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Hey folks, This thread has grown quite a bit since the original First Flight short story. To make things a little easier (and thank you to those who suggested this), here are the links to the various chapters for ease of reading. Cheers, KSK Contents Prologue: First Flight Part 1: The Interplanetary Society 1: Space Program Rising (Part I) 2: Space Program Rising (Part II) 3: New Directions 4: Satellite 5: Two's Company 6: These New Engines 7: The Courage of Conviction 8: The Other Side 9: Kerbal in Space Soonest 10: Project Moho 11: The Seed 12: Poyekhali 13: All the Proof They Needed Part 2: Secrets of the Kerm 14: Decisions 15: New Homes 16: Mun Or Bust 17: We all build them - We all fly them 18: MarkusA380 Fanart 19: Reunion 20: Beached 21: Beyond Kerbin 22: Far Side 23: The Dish 24: Dreams 25: A Journey Around the World. 26: Circles. 27: Docking - Part I. 28: Docking - Part II. 29: And Rendezvous. 30: The Cords That Bind. 31: Echoes of Time. Part 3: Kerbal Space Program 32: Right of Conclave. 33: Project Eve. 34: Uncharted. 35: Dewdrops. 36: Preparations. 37: Pioneering Spirit. 38: With a little help... 39: Stormclouds. 40: Second Mün. 41: Training Days. 42: The Best Laid Plans. 43: A Voyage for the Ages. 44: Mün. 45: Priorities. 46: Pre-emptive. 47: Diplomacy. 48: Pilgrims. 49: Lightning. 50: Through the Eyes of a Child. 51: Under Pressure. 52: Halfway Point. 54: Craters. 55: If you cut us... 56: One Small Step. 57: The Days the World Stood Still. 58: Starseed. Part 4: The Age of Fire. 59: Engines and Engineers. 60: A Thin Red Line. 61: Children of Kerbin. 62: Shrinking the Ellipse. 63: Journeys. 64: Hopes. 65: And Fears. 66: Black Stripes 67: Prospecting 68: For Kerm and Kerbal. 69: A Time for Love. 70: Shaking the Pillars. 71: Crossroads. 72: A Grove for a Grove. 73: No Borders. 74: Hot and Cold. 75: Politics. 76: Blue and Grey. 77: The Skies of Minmus. 78: A Few Good Kerbals. 79: Names. 80: Instincts. 81: The Straw and the Mallek. 82: Darkness Falls. 83: Shattered. 84: The Two Jebediahs. 85: Special Order 42. 86: More Boosters. 87: Family Tree. 88: White Cross. 89: Grass Roots. 90: Bridging the Gap. 91: A Helping Hand. 92: Lab Coats and Lapel Badges. 93: Laying the Keel. 94: Through the Gate. 95: Every Kerbonaut's Friend. 96: Humilisia Falls. Artwork and Crafts I'm absolutely thrilled (and more than a bit humbled) to be adding this section to the contents list. Here are links to various illustrations, screenshots, in-game vehicles and (unbelievably) a mod, from First Flight created by readers of this thread. Enjoy - I know I did! "Those Trashcans definitely made it happen." The Kerbal 1 blasts off on its pioneering first flight. "It's Kerbin... just Kerbin." The Kerbal 1 crew get their first glimpse of their world from high altitude. By Yukon0009. "Four green hands clasped in quiet triumph as Kerbin's very first artificial satellite soared through the void." The Kerbin 1's broadcast from the KIS to kerbals around the world inspires the Speciality Fireworks Company's transformation into the Rockomax Corporation. By minepagan. "Moho 1 has cleared the tower!" Jebediah Kerman rockets into orbit - and history. By Yukon0009. "I think we've just got a very happy kerbal up there." Wilford Kerman notches up his own spaceflight firsts aboard Moho 3. By MarkusA380. "There's parking space to the left as you go through the gates, Ornie." Whether you need to pick up supplies for a morale raising barbecue or tow rocket stages to the VAB, Ornie is your kerbal. By Mr. Pseudonym. "Why don't you just do that, Jonton Kermol." Seen here in typical working garb, the kermol are the vital, rural half of kerbal society. By Krevsin. ------------------- Before the Space Program, before Mainsails and Mun rovers, before there was even such a thing as a probe core, there was just a group of friends with a shared dream who refused to let that dream go. This is part of their story. It was a bright sunlit afternoon as Geneney walked out to the launch pad. He could see the rocket in his minds eye. A gleaming tower of sculptured metal rising into the sky with a cluster of the latest generation engines at the base and the newest, most spacious capsule sitting proudly at the top. Ready to take him to the Mun, to Minmus or anywhere else he cared to go. He sighed. The reality of course was rather different. A rusty launch tower constructed from old scaffolding. A bunker full of worn out monitors and other abandoned electronic gear. And a last ditch attempt at a rocket that they had built from whatever junk they could scavenge up and weld together. Wernher's original LV-1 engine had proven far far more difficult to scale up than any of them had imagined. Getting the stability augmentation system to work had eventually been an exercise in stubbornness rather than elegant engineering. And as for the decouplers. Geneney shook his head. Best not to think about the wretched decouplers. He reached the first of the launch clamps and inspected it carefully. The rocket loomed above him, a battered metal cylinder with a tangle of plumbing at the base, connected to the familiar ribbed shape of the LV-15 engine bell. Four RT-5 solid fuel boosters attached to the sides by explosive bolts and a simple capsule secured to the top with more explosive bolts completed this most unlikely looking spacecraft. In Geneney's opinion 'booster' was an optimistic name for a squat drum of firework propellant with a cone attached to the bottom. As for sticking them on with explosive bolts... No - best not to think about the decouplers. Besides they had worked well enough in testing and none of them had been able to get the hydraulic pusher system to work reliably. Geneney could hear voices far above him as Lucan helped the three cosmonauts into the capsule. An occasional mumbled comment from Bill, Bob's nervous chatter and Jeb, talking up a storm in his enthusiasm. Geneney smiled to himself. Bill was still a believer, Bob... well Bob was loyal. If his best friends were risking themselves in a home-brewed rocket, then Bob would be there alongside them. And as for Jeb, he had never given up, despite all the difficulties, frustrations and exploded prototypes. He'd kept them going, with his permanent grin and irrepressible enthusiasm, even as the other members of the Kerbin Interplanetary Society had gradually drifted away. It helped that the grin hid a surprisingly competent engineer, otherwise Geneney was fairly sure that Wernher would have stuffed Jeb headfirst into the engine bell of the LV-10 test model and probably fired it too. His smile faded. The LV-10 test had been a definite low point and they still hadn't figured out exactly what went wrong. The LV-15 worked, although it wasn't close to being powerful enough and all their attempts to cluster multiple LV-15s together had failed. Eventually even Jeb had conceded that the multiple LV-15 design was just too prone to overheating and suggested using a set of RT-5 'Trashcan' engines instead. All the launch clamps seemed to be in order and a loud clang from above announced that Lucan had finally closed the hatch of the Kerbal 1. Geneney waited as Lucan clambered down the launch tower and the two kerbals hurried back to the control bunker. ------------- Geneney tapped his microphone. "Kerbal 1, this is Control. How are you guys doing up there?" Jeb's voice crackled from the speakers. "Cool, calm and collected, Genie. How's that telemetry looking?" If Geneney knew Bill and Bob, then calm was most probably a lie, let alone collected. No point in breaking the facade though. "Wernher's just running the last tests on the decouplers now Jeb. Five minutes to launch." Wernher pressed a button on his console and grunted in satisfaction as a set of indicator lights winked out. He flicked a switch and all five lights flickered briefly then lit up with a reassuring green glow. "All rocket systems check out. Guidance control and launch sequencing transferred to booster. Ready when you are, Gene." "OK then. We all know what we're doing. LV-15 engine start on my mark, 3 second hold down at full power as a last check, then we release the clamps and light up the Trashcans. That last bit is probably going to be a bit bouncy guys, so as soon as the LV-15 lights you'll probably want to hold on to something." "Gotcha, Genie." Geneney took a deep breath. "LV-15 ignition in five...four...three...two...one.. Mark!" Lucan and Geneney turned towards the main monitor screen. Behind them they could hear Wernher rattling through the ignition checklist. "Firing gas generator, turbopumps powering up and IGNITION!" Fire erupted from the base of the Kerbal 1, rapidly focusing into a single hard bright flame. A steadily increasing rumble could be heard outside as the LV-15 throttled up to full power. "Holding for three...two...one..." The bunker shook to a thunderous roar as all four RT-5s ignited, sending sheets of flame washing across the launch pad. The image on the monitor flared brightly. Spots danced in front of Geneney's eyes as he stared at the screen trying desperately to spot the Kerbal 1 amongst all the static. As the image came back into focus, all Geneney could see was a badly scorched launch pad. The noise in his headphones suggested that this was due to a successful launch rather than a catastrophic explosion but the faint screams didn't sound at all good. The static on monitor 2 didn't look promising either. "Wernher - talk to me!" "LV-15 performing well, all four RT-5s are running. All decouplers intact," came the calm response. "Capsule telemetry and sensors offline." Geneney gripped the arms of his chair tightly. "Which means?" "We have no way of telling how high the capsule is travelling, how fast or at what angle." Lucan interrupted him "If the decouplers haven't fired...I can still hear the engines in my headset, so the rocket should still be in one piece." He snapped his fingers. "The main data cable - it probably just came loose during the launch. Wernher, try SCE to Aux." Geneney's knuckles turned white as Wernher searched for the switch on his console. Then, with a click, monitor 2 lit up, as telemetry suddenly flooded in from the Kerbal 1. A slow smile spread across Geneney's face as he got to his feet and slapped Lucan on the back. Above his head, the numbers for altitude and velocity of the Kerbal 1 were both steadily increasing. ------------ "10 seconds till burnout." Geneney kept his fingers firmly crossed as he waited for the Trashcans to shut down. Five seconds to go, two, one... and nothing. The roar of the engines still filled his headphones. Five more seconds, ten more seconds. He was just turning towards Wernher, when everything went quiet. There was a series of muffled explosions and four lights on Wernher's console winked out. He grabbed the microphone. "Kerbal 1, this is Control. Come in Kerbal 1! Jeb, Bill, Bob - can you hear me!" Jeb chuckled. "Hearing you loud and clear, Genie if you'd let us get a word in edgewise!" "Jeb - thank the Kerm! Are you guys OK up there?" "The Bobcat here is looking a bit blue but we're all good. Nothing but Class A Badasses on this rocket ship!" Jeb paused to savour the moment. "Yeah, this rocket ship...", his voice trailed away. "Dammit guys we did it! Faster than any kerbal has ever travelled, higher than any kerbal has ever travelled and way way noisier than any kerbal has ever travelled! I told you those Trashcans would do the trick!" "Well we've still got a couple of things left to do, Jeb but yeah - those Trashcans definitely made it happen. Thirty seconds of fuel left for the LV-15." Lucan was keeping a close eye on the telemetry. The Kerbal 1 was actually accelerating slightly now as the last litres of fuel drained away, until at last the engines shut down. The last light flickered out on Wernher's console accompanied by a final muffled bang from the speakers. "Shutdown and booster separation confirmed, Jeb. We figure you should top out at around thirty to thirty five thousand metres." "Thanks, Luco. Not bad for a first flight, not bad at all! Looks like I won that bet with the Bobcat too - he reckoned we'd get to twenty five thousand at best!" Bob laughed nervously. "Are you sure they were just the standard Trashcans, Jeb? If we get down from here in one piece, I'm not sure I'll be able to get out of this seat, I got mashed into it so hard." "Didn't touch them, Bobcat. They sure did make for one heck of a ride though. What did you think, Bill? Hey - are you OK there, Bill? That window isn't coming loose is it?" "Oh... Oh wow... Guys you need to see this." Bill silently reached out a hand and Jeb wordlessly passed him the camera. Geneney blinked. He'd never heard Jeb sound like that before. Almost awestruck. "What is it, Jeb?" "It's Kerbin... just Kerbin. Only not quite and all of it at once. And the sky - it's full of more stars than you can believe. Greens and blues and brilliant white clouds and then black and stars." "You're not making any sense, Jeb." "No, no I don't think I am. You're gonna have to see this for yourself, Genie." Geneney sighed. "You know we're never going to get another shot at this. The Kerbal 1 was all we had left," he said sadly. "Actually, Genie, if even half of Bill's photos come out, I think you're going to get to see this quicker than you can imagine and in a bigger and better rocket than you can imagine too. Hey, Bill, if you're done with that camera, pass it over here. Genie, I'm taking off my helmet, sticking the camera into it and wedging it under the control panel for safekeeping." Geneney's jaw dropped. "What, why, what are you doing? What happens if you get an air leak?!" Jeb's voice was uncharacteristically serious. "I'll just have to hold my breath, Genie. Whatever happens to Bill, Bob and me, you need this camera. It's all the proof that the Kerbin Interplanetary Society needs and it's going to change everything." --------- Two small green figures stood on the roof of a makeshift concrete bunker, anxiously peering out to sea. Geneney glanced at his watch and then scanned the horizon again, too nervous to look away for more than a moment. He knew that he probably wouldn't see the capsule from this distance but the parachute should be visible. And it should be visible any moment now. Beside him, Wernher suddenly stiffened and pointed at the sky. An orange streamer popped into view, plunged towards the ground and then fluttered skywards. Geneney's heart was in his mouth. If that was the drogue chute then... YES! Two orange discs burst into the sky and then unfurled into the welcome, welcome sight of two fully opened parachutes. Geneney and Wernher looked at each other, grinned in triumph and then threw themselves down the stairs as fast as they could. "Lucan, Wernher - boat. Now! We've got three kerbonauts to pick up! Epilogue - two days later Four members of the Kerbin Interplanetary Society were lounging about at the Jebediah Kerman Junkyard and Spare Parts Company. Bill was in Jeb's office working on his camera, whilst Jeb was out with a pair of customers, helping them rummage through a pile of old engine parts. As the three of them strolled back towards the office, Geneney overhead snatches of conversation. "Were you boys anything to do with a mighty lot of noise out by that old rusty tower the other day?" Jeb nodded, "Yup, that was us, sir. Testing some bits and pieces from the junkyard." The older of the two customers chuckled. "People back in town reckon they saw one of those rockets flying into the sky." He snorted. "Load of nonsense if you ask me, never mind what those crazy interplanetary characters keep talking about. Although I have to admit, they do make some mighty fine explosions." Genneny stifled a grin as Jeb tried his best to keep a straight face. Just then Bill popped his head around the office door. "Hey guys - photo's came out nicely. You want to take a look?" Jeb smiled. "Love to, Bill." He turned towards his customers politely, "and would you good kerbals care to join us?" Geneney stared at Jeb's office wall. Most of Bill's photographs were blurry views of not very much, taken out of what was obviously a very small window. Several more showed what looked like maps. But none of the eight kerbals crammed into the room had eyes for anything other than the largest picture in the middle. This too was clearly a view through a window but beautifully sharp. A very obviously curved line down the middle separated inky blackness from brilliant blue, dusky brown and lush green. Far away in the distance, the familiar battered grey ball of the Mün rose over Kerbin. Geneney blinked back tears. Jeb was right. They had really done it. They could do it again. And there would be a Space Program.
Part one: Seed of an idea This is a story about what might have happened before the founding of the KSC. I hope you will enjoy it. We start a long time a go, with some kerbal youths, playing in a park near Kerbin City: Jebediah Kerman: "This is going to be awesome!" Bob: "Guys, I'm really not sure this is safe. I'm really not sure we should be doing this." Bill: "I still say we should stick on my gyroscope. These fins, too, for better stability." Jeb: "That's just gonna weigh it down! Come on, let's just do this! Who's got the matches? Harv?" Harvester Kerman: "Over here!" Meanwhile, a short distance away: Wernher: "Did you hear? Some astronomers are saying the Mun is a moon, like those dots that move around the wandering stars." Gene: "The Mun? Oh, that new sky circle thing you were telling me about. Sure." Wernher: "Some think that there is a whole world up there, and the stars big objects, separated from us by vast amounts of empty space. That could be it. The Mun could be a big ball. It looks like it is a ball." Gene: "Yeah, right. I don't believe it. The stars, the clouds, they're all intangible, and changeable.. they might as well be pictures on a screen. " Wernher: "Well, I am going to prove that there is something up there! " Gene: "And how do you plan to do that? By jumping?" At this point, they were interrupted: Wernher: "I have an idea..." Wernher got up, and followed the rocket. * * * * * Next time: "A meeting of minds."