navigational awareness system: The most dangerous part of space flight, interface vehicles excepted, is close-orbit maneuvering, or rendezvous, in which one craft must maneuver near to, or even to touch, another safely. Since neither starships nor habitats are small, it only takes a minor accident to involve a lot of momentum. For this reason, it is at these times that the soph conning a space vehicle, be they sailing master or pilot, must be most attentive.
The navigational awareness system is an adaptation of older technologies to the space environment, which while not mandated by the Imperial Navigation Act, is often required by celestime insurers. Essentially, when the equipped vessel is in close proximity to another craft or station and operating under manual control, it periodically and randomly prompts the soph at the conn with a high or low chime, to which they must respond promptly by left-depressing or right-depressing an acknowledgement pedal appropriately. (Some systems attempted to monitor the attention state of the helmsman directly using neural sensors, but this technique had the disadvantage of being unable to distinguish between concentration on the conn, and concentration on this month’s issue of Xenophilia Unveiled.)
Failure to do so causes automatic safety systems tied into the NAS to disable the conn controls, to bring the craft (using cold-gas thrusters or other low-power drive systems) to rest with respect to the local reference body in such a manner as to avoid possibly causing a collision, and to pip the transponder to indicate that the craft is not under command. These measures cannot be reverted without removing the current helm key and inserting it, or another, anew. This ensures that an inattentive helmsman, or one who suffers a medical emergency during such maneuvers, should not be able to steer their craft unknowingly into danger.
– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary