How to control a rocket with your voice

Multi-modal sketches integrating NASA, Amazon, and Citizen Scientists

Micah Tinklepaugh
4 min readFeb 18


Today is about dreaming, so I’ve used an image cited below to foster creativity.

Recently I came across a LinkedIn Post discussing how a Mesa like mountain on the moon had been named after NASA mathematician, computer scientist, and programmer Melba Mouton.

As you know, I’ve been exploring the idea of creating a multi-modal user interface for ground control software that monitors and directs space vehicles. But I couldn’t help but think, how would I ever come to find out about NASA scientists if it weren’t for this LinkedIn post? More importantly, how would a kid learn about it and act on it? According to SpaceProbe, NASA is the 7th largest Instagram Brand yet that doesn’t always correlate to engagement.

So instead of designing a multi-modal interface for NASA’s Open Source Mission Control Technology using the Astro UX DS, I might design one for potential citizen scientists — kids, weekend warriors, and retired folks who always wanted to work with NASA.

The best approach to this in my mind is first designing a general experience without jumping to far into the technology. One source of inspiration was a Mars Chat Skill by JPL on Amazon Alexa:

But I felt where this could be improved is not only in the way humans interact with it but also that it should be more mutually beneficial to citizen scientists, young and older folk, business, educational systems, and NASA. So the following sketch is a potential journey through that application assuming use of a mobile phone, chat and voice technology, and connections to several integrated technology application programming interfaces delivering two way communication. And it all starts in social media.

Let’s break these down by screen:

  1. As the user is sliding through stories or reels in an app, they see an ‘ad’ about Melba Mouton and can press ‘chat’ to engage NASA.
  2. NASA tells them a little bit about Melba Mouton and give them the option to use their voice to either select provided prompts or use their own
  3. Upon choosing to find out more about Melba Mouton, they are given more info and options to see the rocket, meet astronauts, be taught programming, learn about telemetry, or learn calculus.
  4. Upon choosing the rocket they can see its animated trajectory towards Mons Mouton and even view it in the room such as one would furniture on Amazon or Wayfair or Ikea.
  5. Finally they can navigate to learn about telemetry and even buy the rocket on Amazon

Alternatively, they could connect a sensor or get plugged into a citizen science discord channel. Now I actually bought an Estes Rocket from Amazon and am going to try to figure out how to launch it with my voice. I also signed up for ground control software services through amazon, and all I need is to register my satellite after its launched into space.

No joke, you can control your satellites from Amazon. I will figure out how to get that satellite launched either by experimenting with making my own rocket fuel and waiting for the government to knock on my door or simply renting bandwidth from a satellite in space. More to come.

In the mean time, I’ve found some helpful links about what NASA flight controllers do and what is in their job description.

Also — its important to note there may be more need for this type of interaction not only for citizen scientists but also for space corporations. An outpost for the moon is being put up along with a lot of other galactic activity.

Until next time,




Micah Tinklepaugh

I design products for people and systems. I also like to swim, bike, and run.