UnusualAttitude

THE BARTDON PAPERS - "Cancel all previous directives."

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4 hours ago, UnusualAttitude said:

Sadly, Camwise has a problem with longing for something (a Kerbelle) he cannot have. Just say the word "Lisab..." and he comes running, even though he knows deep down that it cannot end well. I agree that this is tragic, indeed there is a little bit of the author's own personal experience there. And before you ask, no, she wasn't called Lisabeth. :D

I think this is a universal human (and kerbal) theme of existence. Nevertheless, your writing style is on point. :)

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YEAR 12, DAY 73. CAMWISE.

MOm8ZCj.png

When we touched down at Omelek, every precaution was taken to ensure that my return was kept a closely guarded secret amongst a small circle of engineers who could be trusted. I could not simply step off the aircraft and saunter into Mission Control, or wander through the bustling alleys and hangars of the complex. I was still supposed to be pumping gas down at the South Pole, and a significant proportion of the Space Centre's senior staff might still recognise me.

“Where are you going to take me?” I asked Catbeth as we taxied in to park.

“To your old office in the R&D facility. It's still empty.”

“But how will I get there without being seen?”

“Don't worry, Cam. We have you covered.”

In the end, I was carried from the freight depot to my office in a wooden crate by a couple of unwitting kerbs who thought they were delivering new furniture. It was large enough and well padded with cardboard, but unfortunately for me, the crate did not sport a “this way up” label. As a result, the whole experience was rather unpleasant and I was most relieved when they set me down with a final thump and slammed the door behind them.

Silence.

I was soon wondering whether the various parties who were responsible for smuggling me in would remember to send someone to let me out of the crate, the top of which had been nailed shut to avoid me tumbling out and giving myself away. I was starting to feel a little cramped and it was hot. I had gone from spending more than two years at constant sub-zero temperatures, and here it was thirty in the shade.

Finally the door creaked open, footsteps crossed the room, and without hesitation someone began to prise the lid open. It came off with a crack and light streamed in, temporarily blinding me. A figure stood over me holding a crowbar.

“Uhm, hello Camwise,” said Froemone.

I unfolded my cramped limbs from the crate and leaned against it heavily as I got my bearings. Nearly six long years had passed since I had last been here, but at first glance everything seemed to be as I had left it. My desk, the filing cabinet, the small window with a view to the southern side of the island and the Pacific Ocean beyond. Wait, no... something was missing...

“Would you like to sit down?” Froemone interrupted my thoughts. “We have a lot to cover.”

Omelek's Senior Engineer had aged visibly since our last meeting, but most of all he looked as if he hadn't slept in several days. He was carrying a thick pile of documents that he threw in a heap on the desk and sat down in front of it heavily, waving at me to take a seat also.

“I can't stay here with you long,” he began, “so I'll get straight to what.. uhm... happened. Last time I wrote to you, Bartdon and his team were still on the surface of Mars. They made an important discovery there. I got your letter, and we must talk about that later. But I don't think it has any direct link with the present situation.”

Froemone went on to tell me about Quissac's successful return to orbit, and Bartdon's second flight in Cadrieu to Deimos, then finally back to the inner moon, Phobos.

“Two days ago at 8:27 UT, as Cadrieu was taking on water and producing hydrogen fuel on the surface of Phobos, an explosion occurred. It's origin appears to be one of the ship's oxygen tanks beneath the pressurised hull and crew quarters, although we cannot be sure. The blast flipped Cadrieu several metres into the air, and she came to rest on her side. This secondary impact caused additional damage to some of her solar arrays and radiators. The hull was not breached, and life support systems are still intact and functional. The crew were not hurt... uhm... too badly.”

YNrnmKz.png

I gaped at Froemone in wide-eyed horror as he continued with his story.

“That's it for the good news, I'm afraid. Both of Cadrieu's lower attitude thrusters were knocked out by the explosion, as well as her main engine. The irony of the situation is that they have fuel, and could perhaps even get the ISRU rig up and running again. But they have no viable propulsion system. Even Munvey says that there is no way he can fly her with just the remaining attitude thrusters.”

“Then get Laroque up there, now!” I started, “surely we can find a way to get them off the surface..?”

Froemone reached out across the desk and gripped my arm. “I haven't finished,” he said in a quiet voice and continued without letting go, “almost simultaneously, there was an explosion on Laroque. In the aft section, near the NTR.”

GRQ2G84.png

No...” I whispered. My dear, stupid cousin. And Lisabeth...

“The reactor was shut down at the time, but most of the sensors are either knocked out or giving false readings so we have no clear picture of what went wrong. Against our advice, CE Karanda performed an EVA to assess the damage. Her dosimeter began to spike before she could get anywhere near, so she returned to the airlock.

CcZ2znf.png

“As of now, she does not present any symptoms of an acute radiation dosage, and levels remain acceptable throughout the crew quarters. But...” Froemone's hold on my arm became a death-grip. “...she saw enough to confirm that the NTR's exhaust has been destroyed. Laroque is dead in space too, Camwise.”

In the long silence that followed, I tore myself from Froemone's grasp and made my way over to the window. I was suddenly aware that the musty smell of years of accumulated dust and the stifling heat that prevailed in my office. I threw open the window and felt the gentle kiss of fresh air seep into the room, carrying the sound of the bustling hive of activity in the R&D centre below, and the distant crash of the waves as they rolled onto the shore of the island. Such a simple gesture, yet such a privilege for we, the earthbound.

“So we're looking at a reactor meltdown...” I said, thinking aloud, “but if the pressure shell holds, then they're safe for now, aren't they?”

“Yes...” Froemone admitted, “until they run out of life support, and with just the three of them on board, that won't happen for a while. We could maybe run a supply mission before then. But Bartdon, Mitzon and Munvey will run out of food long before we could get anything to Cadrieu on Phobos, even if we use our biggest launcher. They will starve to death.”

“How much food do they have?”

“They have started rationing already. The lander will run out of solid food in just over thirty days. How long they can survive after that is anyone's guess.”

A month. This was pathetic. We were talking about living, breathing Kerbals who were more than three hundred million kilometres away, and we had one month with which to provide assistance. That just wasn't going to happen. They might just as well have been at the other end of the galaxy. Unless...

“Froe... Quissac is still docked to Laroque, right? And one of the transfer stages? Is there any fuel left in the tug's tank? You said that they went to Phobos to get more before landing on Mars...”

Froemone sighed and looked wearier than ever. “We have assessed that solution already. With the remaining fuel in the tug's tank we come up short. Even if they strip down Quissac completely, she will need another 200 m/s to have any hope of performing a transfer from LMO to Phobos and landing.”

“And could Lisabeth take her back down to Mars and refuel on the surface?” I insisted.

“Yes, if she ignores every previous simulation that has failed to land safely with less than 50% fuel and manages to pull it off. Extremely risky, but maybe possible. Although it wouldn't help in any way: Quissac uses all of her fuel just to get to Low Martian Orbit. Getting Quissac directly to Phobos from the surface of Mars would be impossible, even if fully fuelled.”

I looked out across the calm waters of the Pacific as the afternoon sun began its swift equatorial plunge towards the horizon; something else that I had not seen in years. There was nothing to say.

“I have to go, Camwise,” Froemone said at last. “Everything we know about the situation is detailed in this report.” He tapped the heavy file on my desk. “I just want you to know that I'm not expecting anything from you. But if you think of something we've missed, call this number and I'll pick up straight away.”

He lifted the receiver of the old telephone on my desk and put it to his ear, listening for a tone. After six years of gathering dust, it still worked. “Huh,” he grumbled, slamming it back down again, “I wish our spaceships were that reliable...” He stood up and made for the door.

“Froemone, this wasn't an accident, was it?” I shot at his back.

He turned slowly and stared at me, blinking. “What if it wasn't?”

“If the Board rejects any conceivable rescue plan, do we have any hope of bringing them back?”

“Omelek still belongs to us, for now,” he replied, gritting his teeth, “so what else can we do, other than try and find a solution for them?”

After he left, I began to leaf through the pile of reports that he had left on the desk. They described the situation in excruciating detail and quoted estimations of remaining propellant, life support reserves, delta-vee requirements for reaching the crew stranded on Phobos... Having listened to Froemone's account, it was a depressingly predictable read but I gave it my best shot regardless. I focussed on Quissac, the descent and ascent shuttle, since she was the only remaining vehicle with a functional propulsion system.

I considered every possibility, including stripping off any unneeded mass, even the avionics package and the landing struts. I postulated that Laroque's attitude thrusters could be used to give her a slight push and a head start. But I eventually found that every gram of weight that could be gained and every metre per second added had already been accounted for by Froemone's team. Quissac just wasn't going to reach Phobos from Low Martian Orbit. She ended up either stranded in a higher orbit, or crashing in to Phobos at more than 100 m/s.

I stretched, rubbed my eyes, and made my way over to the window again. As I had pored over the documents, late afternoon had moved on swiftly into night. I had made no useful progress and up there, the sands of time continued to flow unabated. Either from radiation poisoning or from starvation, death would come for them sooner or later.

I glanced around at my office once more and as my eyes settled on my filing cabinet, I finally realised what was missing.

My potted plant had gone.

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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So, that's the score. See what you can come up with. Out of respect for readers who are just along for the ride, please use spoiler tags. :wink:

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No...

Spoiler

T... The... The potted plant....

 

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34 minutes ago, DMSP said:

No...

  Reveal hidden contents

T... The... The potted plant....

 

Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was, "Oh, no. Not again." 

-Douglas Adams

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Quote

“Don't worry, Cam. We have you covered.”

In the end, I was carried from the freight depot to my office in a wooden crate by a couple of unwitting kerbs who thought they were delivering new furniture. It was large enough and well padded with cardboard, but unfortunately for me, the crate did not sport a “this way up” label.

No Catbeth, you had him about as covered as a solar panel without a fairing. 

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5 hours ago, superstrijder15 said:

As a Dutchmen, I'm loving the bilingual bonus! The brick joke as well of course

By bilingual bonus, I assume you mean Station Vrijheid. But what's this brick joke ? 

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the potted plant(you can look up the definition on tvtropes.com)

and yes, station Vrijheid, how'd you get the name?

Edited by superstrijder15

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1 hour ago, superstrijder15 said:

the potted plant(you can look up the definition on tvtropes.com)

and yes, station Vrijheid, how'd you get the name?

Oh, right, yes, the Potted Plant is a sort of brick joke, then. It is also one of these:)

The Vrijheid Cooperative is an independant organisation attempting to defy the crushing monopoly of the three mega-corporations that dominate Earth. (Vrijheid means freedom or liberty). I must confess that I originally imagined that this cooperative was based in southern Africa, and I should have used Afrikaans (Vryheid). But I didn't, so there you go. They are therefore officially from the lowlands of northern Europe. Good luck importing your uranium ore from Antartica up there for a profit. It's hardly surprising that they went bust. :D

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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Actually, we currently have quite some gas, but Groningen is shaking because its pumped out so quickly so they might need to stop doing that, and then we can only get energy from coal or windmills, so only windmills are possible if you don't have fossil fuels(there isn't a lot of spare space for solar panels) so I would imagine that in the future this would definitly be possible, and ESA of course also needs uranium for their probes.

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YEAR 12, DAY 74. CAMWISE.

enjUUNA.png

At some point during the small hours of the morning, I eventually fell asleep at my desk. My dreams were horrific.

The crew of Cadrieu. Gaunt and skeletal figures, huddled together inside a toppled capsule lying on its side on a dark plain beneath the blood red disc that fills the sky. Bartdon still raging and cursing on into eternity as hunger melts the flesh from his bones.

Laroque, and the atomic nightmare that is attached to the ship. They hold the deadly snake by its tail. If they remain docked, the reactor eventually burns through the shadow shield and the fuel tank bulkhead, causing their only protection against the invisible nuclear fire to leak away into space. If they attempt to discard it, the uncontrolled drive section of the ship begins to tumble, it's damaged aft section spewing radiation at them like some sort of hellish flashlight as it cartwheels slowly past.

Lisabeth moves forward out of the shadows of my dimly lit office, her beautiful face covered in burns and sores, the erythema of radiation exposure. Her look is pleading. She reaches out to me... Never give up. Find something, Camwise...

Karanda stands next to the desk, yelling at me in that shrill voice that I hate. “What are you waiting for? Do something!” She draws back her arm to slap me in the face and shrieks, “Espèce de c...” Her hand connects with my cheek with a crack...

I awoke with a start. A pale dawn was creeping in through the window of my office, and with it an idea that might just save them all.

I looked around through bleary eyes for my logarithmic slide rule. Where had I kept it, again? Second draw down. It was still there. It had lain unused during all these years, but it was now about to perform its most critical computation ever.

A pencil. Please. Now! I rummaged and finally found one buried under the mass of papers. I began furiously scribbling delta-vee calculations on a corner of one of the pages of Froemone's report.

To my immense surprise, the figures added up.

A nervous chuckle escaped from the back of my throat. It would be stupidly risky. It would push Lisabeth to the limits of her flying skills. It may require Bartdon and his crew to go for days without food and endure nonetheless. Karanda and Mitzon would have to work day and night for weeks to produce enough propellant in time for the transfer window home. So many things could go wrong, but it was the best I had to offer.

I grabbed the phone and dialled Froemone's number. He answered immediately, but his voice was a tired rasp.

“SE Froemone speaking.”

“Froe, it's Cam. I've just had an idea.”

“Uhm...what..?” his voice trailed off, too exhausted to hope.

“We've been going about this the wrong way,” I blurted out excitedly, “they can get Quissac up to Phobos.”

“Uhm...How?”

“It's simple. They just need to use more boosters.”

 

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22 hours ago, Mad Rocket Scientist said:

But from where?

I'm sure you can figure it out. You will kick yourselves if I tell you, it's literally that simple. Take a look at the hardware. All of it. No KIS/KAS trickery (apart from setting up the refuelling rig), no new launches from Earth, and certainly no cheaty hyperediting. Send me a PM if you think you've cracked it and you will earn the right to be part of the Club, and wear this badge with pride...

Spoiler

XnyER43.png?1

"Thanks, old gal..." version also available on demand, naturally. :wink:

Please use spoiler tags if you wish to speculate on this thread, although do not be offended if I don't reply. Answers next week. To work, boys and gals!  :)

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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20 minutes ago, UnusualAttitude said:

I'm sure you can figure it out. You will kick yourselves if I tell you, it's literally that simple. Take a look at the hardware. All of it. No KIS/KAS trickery (apart from what is required for refuelling), no new launches from Earth, and certainly no cheaty hyperediting. Send me a PM if you think you've cracked it and you will earn the right to be part of the Club, and wear this badge with pride...

  Reveal hidden contents

XnyER43.png?1

Please use spoiler tags if you wish to speculate on this thread, although do not be offended if I don't reply. Answers next week. To work, boys and gals!  :)

Alright, I'll take a look at the previous chapters.

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14 hours ago, Mad Rocket Scientist said:

Alright, I'll take a look at the previous chapters.

That may be useful. I've even dropped a couple of hints in there a while back if you look closely. :wink:

EDIT: by the way, no jetpacking to orbit either. I've never found an effective way to nerf the ludicrous Kerbal KMU with it's 600 m/s of dV. But, since this an RSS game, I only use jetpacks for on-orbit EVA and mobility assistance on very low-g worlds.

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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So, I've had lots of wonderful and crazy ideas via PM, but so far, only one of my readers has found the solution that will allow Quissac to reach Phobos to save Barton and his crew. Thanks to all of you for sharing your ideas and trying to crack this. :)

You still have a few days before I post the next part if you want to give it a shot. @MadRocketScientist, did you come up with anything? @Geschosskopf, surely this is right up your street, or would the Boffins just leave them there to rot?

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12 hours ago, Garrett Kerman said:

@UnusualAttitude I tried to PM you, but my computer crashed :/. Can I post my predictions in a spoiler?

If you really can't get through via PM (do try again), go ahead. I won't be able to comment on your prediction, however. :wink:

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2 hours ago, UnusualAttitude said:

I won't be able to comment on your prediction, however

You can still send him PMs right? so you could react

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4 minutes ago, superstrijder15 said:

You can still send him PMs right? so you could react

Doh... You, sir, have some common sense. Unlike old me. :D

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:::::SPOILER::::: (or my prediction)

Spoiler

The Laroque lost it's engines, but the Quissac and the tug still have theirs. 

What happens (different options)

1. The Quissac goes back down to the surface and slowly refuels the tug and Laroque

--------

1. They drop the Quissac and the tug pushes them to Phobos

-------

1. They land the Laroque on Phobos (it's a low gravity world, wouldn't be impossible)

2. They orbit Phobos

-------

If option 2,

1. They also land on Phobos

I had more Ideas when I tried to PM @UnusualAttitude, so I may update this.

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YEAR 12, DAY 74. MARS MISSION RESCUE OPERATIONS BRIEFING.

This execution of this plan will require exceptional skill and commitment on behalf of the six kerbonauts stranded on Phobos and in Low Martian Orbit. There are many unknowns, and any mistake could jeopardise the whole process and lead to the loss of the entire crew.

It will take endurance and devotion, as it involves lengthy refuelling procedures. Indeed, we cannot be sure at the present time that the required amount of propellant can be produced in a short enough timeframe. And the crew of Quissac will need to trust that the unorthodox and untested procedure used to boost her up to Phobos will work as intended.

Most of all, it will require nerves of steel and sheer guts to pull off. But the six kerbonauts sent to Mars represent the absolute best Kerbalkind has to offer. And we must trust in their ability to accomplish this, just as they will have to put their faith in the feasibility of this plan.

The first step must be carried out immediately. The rovers that were left on the surface, on Lunae Planum, must be driven 80 kilometres to the South where the second shuttle Espedaillac came down. They can be controlled from Laroque's remote command station.

jjM4Yiq.png

Since the crew ship's reactor appears to be stable, for now, we advise that AI Desfal should remain on board Laroque in order to be able to relocate the Arcambal crew rover, should Quissac come down off course. If he doesn't, the shuttle's crew will be permanently stranded unless they land within walking distance of the rovers. Of course, it is up to the crew and Desfal himself to make this call.

cC8AjJo.png

Once the rovers are in position, CE Karanda and STP Lisabeth should EVA over to Quissac, taking great care to stay close to the ship's hull in order to remain shielded from the high radiation levels emitted by the damaged reactor. They will then undock from the mothership and back off along her centreline, putting distance between the two ships as quickly as possible.

ZcG8ssT.png

Quissac will make her de-orbit burn on the night side of Mars and will land on Lunae Planum just after dawn. There will be no fuel margins. STP Lisabeth will have to fly most of the way down using just airfoils for attitude control, and fire the shuttle's engines just seconds before impacting the surface in order to avoid running out of propellant during final approach.

toj2lVD.png

The next re-entry window does not line up with the landing site correctly and will require high-alpha manoeuvring once dynamic pressure is sufficient in order to bring Quissac's trajectory into line with Espedaillac's position. These manoeuvres will occur over Hebes Chasma.

xSlljGK.png

Lisabeth, I'm not going to start giving you lessons on how to fly that thing, but we all know that on Mars, it is the last few thousand metres to the surface that can kill you. Save your fuel. You'll need every last drop of it to make it down.

Wait until you can see the ground through the bay doors. Wait until you can see the rocks on the surface. Then wait some more. And then pull up and slam that throttle to the firewall. You can do it. And if my cousin starts screaming, just tell her to shut up and hold on tight, from me, OK?

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It is unlikely that Quissac will land perfectly on target, so CE Karanda and STP Lisabeth will have to manoeuvre her over to Espedaillac on her own wheels without any propulsion. This will be accomplished by using Arcambal to push the shuttle to the top of each rise in the terrain. She will be able to coast downhill.

QIGRYYv.png

We've run some tests and this doesn't appear to cause any critical damage to either vehicle, if carried out carefully. This repositioning of Quissac must be accomplished swiftly and, ideally, the solar farm and drilling rigs should be up and running before sunset.

Kf9b3cG.png

But first, CE Karanda must make a complete inspection of Espedaillac and make sure that the second shuttle's propulsion and fuel systems are still salvageable after many more weeks unattended on the surface.

yU6mzSs.png

To streamline the refuelling process, and to allow the active cooling system fitted to Quissac to keep the propellant in a liquid state, the two shuttles should be docked together straight away on the surface. AI Desfal will have to take control of Espedaillac from the remote command station on Laroque and let the crew on the ground guide him in.

8FTR6vH.png

Efficient ISRU operations will be vital, since the next part of the operation requires that both shuttles be fully fuelled. Almost twice the previous amount propellant must be produced in about thirty days. This will require the utmost vigilance on behalf of CE Karanda, who will have to improve the rig's output and avoid any overheating of the drills, despite the benefit of additional solar panels and a second electrolysis unit provided by the rover, Arcambal.

EJbh7iB.png

Karanda, you must keep those drills going, OK? Every sunrise beyond that thirty-day deadline is one they spend starving up on Phobos. I know you won't believe me after everything I've ever said to you, but I believe in you. You can do this, cuz. Keep watching those gauges, keep pumping that H2O, and everyone comes home alive...

8EpV0mr.png

Once refuelling operations are complete every hour will count, even in the most optimistic of scenarios. The ISRU equipment can be packed away, although it will see no further use. Arcambal should be parked permanently at a safe distance.

87TEUBb.png

Both shuttles must be completely stripped down, and any extra weight discarded. This will include the main landing struts. The only ISRU components that Quissac will be able to carry up to Phobos are the radiators to improve the efficiency of Cadrieu's drills. That tiny rig will have to shift a huge amount of propellant in the coming weeks.

uyRwZsh.png

CE Karanda will then load the new control algorithms into the flight computer, as well as the fuel transfer program that will ensure that Quissac retains full tanks when the booster is released. Quissac and her booster will be taking off shortly before sunset towards the Southeast, so as to launch into the plane of the Martian moons.

9kxbGes.png

2Yvxwfv.png

Lisabeth, Froemone has developped the flight control algorithm, and he ensures me that it will work, but not for long. As the fuel drains out of the rear tanks, the vessel will quickly become unbalanced, and even the shuttles' powerful attitude thrusters won't be able to hold it. You need to pitch over into horizontal flight and get the engines firing along the centre of gravity as soon as possible.

QcbYXt9.png

Keep the thrust straight on that docking port and it will hold. Follow a shallow path to orbit.

I wish I was there to help out with this stupid idea of mine, Lis. If Karanda causes any trouble or starts freaking out, just yell “Ferme-la!” at her repeatedly until she stops. I guess we'll hear from you once you're in orbit, then. I won't say “Fly safe...” That would be unfair, given the circumstances. But please, take care.

I... look forward to seeing you safely back on Earth.

plik36Z.png

vuqwldY.png

For orbital insertion to be achieved with sufficient remaining fuel to reach Phobos, separation of the booster should occur at ten thousand metres above the surface and a speed of 1.5 km/s. The minimal aerodynamic testing we were able to perform has shown that the chances of Espedaillac colliding with Quissac after separation are below 25%.

vlCKxcl.png

After booster separation, Quissac will continue to a low parking orbit and perform a transfer burn to Phobos at the first available window. If a safe transfer does not appear feasible at any point, Quissac should hold her parking orbit and await further instructions.

L17YW5p.png

However, if our calculations are correct, the shuttle should be able to reach Cadrieu's position and land safely.

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bV1sDRg.png

From there, fuelling operations should begin immediately to allow recovery of Laroque's crew modules in time for the transfer window home.

sGzY4cU.png

 

 

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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So there you have it. Cam's stupid plan seems to have worked. Now all they have to do is produce about eighty tonnes of hydrolox fuel from that tiny rig on Phobos, fetch Desfal and Laroque's habitation modules from LMO (leaving the damaged radiation-spewing reactor behind, of course), and they can go home. Good job they still have nearly four months to go before the transfer window back to Earth.

Congratulations to @NotAgain (who was quickest on the draw) and @OrbitalBuzzsaw (who was a close second) for their awesome powers of deduction. Your Bartdon Old Boy Network badges are in the post. Hail! And thanks to everyone who took time to participate. You guys rock.

Most of you guessed that re-using Espedaillac was the key to the whole operation, but I suppose that the trick of taking Quissac back down to the surface and using Espedaillac as an expendable booster to get her to orbit with more fuel than when she started was counter-intuitive. Now if you will excuse me, Bartdon needs to be fed, and y'all know he gets cranky when he's hungry...:D

 

Edited by UnusualAttitude

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That's very clever!  I knew that one of the shuttles needed to make a "profit" on fuel, but I couldn't figure out how.  I kept on thinking it was something to do with the transfer stage attached to the Quissac.

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