Mondoshawan Thrusters


If you haven’t been following it, there’s been some great discussion in the comments about my critique of the Mondoshawan flight interface. Clayton and Phil raised some great points and the discussion necessitates understanding the apparent capabilities of the actuators, i.e. thrusters. So here are some images for reference.


The capabilities may be fairly limited. The only evidence we have that the thrusters move at all are from early in the film. When the ship has to fight the gravity of a planet, they splay out like the ribs of an umbrella. Otherwise, in space we never see them move.

What’s worse is that the actual maneuverability of the ship seems minimal. When the ship is attacked by Mangalores, it doesn’t even turn to try and evade.

Most of the time interaction designers don’t have the opportunity to redesign actuators, only controls and displays. If we presume that the Mondoshawan thrusters can only splay from the ship’s axis, how would this change the fit of the controls?

4 thoughts on “Mondoshawan Thrusters

  1. I’m noticing that there are a couple banks of secondary and tertiary (and maybe even a set of quarternary thrusters) as the main four engines light up. Since I don’t see any maneuvering jets, my assumption is that the thruster banks provide the maneuvering power.

    I would like to think that the mapping of a joystick to a 2d plane would still work, it would just control the output of the smaller thrusters to provide directionality. The 6 necessary directions of control would be relational between the two control arms, which is the hardest part of the whole system to actually picture.

    There aren’t really any reasons why the ship doesn’t make some effort to evade its pursuers, especially with the engines shown (its shown hovering above Earth, which means it has to have at least more than 1g of acceleration, plus enough extra to get itself back off the planet again).

    It almost looks like the ship was designed to be as inefficient as possible, while still being flyable. If that’s the case, then perhaps it’s a tradition-based problem and would require cultural solutions instead of interaction design solutions to fix.

    Systems Design thinking for a Mondoshawan spaceship?

    • Speaking of culture, the ship design is the same when we first meet it in 1914 and when it crash lands in 2263. That’s 349 years without an upgrade or refresh. Seems to be a maladaption for a “perfect” species.

      • Do we know how long they live? Perhaps they live for a thousand years, or even if they don’t it could be that they don’t scrap old vessels that are still useful, simply because they’re obsolete.

        I think we need to also keep in mind, that in fictional universe this vessel inhabits, things like taxis can zoom around with no visible means or support or propulsion, clearly anti-gravity is a thing.

        Actually I just thought of an apologetic to them not trying to evade the mangalores… if they were using their antigrav device to sort of cushion they’re approach to the planet, and that was damaged in the first attach, so suddenly they find themselves weighing 100,000 tons half way down the gravity well of large planet.

    • RCS nozzles on such a large vessel would be quite small from that distance, and venting small amounts of cool matter like nitrogen or water anyway, so there’s no real reason to think you’d be able to see them.

      Gimbaling the main engines, would work to ascent and landing, but you couldn’t dock doing that, and I’m not sure, but I don’t think it’d be very efficient for orbital maneuvers.

      As for whether it’d change the controls, I’d have to agree that it wouldn’t. If they are vectored for steering, you’d used a fly-by-wire system, that converted your control inputs into appropriate engine movements. It’s also possible that they don’t vector at all, and are just splayed like that for landing, since doing so will make the vessel tend to want to right itself if it rolls.

Leave a Reply