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Date: Year 1, Sur One, Sol 9 (1.1.9)

Windows are a relic of primitive space travel. When building a spacecraft in the 20th century the astronauts had to see outside the ship, so windows were installed. They had to be a heavy, thick, and transparent material because the lack of pressure outside meant that any normal window would explode.

Windows on ISS

Windows on the International Space Station (ISS)…great when there is something to look at, but not so much in the black of space

Windows didn’t help the astronauts see any better than normal vision and restricted the view to the direction the window faced. Windows also didn’t record the view, so the benefit of a window was completely dependent on an astronaut looking out of it.

When Neil Armstrong dirtied his boots on the Moon, everyone else saw a grainy image of shadows and light that looked vaguely like something hopping down a pole. Today, a moon landing today would have three or four high-definition (HD) cameras fixed on an astronaut’s descent down the ladder, and there might even be a drone with a camera using thrusters hovering over the event. We would watch in amazement on an HD screen that would make us feel like we were there on the Moon, looking through a window at the historical moment.

The fact is that using today’s HD cameras gives us a better view than any window ever designed. In addition, we can use cameras that can see in the dark, and see in different wavelengths of light outside of normal human vision.

Designing a spacecraft with windows makes no sense when cameras can provide better imaging and can do more than the human eye. For that reason we have almost no windows on our ships, and we have a better view of the outside.

No fewer than eight cameras provide our command ships with a forward view. Each of those cameras can be tilted, panned, and zoomed. Normally all eight cameras are focused ahead with approximately the same view. Four of the eight cameras ‘see’ in a different wavelength than the visible spectrum and all eight cameras can be used to look at independent views.

In addition we have over 50 cameras on the core section that give a 360°/360°/360° (X/Y/Z axis) view of the ship and it’s surroundings. The Quills each have 24 outside cameras that, like the cameras on the Core Sections, can be viewed by anyone, on any monitor on the ship.

The Command Deck is an array of monitors that allow the crew to visually observe the outside of the spacecraft, however, the system is not dependent on a crew member staring at a monitor. Computer programs track and alert the crew of any unusual movement outside and/or near the ship using a broad light spectrum and radar. The view of each camera on the ship is recorded and can also be accessed after an event that requires investigation. 

However, the crew will not have much to look at during the transfer from Earth to Mars. Months of looking at a mostly black background would likely reinforce the isolation of the astronauts. To address this issue, interior monitors can also be switched over to recorded video of a landscape or place that will give an astronaut a sense of being back on Earth. 

There are three windows in each Command Module that will allow human eye observation of the outside; however, it is unlikely that they will be of much use to the crew until they are in orbit above Mars. Even then, the camera system will give better, more detailed images than the windows will provide.