VelocityPolaris

Past the haze

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Back home! On my honour, a new chapter will be uploaded before daybreak.

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Story 4: Oculus Station, Chapter 4: Telescope start!

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Oculus Station official log, crew 1, day 3. Preparations are complete for use of the space telescope. The odd centre of mass threw off the guidance computers more than expected, so we'll rotate the station manually, with the gyroscope at the lowest setting. The plan is to simultaneously use the telescope to observe nearby planets, do some Kerbin orbital science, and perform experiments at the lab. The boffins at the KSC can't split me, the only scientist, into three Kerbals, so instead we'll be doing something ambitious, but far less remarkable. A live feed. We'll use the satellite network we have up now to constantly stream data to the space centre. They're trusting me to operate the telescope on my own, but they'll be constantly instructing Jeb and Bill with the other tasks. We'll see how the neighbour worlds have changed. End log.

Bob clicked the submit button on his computer screen, a nodding Jeb standing behind him.

Jeb: Professional AND kinda epic. That's why I don't write these. Unless the house is on fire, it's hard to be too serious.

Bill: Look... I know this isn't a first for any of us, but we're in space. We've broken free of stifling air and gravity to float free. This is like... I don't know a good metaphor, us being atop a stellar mountain. So why do you feel the need to treat it like a comedy sketch?

Jeb: Well, I don't want to go about it like just another job. We're someplace special, so I kinda put a little more pep into my step for the occasion. We're in zero-g, so bad analogy, but my point is, I feel the need to respect these accomplishments, and where we are now, and how I do that is by trying to be cheery.

Bob: We've all got different ways of doing things, I suppose.

Just then, a message crackled in from mission control. "Oi, good talk, you three. Now get to work!"

Jeb: Understood, Capcom. I need to get my pun of the day out of the way though, first.

KSC: Priorities, eh?

Jeb: Alright, here goes. How's the broken window feeling?

Bill: Don't talk about broken windows up here.

Jeb: IT'S IN PANE! NYUK NYUK NYUK!

KSC: Haha. You are such comedian, we laugh very hard. Now please get to work.

The three scatter to their stations. From the frontmost lander-can, Bob slowly rotates the station to focus on their first target - a rapidly setting Mun.

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KSC: Wernher Von Kerman is on the channel, representing the science department.

Bob: Oh, hello sir. We're just focusing on the Mun to warm up. 

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Wernher: I see. Is the target in your sights?

Bob: Yes, although it's setting now. 

Wernher: Then fire!

Bob: Wut? 

Wernher: Sorry, I got a bit carried away. So... we can't live-stream video if just my voice sounds like I'm on helium and am using a voice mixer, take a photograph.

Bob: Done. The Mun is still fully visible through the atmosphere, though the colour changes. Next, the closest planet to rotate to would be Eve.

Wernher: Oceans, and a previously thick atmosphere. It will be interesting to see if we can even recognise it anymore.

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Bob: Target is centred, beginning zoom.

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Bob: Well, that can't be right...

Screen_Shot_2017-04-27_at_11.38.30_PM.pnWernher: What can't be right?

Bob: Eve. I have the pre-crisis photographs on my screen, and I'm comparing them side by side. They're exactly the same. No clouds, the atmosphere is as transparent as it was before. And yes, I'm sure.

Wernher: Bob Kerman. I need you to get me these images, now.

Bob: We're trying to send the Kerbin orbital science images right now, sir.

Wernher: Sorry. But these pictures take priority.

Edited by VelocityPolaris
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10 hours ago, VelocityPolaris said:

Jeb: Alright, here goes. How's the broken window feeling?

Bill: Don't talk about broken windows up here.

Jeb: IT'S IN PANE! NYUK NYUK NYUK!

Oh... wow..... Jeb, that is so bad... and I can't stop giggling... outstanding! :sticktongue:

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No update today, but I'll try to maintain one chapter per two days over the break. I may have been slightly distracted by Subnautica.

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Story 4: Oculus Station, Chapter 5: Science run

"The servos are messed up or something, because it's getting more and more jerky. Jeb and Bill are on it, but it might not be safe to turn the telescope for too much longer."

Bob turned around from the lander-can's radio as Bill floated up through the hatch. 

Bill: Sorry, Bob. There's no spare parts anywhere. I can't find anything besides than the basic toolkit on the shuttle!

Bob: Uh, KSC. We're sorry, but we cannot locate any replacement parts for the telescope. Assistance would be appreciated.

KSC: We're on the problem now, standby - never mind. Wernher here has informed us that the backup parts are, uh, on the habitation module.

Bob: But isn't it -

KSC: Laying incomplete in the Vehicle Assembly Building, yes. A minor oversight.

Bob: ...So-

KSC: Don't get mad. ...just get in as much Duna observation as you can. Focusing the scope on it will take the least amount of rotation.

Bob: Roger that. Bill, I see you're a bit fuming. It is how it is, okay? I just... It'd be nice if you didn't explode again.

Bill: Yeah, sure.

Trying to suppress an outburst, he flew down to find Jeb.

Several days later, the station had turned very slowly, enough to finally focus on the planet Duna.Screen_Shot_2017-04-27_at_11.56.15_PM.pn

Jeb: There it is, folks! The planet Duna - a sandy world lost in time, entirely alien with just a eerie hint of familiarity on the wind. What secrets, old and new, does it hold?

Bill: Is it really necessary to narrate? We're not doing a movie.

Jeb: With KSC constantly recording everything, camera and microphone, how do you know we're not? Nah, I just - it's how I express wonder,  okay? I feel like I should say something.

Bill: I'd like to just enjoy the sight, personally. If you could move away from the lens, I'd like to take another look.

Bob: Actually, if you wouldn't mind, I need to see to operate that. I can send the picture down to the science lab.

Jeb: Technology these days, eh? Alright, we'll get out of your way.

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Bill pokes his head back up through the hatch for a second. "Oi, what are those dark splotches in the picture?"

Bob: Hmm. KSC, I take it you're trying to compare the image with past ones?

KSC: Trying. The picture gets messed up a lot during transmission, though. You mentioned splotches? 

Bob: Right. It's not a problem with the lens, and I don't think those were there.

KSC: You're right, those are completely new. Just like on Kerbin, they're probably cloud formations of some sort. But they don't immediately make sense. We don't think Duna has running water, and dust clouds would probably stand out a lot less from the surface.

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Bob: There's a splotch on the surface.

KSC: Uh, maybe a pile of volcanic soot or something? Actually, that makes sense. Those clouds visible from Kerbin are the result of recent volcanic activity on Duna!

Bob: But Duna's volcanoes are all long-extinct.

KSC: It's the hypothesis that makes the most sense at the moment, but it doesn't mean it's the only explanation. Try to look at the entire surface, if you can. Once we get a high-quality image, the R&D boffins will probably be able to tell us for sure. Actually, it would be ideal if you were to return to Kerbin soon with copies of the images, Gene's considering that.

After about 3 more days, the observation of the surface was complete, finding similar splotches in many places across the surface of Duna, but mainly in the poles.

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Jeb: Mission control, I'm done with the surface observation now. We waited an entire Duna day.

KSC: Roger. Why are you at the scope controls instead of Bob? 

Jeb: I guess your cameras aren't working that great right now. So it turns out Bob needs to sleep sometimes.

KSC: Roger that. Due to the unexpected damage, we don't think the observation of anything else would be prudent. Return to-

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KSC: ...What are you doing?

Jeb: I like Ike.

KSC: That wasn't in the plan, but, eh, it'll help satisfy the astronomy folks, so boom! Gene authorised it.

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Jeb: Whoa, that's so close to the surface! You know, I feel a bit like a kid on a playstructure here!

KSC: Alright, just make sure to be careful-

Jeb: KSC? It's slipping... and I have lost control of the telescope. I think the turn-thingies are finally broken. Yep, red lights. Telescope spinny-thingies are non-functional.

KSC: Roger, switch to station main. It's too powerful to do any far-out observation with, but it'll stop you from spinning.

Another two weeks of arguing on the ground, and a lot of progress had been made in space, even without the telescope. Experiments that had been crammed into almost every compartment by scientists were rapidly finished, stars were looked at through a tiny handheld scope, and numerous observations of Kerbin were made. They even had helped guide a cargo ship through a storm when the satellite in position suffered from a glitch. But the decision had been made. They were headed home. After all, there wasn't a proper habitation module yet. The station crew had come to quietly appreciate the serenity of the multicoloured stars around them. But they overcame their reluctance to leave. Bob went to detach the pipe and strut feebly linking station and shuttle, Jeb and Bill ready to depart.

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Oculus station may have been far from complete, but they were glad to have it as their home, and every nook and cranny now had a sticky note naming it. The Kerbals had said goodbye to their home in space, but their other home was still out of reach. When they fired the engines to return to Kerbin, Bill noticed that the fuel gauge didn't change. It was faulty. And just their luck, there had been the tiniest of leaks in the spacecraft. The engine fired for as long as the fuel held, but their periapsis was still above 70 kilometres. 

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RCS thrusters were fired until they were drained of hydrazine, bringing the shuttle into the upper atmosphere. They swung around many times, always hitting the atmosphere just hard enough to feel nauseous, but not enough to be pulled back to the surface of Kerbin. They went through almost every throw-up bag in the capsule before, finally, it went onto it's final approach.

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Yes, the sky was on fire outside. And yes, they were subjected to near-crushing gees. But it beat being stuck in orbit. In fact, unbeknownst to the world, they had a surprisingly good karaoke session during re-entry. Alas, by the time communications were restored, it was too late for anyone in mission control to join in. 
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They touched down in the middle of nowhere, late into the cold night. At least, said Jeb, they weren't in the ocean. Soon, a truck arrived to pick them up, taking some time to load up the electronics full of pictures and station files, as well as many experiments. The first crew of Oculus station's mission had ended.
Edited by VelocityPolaris

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Story 4: Oculus Station, Chapter 6: New mission

Despite a stay of only a few weeks, the first crew's mission had been an amazing success. Probes were nice, but actual Kerbals back in space had really recaptured the public's imagination. There were still so many mysteries out there. And soon, the Auclal government approved another budget increase. The first thing the space centre did was complete the habitation module of Oculus station and send it up. Directly piloted by an onboard Kerbal and in line with the rest of the station, the docking went more smoothly than anyone had anticipated. In fact, it went so well that a commemorative plaque had to be made. Screen_Shot_2017-05-02_at_2.56.55_PM.pngScreen_Shot_2017-05-02_at_3.09.21_PM.pngScreen_Shot_2017-05-02_at_3.08.29_PM.pngScreen_Shot_2017-06-14_at_1.24.06_PM.pngScreen_Shot_2017-06-14_at_1.23.24_PM.png

The second crew was made up of commercial pilot Jara Kerman, mechanical safety inspector Crisise Kerman, famed astronomer Karbel Kerman, and commanded by Bob Kerman. It certainly wasn't safe to put him back in space again so soon, but despite there being a good amount of eager volunteers, there were precious few experienced, qualified astronauts, so when he volunteered, the space programme readily put him on the next rocket. Nobody was quite sure why he volunteered, though, after going through so much on the last mission. The habitation module consisted of two oversized habitat modules, another lander-can command pod, and a node room. This was planned as a long mission, especially as there was no return craft currently docked, so the astronauts were given a near-cavernous amount of room. Not that Jara was in any way a bad pilot, but many wondered where Valentina was, and the explanation was that she was busy with an inexplicably important aircraft testing programme, where she flew several definitely incredibly well-built, flightworthy prototypes. 

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After several exhausting EVAs through the specially built airlock on the end module, designed by the Quest company, the telescope was operational again. The station was slowly rotated towards the next target, Jool.

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The gas giant seemed grainy, possibly explained by some sort of strange new clouds surrounding it. And, officially, when the unreliable telescope started to zoom again, the gears broke down violently, throwing dangerous sparks through the closest lander-can. But that's not what really happened. The space programme had been as open as possible with the public, as a matter of both principle, and financial necessity. True, the gears broke down violently, and the command pod had to be evacuated. Video footage of this was even made public. But before this happened, two more images were captured.

Screen_Shot_2017-06-14_at_1.34.35_PM.pngScreen_Shot_2017-06-14_at_1.34.34_PM.pngEven more puzzling than the strange, grainy, geometric shapes that surrounded Jool was that the entire planet suddenly appeared to pulse, appearing to envelop Laythe over near the upper left. Directly after this, the mechanical breakdown in the telescope occurred. A change in energy readings was detected, too small to be noticeable from the best observatories on Kerbin. When the government liaison saw this from the mission control computer, his expression strangely changed, and he immediately sealed the room. The images and data were confiscated, and he made sure that everyone who had seen anything was told not to mention it to anyone. Astronauts included. The liaison didn't even have a weapon on him, but money talked to anyone who wasn't frozen in surprise. Then he just took the data and left, car racing off towards the capital city of Aucrye. No remaining data outweighing curiosity, most at the space centre tried to shrug off their surprise at what had just happened. Most.

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Story 5: Eve, Chapter 1: The Plan

Almost immediately, a new government liaison arrived, a much more serious, grim fellow. He laid out the facts - any observation of Jool would be directed from a separate, non-KSP facility. A senior administrator named Joefield, finally raised a protest. "So we're literally not allowed to look at that part of the sky? Do you have any idea how much this will hinder our mission? You know, finding stuff out about space?" the liaison leaned towards him, Joefield holding his breath to avoid the angry Kerbal's smell. "This is not a topic for argument. You know where your funding comes from. If it's any consolation, I can tell you that we are looking into Jool. That section of the sky is not being ignored. Now, don't you have other mysteries to explore?" Joefield lowered his head in reluctant resignation, and said "You know, I wish I could say we don't care about money. But what we do is important. Fine. You win. Now get out of my face, and take a shower." As the liaison went back downstairs in the administration building, Gene, standing at the opposite doorway, shook his head disapprovingly at Joefield. He met Gene's eyes and growled "I know, that wasn't going to go anywhere. But someone had to say something." 


Fast forward a couple of days, to the cafeteria in the astronaut complex. Well, it was called the astronaut complex, but there weren't a ton of astronauts. It had been completely renovated to be usable again, and now provided room and board for most of the employees. Everyone was gathered in the cafeteria, tables almost full. Joefield, Wernher, and Gene were standing on a makeshift podium by a projector screen. Right behind them was Macory, the shadowy and rarely present executive who, officially, ran the entire space programme. His head was always buried in finances, as he kept the space programme afloat. But what was happening today was important enough for him to be here. 

Gene: Thank you for coming, everyone. I know many of you are shaken up by... recent events, but we've got a mission to focus on now. This is something we've never done, not even before the calamity. I'll let our boss explain.

Macory: Hiya. So, apparently I'm your boss. I guess some of you didn't know that. But I swear, I'm working, even if I'm never here. I do finances and stuff, and endless meetings. Got some free time though, so I can try my hand at giving a speech. So, we're going to Eve. The first time we reach out to another planet with our own fingers instead of a probe, and we choose about the worst place. It's stuffy, it's corrosive, but it's beautiful. A manned mission to another planet has always had the same sort of mystery surrounding it that the Mun used to have. Can it be done? Yes, we can do the math, but what's to say that the universe will let it happen, or that something we don't know about won't go wrong? So why Eve, a purple ball with an atmosphere of gaseous murphy's law? Answer: It's gotta have some clues. We know from direct observation that it looks about the same as before, but that makes no sense. Why should Kerbin change so much when Eve hasn't? But how do we know it hasn't? Eve is one of the brighter dots in the night sky when you can see it, but it shouldn't be that bright. And we recently got... a signal. Not aliens contacting us as far as we know, could have been natural, but it looked similar to Kerbal transmissions, and it was from Eve. So yeah, we should check that out.

Gene: Alright, so let's sit down, put our minds together, and do it! We've got an outline of a plan, so here it is. Linus, the projector, if you will.

Two icons come on the projector behind him, showing a drawing of a satellite, and a capsule. As Gene talks, sketches of each vehicle he discusses show up on the screen

Gene: The mission is divided up into two parts. Manned and unmanned. First stage is unmanned. We want to check everything out before we send anyone to their deaths. The first step of unmanned we've already done. We have a couple of comms satellites chasing and leading Kerbin, and they're doing some science stuff on what space outside of Kerbin's SOI is like. Radiation is a big deal, we need to do our homework on it so we don't fry our Kerbals. Next, we need another Summit satellite. We'll give it a new booster and get it into Eve orbit, do some basic orbital science, and it'll be our communications for the crew of any Eve mission. Step 3: Science satellite. Go over the entire surface of Eve in a polar orbit, pick a landing spot. Step 4, and this is going to sound weird, is a glider. We'll have a super-reinforced glider that's sent into the atmosphere of Eve, goes to the landing spot, and actually lands there. Not only do we have some data on the surface, but we have a beacon telling the crew of a manned mission where to land. Now, we start the manned mission. Step 1: We send a few Kerbals on a spacecraft out of Kerbin's SOI, find out what we'll need for a mission in heavy radiation, and get them back to Kerbin before they get too much radiation. Then, we send the components to a surface base, a mining rover, an orbital fuel station, an SSTO in orbit, and a submarine. None of it manned yet. Step 3, a crew vehicle that can shuttle between Kerbin and Eve orbit, along with our intrepid crew. That's when the real mission starts. The crew travels to Eve orbit, dock the shuttle to the fuel station, get to the SSTO, and land by the base on Eve. There's the rover for land exploration and collecting ore to refuel the SSTO with, the base for all their science needs, and the submarine for exploring that rather corrosive water. How are we going to do all of this? I'm not sure, so you all figure it out! Report to your stations, each of your supervisors will have a problem for you to figure out how to solve. DIS-missed!

OOC: Sorry about the lack of pictures in that last chapter, that should be the only one to not have any. I'm shooting for two chapters a week now, so I can maintain that schedule.

Edited by VelocityPolaris

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Story 5: Eve, Chapter 2: Summit 3

Gene stumbled out of bed, and made his way slowly across the drizzly grounds, towards the mission control building. It may have been early in the morning, but he wasn't going to miss the launch of the first craft sent to Eve. He had not had any coffee yet, or he would have been awake enough to notice the fact that there was nothing on the launchpad but some burnt-out clamps. The spacecraft had been sitting on that pad, waiting for a launch window. He entered the passcode and saw Sig Kerman, the night flight director. By the door was the newly-installed beverage fountain, which had settings for almost any cold or hot beverage. He gulped down a steady stream of coffee, only to realise that the scalding beverage was decaf. This was never a sign of a good day. He strode past the rows of desks to relieve Sig, only to see something curious on the big screen up front.

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(The picture on the mission control monitor would probably be an engine-mounted camera, as we don't exactly have a chase plane.)

Sig gave a nervous smile. "Uh, you're early, chief. ...Before you say anything, I swear I can explain."

Gene: You launched without me.

Sig: ...Yes, but that's not - look, we got a report of a storm inbound, and had to launch right then and there, okay? We didn't want to risk the probe being struck by lightning. You know how we only get a few minutes notice at best. 

Gene rubbed his face with his fingers in frustration. He was so looking forward to seeing the fruit of everybody's work, the Eve comsat Summit 3, finally take off. It wasn't fair. But nor was it anyone's fault, really. "Alright, just... can you get me a coffee before you get to bed? Something with caffeine, preferably one of those new ones with the whipped cream."

Sig nodded understandingly before ducking outside of the building, into the rain. "No problem, chief. I'll be back directly." 

With their headphones, the technicians weren't really paying attention to what was going on outside of the mission. They just expected the flight director to be there to coordinate them. Gene got a pair of headphones and asked for an engine burn report before anyone else noticed he was there. A couple of minutes later, it was done, and the flame of plasma faded out to the faint puff of monopropellant.

Screen_Shot_2017-05-03_at_2.07.09_PM.png

Gene: Burn's complete. Someone get me the Eve trajectory.

The main screen switched which monitor it was showing.

Screen_Shot_2017-05-03_at_2.07.35_PM.pngGene: Alright, TRAYcom, give us the adjustment profile to get that periapsis out of Eve's atmosphere. Remember, we want it equatorial. 

80-something days later...

Screen_Shot_2017-05-03_at_2.11.10_PM.png

Gene: Calvey.

TRAYcom: Chief?

Gene: That's not equatorial.

TRAYcom: I don't know how it happened, chief. The computer said we were lined up perfectly until we actually entered Eve's SOI!

Gene: Right... FDO! Try to work out a solution for an equatorial orbit, one that doesn't use all of our delta-v! 

FDO: I'll work on it, sir. But we can only guess how our little dip into the atmosphere's going to affect our trajectory. 

Gene: Right... of course the computer has to get the periapsis wrong, too. Switch to our backup, and get someone in here to take a look at it! TRAYcom, FDO, get a team together to get a few scenarios for the trajectory, try to get us in the roundest, flattest orbit you can. Do it fast, we're not-

Screen_Shot_2017-05-03_at_2.16.50_PM.pngHe whirls around as Sig pokes his head in, gesturing for Gene. 

Gene: What?

Sig: Uh, your coffee's here. Also, one of the scientists needs to talk to you now, it's urgent. I can take over.

Gene: No. You get some rest. Whatever he has to say, he can say it in here. I'm not in the mood for this.

Sig: Okay, I'll tell him.

His sighs audible from across the room, a Kerbal doing his best to put on an air of importance comes through the door as Sig leaves, and adjusts his probably-unnecessary glasses. "Gene Kerman, I need to speak with you. I'm Wilwinn, from the astronomy-"

Gene: Yes we will.

Wilwinn: What was that?

Gene: Nothing. What do you need to say?

Wilwinn: We've been looking at the feed from mission control, and discovered something curious. Just look at the screen.

Screen_Shot_2017-05-03_at_2.16.58_PM.png

SYSTEMS: Solar panels are retracted, chief! Upper atmosphere entry is in a minute or two, but we're already hitting a little bit of turbulence!

Gene: Just spit it out!

Wilwinn makes his way to a monitor, and with some quick type/clicking, pulls up an old photo on the main screen.

Screen_Shot_2017-04-27_at_11.38.30_PM.pn

Gene: Hey! We're trying to... 

Wilwinn: That was a photo from Oculus station's first mission, showing Eve looking exactly how it did pre-crisis. And they are looking at Eve as we speak, and getting more or less the same result.

Gene: So we're looking at the planet from two perspectives, but it looks completely different from both?

Wilwinn: Exactly. And it takes less than a minute for light from Eve to reach Kerbin.

Gene: That shouldn't be possible.

Wilwinn: No, it's not. I don't even have a hypothesis on how this is possible, but one of these images is clearly an illusion, and I wager it's the one from afar. 

Gene: This is fascinating, don't get me wrong, but we have an atmospheric entry to deal with.

Wilwinn: Wait, I just need your radiation data! Look, what if it were possible for light to become trapped - not like a black hole, maybe not even every spectrum -

Gene: Get that off image off the screen, someone! And I'm sorry - I don't care who you are, but listen. GIVE. ME. A. MINUTE.

Wilwinn nodded and walked to the back of the room.

Gene: Alright, make sure that engine is shut! Get the instruments up and running, this'll be our only atmospheric data for a while!

The craft descended into the Eve atmosphere, every surface slowly heating. Apparently a long time in space wasn't good for the onboard computer, as it decided to do a stupid.

Screen_Shot_2017-05-03_at_2.20.16_PM.png

Gene: ...someone. Please retract these solar panels. I'm this close to tearing up.

SYSTEMS: Yes, sir! It must have been some sort of glitch, I don't-

Gene: I know. Nobody here is stupid enough to extend them during entry. Payload! How are the science instruments working?

PAYLOAD: We're getting some atmospheric samples, temperature and pressure, gravity and acceleration, the goo is silently judging us, and the science lab is meant for use in-orbit. All systems are green. Comm relays are holding up well too, just in case you ask.

After a briefer dip into the atmosphere than a man with Thalassophobia trying to surf, they made it out without any issues. A burn profile was made not a few minutes later, putting the craft into Eve orbit. Unfortunately, it wasn't the cleanest of orbits.

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TRAYcom: Periapsis is now 248,000 metres, Apoapsis is... inclination is... well, pretty high is the answer to both. You can all see the numbers.

Gene: And not a drop of fuel left. Well, we've got 4 interplanetary and 4 local comm relays in Eve orbit. It's not like the mission was unsuccessful. But geez, that was a sloppy job. 

Wilwinn: Well, now we know Eve has in fact changed. A lot. Look, that atmosphere now looks as thick as it is.

Gene: Which means surveying a landing site will now take a lot more specialised instruments.

Wilwinn: Indeed. And is that green on the night/day line? Curious.

Gene: Oh, right. You mentioned you had some ideas?

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