:05
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Good video, showing how/why they use the stick to reach. youtube.com/watch?v=YfCws6c6_Tw $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Mar 26, 2014 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ @TildalWave -- Correct. It's hard enough getting in and out of it that way. Using the actual hatch wouldn't be fun at all. $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Mar 26, 2014 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ @geoffc Thanks, that would be a nice addition to the answer, if you wouldn't mind editing it in. The interviewer is NASA's mission commentator Rob Navias (PAO), and other info is included on YouTube in the description. Nice find! $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Mar 26, 2014 at 18:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.