Space! It’s everywhere and it would probably be a good idea to see what’s in it. These are the continuing adventures of Durkon Kerman, his ongoing mission: To explore strange new worlds just for the hell of it. To seek out new Kerbals willing to be blasted into space. To boldly blast them into space and maybe even bring them back again! Uh… before! Just cue the theme music.
My main activity since putting Orbital Probe of Science I(b) into orbit has been concerned with the program’s personnel. When I was appointed, it seemed like no-one had any clearly defined job title. People just turned up, put on an engineer’s helmet, a labcoat or whatever else was left in the locker room and did that job for the day. We didn’t have any kerbonauts because nobody knew what a kerbonaut would wear. It was like bloody Simcity in here, except that the toilets don’t stop working whenever there’s a traffic jam.
Since the personnel officer on day 2 had no idea about any of the things I’d asked for the previous day (the personnel officer for day 1 had decided to be a chef that day), I resigned myself to sifting through the competency tests myself. The good news was that we had a lot of people who tested very strongly for mathematical competence and understanding of physics. The bad news is that most of them were cowards who would flee to live as a hermit in the mountains to the west if I so much as suggested that they might sit in a capsule on top of twenty tons of high explosive so that I may blast them into a freezing, airless void.
This is a bit of a setback. I’m never going to get a kerbal to the Mun if none of the suitable candidates can work out how to fly a spacecraft. Initial simulations with prospective kerbonauts have resulted in an exploding or getting stuck in space forever : surviving ratio of 1:0, even with flight control passing exact instructions to them. I have decided that a drastic reassessment is required.
The President said that we would land a kerbal on the Mun. He didn’t specify that the kerbal in question would be fully or even partially in control of the spacecraft at the time. To this end, I have instructed the engineers to upgrade the Advanced SAS module with “actually working” technology to remove the burden of keeping the spacecraft on course and stopping it from spinning wildly from the pilot.
The kerbonaut in question will not be informed of this functionality.
I have also had a number of controls in the command module disconnected and radio links installed so that ground control can override input from the pilot.
The kerbonaut in question will, of course, not be informed of this functionality.
I’ve assigned all the highly competent individuals to flight control at the KSC, where they are less likely to pass out from sheer terror. Who am I going to fire into space though? Who would be brave enough to do it and stupid enough not to notice that their controls aren’t doing exactly what they tell them to?
Name: Jebediah Kerman
Kerbonaut Corps Rank: Major
Position: Command Module Pilot
Intelligence Rating: Moderate, for a Kerbonaut (low for a member of the general population)
Bravery Rating: Infinite
Survival Instinct: Literally None
Profile: The proprietor of Jebediah Kerman’s Junkyard and Spaceship Parts Co., he is a surprisingly savvy businesskerbal considering that he lacks the ability to add or subtract double-digit numbers. His success is primarily due to his tendency to take risks, hence his status as primary parts supplier to the space program. He came to the attention of the kerbonaut recruitment drive when other kerbonaut candidates suggested that they would consider stepping foot aboard a spacecraft built from Jeb Kerman’s parts only if he went first. He immediately volunteered and his total absence of anything even resembling fear made him a suitable candidate.
I’ve also appointed some key personnel here at the KSC.
Name: Gene Kerman
Position: KSC Flight Control Director
Nerve Rating: Very High
Profile: An individual with actual leadership and management skills, he is considered indispensable to the program and therefore unsuitable for consideration as a kerbonaut. He is responsible for leading the flight control crew, executing the mission and keeping up a constant barrage of instructions and communications to reinforce the pilot’s belief that he’s flying all by himself.
Name: Wernher Von Kerman
Position: Chief Rocket Scientist
Intelligence Rating: Astronomical
Profile: Von Kerman has quite literally unquestionable credentials. He claims to have an extensive background in rocketry research and development with a ‘former governmental agency’, but he won’t say which one. He seems to know what he’s talking about though, as evidenced by his designs representing 100% of all successful spacecraft so far.
Enough of this! Let’s send someone into space before the President decides that I should go instead. Permanently.
With the first successful space flight and orbit under our belt, it’s about time we worked on a manned space program. Today, we will begin our quest to put a kerbal on the Mun. We will begin
THE ICARUS PROGRAM
Named after a famous kerbal pioneer, explorer and scientist who, 1000 years ago, strapped hundreds of gunpowder rockets to himself and jumped into a bonfire. He may well have been the first kerbal in space, but tragically we now understand that there’s no air up there. Wernher suggests that he may just have exploded, but many in the KSP team believe that he might be orbiting Kerbin even now.
Mission: Icarus 1 Orbiter
Program: Icarus Mun Landing (preliminary operations)
Objective: To place a (living) kerbal into orbit of Kerbin, to bring him back (alive) and recover him in such a condition that he could potentially be used for further missions (i.e. not dead). To look around and see if anything interesting is up there (Icarus, deadly mythical creatures, God). To not crash into the satellite that’s already up there. To do a better damn job with our orbit this time.
- Major Jebediah Kerman (Commander; Pilot)
Result: This is the briefing, damn it. If we knew what the result was we wouldn’t have to do the mission! Why is this even here?
The vehicle is going to be based on the successful Orbital Probe of Science. The manned Command Module (CM) is heavier than the Stayputnik, so a larger fuel tank is used. The ASAS module now contains circuits and computers instead of just weights. Right on the top is a parachute which will hopefully allow us to return the craft to Kerbin at nonlethal velocity.
The rest of the launch vehicle is effectively the same, but RCS fuel and thrusters have been added to correct for the suboptimal (complete absence of) maneuvering ability with the lower stage still attached. This all results in an increase in weight, but it shouldn’t be a problem – we had lots of fuel left over last time.
This is the all new control console, complete with lights, sound effects and genuine replica buttons and dials! Some of the controls even do things, although we’ve tried to minimise that as much as possible.
The following mission log includes transmissions between the Flight Controller and Icarus 1.
Ground Control to Major Jeb. Finish your biscuits and put your seatbelt on. T minus two minutes.
Ground Control to Major Jeb. Commencing Countdown and dammit put your seatbelt on I said. I mean it. If you fall out of your chair during acceleration you won’t be able to reach the controls. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, THANK YOU! Honestly, how many times do I have to tell you something? I hope you secured your biscuits properly.
Uh- threetwoonezeroignition. Lift off!
We show booster separation. Flight profile looks good.
Note that the SAS module is actually working correctly this time, so we are on the correct course as opposed to not. Separation occurs at exactly the same time for this launch, but the spacecraft is fully 1000 meters lower and nearly 50 m/s slower. That’s the effect of the additional weight and it means that we’ll have less maneuver time left on the lower stage. Ironically, packing RCS fuel might mean that we don’t actually need it.
22km at 430 m/s. Looking good.
Apokee is 74000m, which is low but outside of the atmosphere. We decide to cut power as soon as it gets to 100km as we’re low on fuel and it would be a shame to haul all that RCS stuff up here for nothing.
RCS thrusters certainly look cool, and as an added bonus they do what they are supposed to. That’s a novelty.
Major Jeb to Ground Control. Wheeee! And why does this capsule have such a tiny window?
Ground Control to Major Jeb. I would question the supplier about that, but HE’S YOU. Also, you are supposed to be lining up for your orbital burn.
We begin the orbital burn, but use up the fuel in the lower stage before it’s complete. This is good, as it means that the lower stage should fall back into the planet and explode which will prevent it from cluttering up our nice clean space.
The rocket on the upper stage is pathetic, but the spacecraft now doesn’t weigh very much so it does the job.
Having burned quite a lot of our fuel reserves, we are now in orbit!
… Quite an eccentric orbit. Perikee is 71km, only just above the atmosphere. Apokee is nearly 1 million km. That’s not very good. How did we even manage this? I can’t remember. The perikee has actually gone DOWN. We started this maneuver at 100km!
A corrective retrograde burn at perikee brings the apokee to just under 200km, which is about what we were aiming for. Another burn at the other end brings our eccentricity down to almost zero. That’s a very good circular orbit!
It’s also nearly dead on equatorial. The other line is Orbital Probe of Science, for comparison. This is a really good orbit! I am proud of this orbit! We had to burn three quarters of the fuel in the final stage to do it but that’s okay. I am reasonably certain that there’s enough left for a deorbit. Reasonably.
This is Ground Control to Major Jeb! You’ve really made the grade! And the papers want to know… whose shirt you wear? Let me read that again. No, that’s definitely correct. That’s a really strange question to ask the first kerbal in space. I mean, I assume you wear your OWN shirt! Why would you wear anyone else’s, that’d just be weird.
Anyway, it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare! I said, it’s time to leave the capsule. Major?
Oh. You’re already out. Well, that’s fine too.
Major Jeb to Ground Control. Ahahaheheheeee I’minspace! Spacespacespace, spaaaacespace! Eeeeeee! Whohoohooheehaha!
On the planet’s night side, Jeb’s EVA suit lights are the only thing illuminating the ship. It’s almost impossible to see it at all without them.
A little while after being coaxed back inside by the promise of a hidden stash of cookies, Orbital Probe of Science I(b) passes within 100km as the orbital planes meet. Flight asks Jeb to take a look out of the viewport and see if it’s visible.
But it turns out that tiny objects 99km away are really hard to see even without an atmosphere (The satellite’s position is in view here – if you enlarge the image you can just about see the marker).
We’ve been waiting for it to be light at the KSC before deorbiting the capsule as the intention is to land somewhere reasonably close. Mission Elapsed Time has been 03:38, and the KSC is just emerging onto the day side now. And it was daytime when the mission was launched. Something isn’t quite right here.
Temporal anomalies aside, it would be quite nice if the capsule splashes down into the sea just east of the space centre as our budget hasn’t quite allowed for the aircraft carrier we originally wanted for recovery operations. We did manage to get a decommissioned battleship, but helicopter operations tended to shred the sails or snap the masts clean off, and the wooden deck wasn’t really strong enough. After discrete inquiries, I managed to get into an underworld boat enthusiasts’ poker game, where in the course of losing several years wages I managed to persuade an individual who believed he was the reincarnation of Sir Francis Kerman to trade an oil tanker and a flotilla of rubber dinghies for our line-of-battle ship. The tanker is an ideal platform for recovery operations, with plenty of deck space and enough lift capacity to move the entire KSC! Unfortunately it has a maximum speed under power of only four miles per hour on a good day. It is thus important that it is pre-positioned for recovery significantly in advance, and that capsules are de-orbited with precision.
Conditions look perfect for the return to Kerbin. The initial retrograde burn is a little too enthusiastic though. Atmospheric drag means that Jeb will splash down well to the west.
A corrective burn later, and the descent path looks good. With atmospheric drag, we’ll hopefully have the capsule drop down just east of the KSC.
Everything looks good as we enter the atmosphere, so it’s time to cut loose the Support Module (the engines and everything). It’ll increase our drag if we leave it attached, and also it’ll probably explode.
Okay. I didn’t account for how LONG the capsule would be in the atmosphere. It turns out that the shallow descent meant that drag slowed the thing down quite a lot more than I initially
blindly guessed carefully estimated. Currently, it’s going to come down in the mountains to the west of the KSC which is A Bad Thing.
Now it’s in the sea to the west, on the wrong side of the continent.
At this point, the first flickers of re-entry heat appear. It’s very pretty, but it causes communications to stop working due to science. Ionising stuff and so on.
Flight: Major, we’re expecting to lose communications for a few minutes. Don’t panic. Absolutely don’t get out of the spacecraft. It’s going to be like… a thousand degrees or something out there. Good luck.
Icarus 1: Tell my wife HELLLLOOOOOOOO! I’ve been to spaaaace!
Flight: She knows.
Tracking shows that the CM hasn’t broken up into a thousand pieces yet. This is good.
Contact reestablished. Video link shows Major Jeb grinning like a maniac. Status normal. Speed two seven five. Altitude eighty-five hundred. Check parachute.
Coming up on two thousand. Deploy parachute now.
Seconds pass like hours, although that could be that temporal anomaly noted earlier. The speed and altitude readouts both tick down. Speed not fast enough, altitude too quickly.
Deploy main chute now!
At this stage we are all gripping our consoles so hard that several of the fitter crewmembers have snapped parts of their budget RKEA workstations right off. The capsule is still going fast enough to be destroyed on impact with the sea. Everyone is convinced that something is going to go wrong. The Guidance Officer and Tea and Coffee Officer have both passed out. Only Gene seems to be calm, even relaxed.
Main chute deployed. Speed six point three. ‘Kerbonaut neck snapped by deceleration’ sensor reads negative.
Splashdown! Capsule intact and watertight! Triangulating position.
Icarus 1: Ground Control, this is Jeb. Can I go for a swim?
GC: Uh… wait one, Icarus. The flight director is just hyperventillating. I’ll ask him.
GC: He said “No. Under no circumstance. Absolutely not. No, no, no, NO.”
Icarus 1: Are you sure?
GC: Yes. He also said that he’d throw you into the sun on your next mission if you tried it.
Icarus 1: Awwww.
MISSION: Icarus 1 Orbiter
OBJECTIVE: To place a (living) kerbal into orbit of Kerbin, to bring him back (alive) and recover him in such a condition that he could potentially be used for further missions (i.e. not dead).
- Jebediah Kerman (Commander; Pilot): Survived. Returned to Kerbin.
RESULT: Stable circular equatorial orbit achieved. Successful EVA performed for 15 minutes without theorised head explosion or accidental extravehicular reentry. Visual observations revealed no trace of the dreaded Megawatt-Laser-Breathing Mega-Dragon although experience attempting to observe Orbital Probe of Science I(b) reveals that orbital space is pretty big and faraway things are hard to see. Several orbits performed and Command Module returned to surface without kerbonaut incineration, explosion, shredding or other potentially hazardous occurrences.
Jebediah Kerman? He’ll be fine. The design specifications for the Mk 1 Command Capsule include provision for biscuit storage and tea-making facilities for at least two weeks, and we should be able to get at least a dinghy out to him by then.
To everyone’s surprise, we achieved an equatorial orbit bar and a return chevron! The success of the first manned spaceflight has ignited the public imagination and should get the President off our backs for a while. This means that we can get away with whatever we want for a little bit before he starts pressuring us about that Mun landing again. You never know, we might even be able to get some actual science done.