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Into the Snarkiverse


jimmymcgoochie
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Yesterday my graphics card broke. Probably. I can't be sure that it actually is broken, but it just stopped outputting video with no warning and many attempts to resolve it (including reinstalling Windows, which caused some issues like CKAN forgetting all my KSP instances; fortunately they're all stored on an external disk so they're all safe) didn't fix anything. It's still under warranty so I've sent it back for repair or replacing, but in the meantime I'm stuck with no GPU and so very limited gaming.

Fortunately, I know I can run KSP on just integrated graphics after doing so on my old PC back home, with the caveat that looking down at terrain causes the frame rates to tank horribly, so I threw together a mod pack that has zero graphics mods at all and not that much of anything else but which should be pretty fun to play.

Planet pack- Snarkiverse. Rearranges stock bodies, doesn't add any new ones to my knowledge so should be fine performance-wise. (I tried Grannus and it just couldn't handle it, the game was stuttering badly on the main menu screen...)

Other key mods- Kerbalism with all the trimmings, Stage Recovery to catch those discarded boosters and a few minor QoL things like Simple Logistics, MechJeb and Deployable Batteries. This will be a hard mode career, with some settings (e.g. science returns) made even harder than hard mode but reverts/reloads on.

And so we enter the Snarkiverse!

Launch 1: boring old Jumping Flea-esque thing to get science.4ciql6x.png

Death Star not yet confirmed...

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Launch 2: slap some fuel tanks and a Swivel on it instead of the Flea SRB and try to land it in the water for a contract (test Swivel splashed) as well as getting more science.

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I forgot about the whole "limited ignitions" thing and the engine blew up. No contract, but Val went swimming to get a bit more science.

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One soggy spacesuit sent over to R&D to be hung up behind their latest engine prototype to dry off.

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Lots of science experiments, but many have no value because the pod has limited data storage and quickly ran out in the face of multiple science experiments.

Launch 3: nearly identical to the last one, removed a fuel tank and successfully splashed down with engine intact to complete the contract. More science gathered but again lack of data capacity was an issue.

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Launch 4: Bigger and better than before, went a good distance but missed reaching space by about 2km. Despite doubling the pod's data capacity to the maximum possible (a heady 2MB) it still ran out of data capacity.

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Launch 5: contract to throw a Thumper high into the atmosphere means I can use the Thumper to shoot for orbit.

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But once again, it fell slightly short.

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And once again, data storage ran out so limited science gained; an antenna was included but the flight path didn't have any ground stations under it for most of the time so only a little data was transmitted.

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I've made some adjustments to the mods- Restock is gone, Minimum Ambient Lighting is added to make night screenshots properly visible and a couple of utilities were added or removed.

Full album with contracts and stuff: https://imgur.com/a/a8dteJb

I might come back tomorrow and edit this report to turn it into a story of some sort to make it more interesting, both for anyone reading it and for me doing it.

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Story mode activated!

INTO THE SNARKIVERSE

Everyone on Kerbin remembers where they were when The Anomaly occurred.

The ground shook all over the world. The Mun did a handbrake turn, transforming its circular equatorial orbit into a highly inclined and eccentric one that played havoc with the tides. Minmus disappeared into the distance; a strange lump of rock appeared close to Kerbin, though it was hard to tell if it orbited Kerbin itself or was just in a strange overlapping orbit of Kerbol- some called it Dres, others argued there was no such thing.

As for the other planets, that was a mystery yet to be solved. It took several decades, a great deal of effort and the rediscovery of magnets, but at last the Kerbals were ready to venture out from their homeworld to find out just what kind of solar system they now lived in.

This is their story.

 

The Kerbal Space Centre: grand words for a collection of rundown huts, converted shipping containers and corrugated iron shacks. The team was small- twenty in all- and technology was primitive, little more than old barrels filled with volatile chemicals and parachutes sewn together by the residents of a local care home. Still, it was a start.

Their first launch was the aptly named Rocket 1, piloted by plucky young daredevil Jebediah. Already (in)famous for crashing a home-made microlight into his school when the engine fell off, Jeb had at least passable piloting skills and a total lack of fear that made him the perfect candidate for being strapped into the untested and possibly deadly contraption known as Rocket 1.

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The Mun hung large in the sky during this launch, looming like "that planet-busting space station thingy from that film with the laser swords and stuff," as Jeb put it; though he was pulling five gees at the time and most people knew what he meant.

While the flight itself went fine and the rocket landed safely, the impact with the water caused the flimsy fins on the bottom to disintegrate. A useful haul of scientific data was gathered, much of it from Jeb's observations (though how "I can see my house from here!" is scientifically valuable remains to be seen...) but the limited data storage capacity in the pod was an issue. Future launches will use upgraded hard drives with a mind-blowing two megabytes of storage to try and cope with the greater data volumes produced by running more instruments.

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The Mun sped over the horizon as Jeb's pod got fished out of the ocean; meanwhile a second rocket was being prepared, using lessons learnt from the first. It also included a thermometer, previously used to show if the coffee pot had gone cold. They were going to use a larger solid motor than the first, but then a representative of Jeb's Junkyard turned up and offered a significant payment if they could test their new Swivel liquid-fuelled rocket engine in the sea. The rep seemed as confused as everyone else about doing it in the sea, but a contract's a contract and funds are funds.

Rocket 2 flew off the pad, gaining speed and altitude and gathering data while pilot Valentina added her own observations ("Wheeeeee! This is fun!"). Val was widely regarded as more level-headed than her younger brother Jeb, so it came as a surprise to everyone when she managed to blow up the engine:

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Once again the fragile fins snapped off on splashdown, but while waiting for the recovery boat to come and collect her Val popped open the hatch- and promptly fell into the sea. Fortunately her "spacesuit" was buoyant enough to keep her afloat, so she spent a few minutes swimming around and "doing science" ("Bleugh, this water tastes like rocket fuel!") before discovering that the pod's hard drive was full and deciding to keep her reports saved to her suit's internal memory instead.

An investigation quickly revealed that multiple engine restarts had caused a catastrophic fuel leak that destroyed the engine. The Jeb's Junkyard rep handed over a second Swivel, along with strict instructions to avoid restarting it too many times.

After replacing the engine and removing one of the five small fuel tanks above it, the same rocket was launched again, now wearing the moniker of Rocket 3 and with second year chemical physics student Robert at the controls. While less adventurous and more timid than Val and Jeb, Bob's technical knowledge was put to good use as he monitored the data from several science experiments and landed the craft with its engine intact to run the required tests.  Sadly the official photographer had gone for lunch at that point so no photos were taken of the mission.

Mere minutes after the Jeb's Junkyard rep left after handing over the final contract payment, a second rep from OMB Demolition turned up wanting them to test out their new "decouplers". While the idea of attaching even small quantities of explosives to an already highly explosion-prone rocket made some (Bob) nervous, chief designer Wernher could see the utility of separating bits of rocket from each other and agreed to test the radial separator on the launch pad.

And then promptly ignored that request when creating Rocket 4, which used three solid motors to lift it off the pad, then ignited the main engine when the boosters burnt out and discarded the spent boosters with those new-fangled separators. It was loaded with all the science experiments- a barometer and radiation sensor were added to join the thermometer and those "mystery goo" things- and had enough fuel to make it all the way to space, if only briefly.

It should have been engineering student William's turn in the pod, but Jeb heard "going into space" and immediately pushed to the front of the queue. His enthusiasm was misplaced- the ascent profile went too far downrange and ended up reaching an apoapsis of 68 kilometres, still inside the atmosphere.

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Jeb wasn't happy...

And neither were the science team- once again the pod's hard drive got filled up with data even with an antenna to try and transmit some of it. There wasn't anything they could do about it though, 2MB was the most they could squeeze in.

The OMB rep was also unhappy at them using the separators without doing the tests, so to placate him they decided to run that test on the next launch.

The accounts team (Mortimer and his pot plant so far) were happy though- those three SRBs had been fitted with parachutes and came back down to the launchpad in almost pristine condition, if a little charred around the edges.

 And then yet another rep arrived, this time wanting them to take a Thumper solid booster and launch it to well over forty kilometres of altitude. Wernher saw an opportunity and swapped the three little Flea boosters for a single Thumper.

Rocket 5 was the big one- the first attempt at getting into orbit. Jeb would have leapt at the chance to fly that one, but Jeb was still waiting for the recovery boat to come and pick him up so big sister Val got the flight instead. She made sure to fire that separator on the pad to make the OMB rep happy, then fired up the Thumper and headed for space.

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But alas, some combination of trajectory, design and piloting meant that she was just short of reaching orbit. A disappointing result, yes, but Val still made it into space and reached over 120km altitude, plus the trajectory meant there was plenty of time to gather scientific data from outside the atmosphere. Once again the memory ran out, something that really needs addressed soon; the antenna on top of the pod was of limited use since much of the flight was over the ocean without a signal to the ground.

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Val landed on the far side of Kerbin, a very long way from the Space Centre and somewhere near some mountains; it was dark so she couldn't tell where exactly she was. Search teams have been deployed to try and find her and bring her, the rocket and that valuable data back, but the sun was setting at KSC so everyone  packed up and headed to the local pub for a celebration. Fuelled by contract money and a lot of bonuses from the Kerbin World-Firsts organisation for breaking speed and altitude records, they partied long into the night- except Jeb who was horribly seasick, and Val who was dozing in her pod, out of radio contact, waiting for the recovery teams to find her.

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Day 2 of the Space Program and there were more than a few headaches around. Jeb turned up in the middle of the party and was a bit miffed that they were partying without him (and that Val had beaten him to space), and since he was the least hungover (and Val still wasn't back yet) he got to fly Rocket 6.

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With the data from the previous launch to work with, the ascent trajectory was better this time and Jeb made it into orbit- with fuel to come back too!

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The smugness was unbearable...

After letting all the experiments run through, Jeb turned retrograde and fired the engine to come back. There was some concern about how the little "Pug" engine would handle the heat of re-entry, but it managed fine and Jeb landed without any issues.

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Val returned while Jeb was still being located and took to the sky again in Rocket 7, modified from the previous versions with a brand new probe core on the nose. A spherical probe core, which wasn't particularly aerodynamic and meant that for the second time in as many launches and as many days, Val ended up just short of orbit.

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She was out of radio contact with KSC by the time she landed, so didn't have to listen to little brother Jeb's incessant smugness. Unlike everyone else at the KSC and the local area.

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Sensing an opportunity, Bill and Bob teamed up with Wernher to create a crewless craft using that new-fangled probe doodah, sticking it inside a service bay to avoid the (completely un)aerodynamic issues of Rocket 7.

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With no reaction wheels for attitude control and no SAS on the probe, this launch was a bit tricky to control. The upper stage used a Swivel rather than the gimbal-less Pug so it could actually point in the right direction. Probe 1 made it all the way into orbit, but by that point Jeb's mission had collected most of the science from low orbit so there wasn't much left for the probe to mop up.

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The fuel cells worked as intended and the probe came back intact, both good results.

What followed was a veritable smorgasbord of probe-related tomfoolery, some of which were more successful than others. When it got dark at KSC they sent the probes over to the Dessert Launchsite and then to Woomerang Launchsite to keep the science rolling in.

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This particular rocket didn't go according to plan...

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This one was supposed to be another orbital satellite, but a catastrophic launch failure and a lack of parachutes meant only quick reactions and a well-timed suicide burn averted the complete loss of the probe:

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All the probes aimed at the polar ice caps failed for one reason or another, the last one because it was just going too fast to slow down in time for the parachutes to open; Bill fired them anyway but they ripped off due to excess speed.

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And then the biggest success- Highshot 1, intended simply to go as high as possible. It crossed through the radiation belts, past Kerbin's rings (another product of The Anomaly) and up to over 3000km altitude, gathering science and sending it back until its experiments were run and its batteries were dead.

Despite having no power, no control and re-entering at nearly 3km/s parachute first (and with 120% re-entry heating too!), it survived the descent and landed safely.

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The team at the KSC are in a bit of a quandary- to make probes useful they need reaction wheels, but to get reaction wheels they need science and to get science they need to launch more probes, which they can't control properly. This might mean someone has to fly the first mission to the Mun in person, in a pod, before the probes can be sent out to land there.

A new campaign was started, intending to land probes on the Mun in different places, with a few aerospace companies taking an interest and starting to stump up bigger financial rewards for Mun-related activities. Jeb was all for the "free ice cream" campaign instead, but was outvoted.

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12 hours ago, Admiral Fluffy said:

Neat!
What mods do you have?
(Besides Restock)

Not much- Snarkiverse, obviously; Bon Voyage, MechJeb, Stage Recovery, Simple Logistics; Kerbalism plus the Kerbalism Companion Calculator to do antenna range calculations; I’ve also just added Cryo Engines, Waterfall (PC can just about handle it), BetterSRBs, SSR MicroSat, OctoSat, Blur Steel and X-20 Moroz, though most of those parts are much later in the tech tree than I’ve got to so far, and Kerbin’s Smol Rings is the sole graphics-related addition. I considered Luciole, but the engines are too OP for my liking. Also Strategia, because stock strategies are a bit boring, though some of the Strategia stuff doesn't work that well with Kerbalism so I might drop that.

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Bill: So, what do you think?

Val: ...

Bill: Yeah, it's a bit unconventional but it's the best we could do with the current part limits?

Val: Huh?

Bill: Er, I mean, health and safety regulations orsomethinglikethatIdunno...

Val: ...

Bill: It's going to fly past the Mun.

Jeb: Did someone say-

Val: DIBS!

Jeb: ;.;

And so Munshot 1 lifted off.

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It has one SRB, OK? It's the best we could do.

During this mission Val reported seeing a series of small, faint rings around Kerbin; later the same rings were spotted on the ground. Where did they come from? How did they get there? Are they made of sherbet or icing sugar? All these and more questions will need to be answered, but that's not what we're here for now.

Trying to launch into a 60 degree orbit by hand with a rocket with lopsided thrust is a rather, um, interesting experience, but a quick plane change in orbit fixed that. Val did the transfer burn so her orbit overlapped the Mun's, then just had to sit and wait for a few days until they both reached the same place at the same time. The Mun at periapsis is inside Kerbin's outer radiation belt now so spending several days getting lightly irradiated wasn't the best idea ever...

It was worth it though:

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A safe flyby of the Mun, huge milestone bonuses due to the Mun Probes Strategia strategy and a load of science too. The only problem was that after leaving the Mun's gravity Val found herself on a very suborbital trajectory; burning her remaining fuel helped a bit, but re-entry was brutal and she pulled over 16G as her pod slammed into the lower atmosphere. When she came around again after blacking out from the excessive G-forces, she found herself floating down under parachutes to land in the middle of nowhere. AGAIN.

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Look, Val, if you want to spend some time alone all you have to do is ask, OK? This whole "landing in the middle of nowhere" thing is getting out of hand, it costs money to send those recovery crews out to get you.

Fresh from the success of Munshot 1, Munshot 2 was launched to orbit and then land on the Mun. Unlike Munshot 1, all later models are probes and use a more conventional booster to get into space. Munshot 2 struggled to reach orbit at all due to some aerodynamic instability and while it made orbit of the Mun with fuel to spare, there wasn't enough left to try and land- at least not in one piece!

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Part of the problem was that the tracking station couldn't predict when and where the intercept with the Mun was going to be, but with all the milestone bonuses rolling in the first facility upgrade could be done:

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Now powered by two Kommodore 64s instead of one and boasting three dinky little dishes, the new and improved Tracking Station had everything it needed to calculate patched conics and so accurately predict trajectories moving from one body's gravity to another.

Using this new capability, Munshot 3 got a good intercept of the Mun and flew straight down to the surface without even bothering to get to orbit first.

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The probe landed safely in the Mun's Highlands, completed its science experiments and sent the data home along with the first image of Kerbin from the surface of the Mun:

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There was a little fuel left over and a promising crater nearby that might yield more science. Rolling the probe with its reaction wheel had limited success as it kept trying to stand on its end and went off-course. A short hop with the remaining fuel was attempted, but the engine failed during the descent and was destroyed on impact leaving the now immobile probe languishing on the surface with no new science after all.

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The KSC team were only slightly disappointed by the failure of the hop- just landing on the Mun at all was a major success. Munshot 4 rolled out two days later- nobody was in any fit state to work the morning after Munshot 3's landing, including Val who made it back just in time to join in the festivities- and replicated its sibling probe's feat, landing in a prominent crater with another great view of Kerbin.

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There was extra fuel in this one too so another hop was attempted; the engine worked fine, but the probe landed in the same biome as before and had insufficient fuel to try again. Another successful Mun landing and more science sent home, so another raucous party in the local pub and another spate of sick days taken the next day.

It seems someone partied a little too hard that night, because when Munshot 5 lifted off, this happened:

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The probe was still low enough and slow enough that most of it landed within a few kilometres of the launchpad, but unfortunately not in one piece:

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A slight redesign and hammering most of the dents out and the same probe was ready to launch again by lunchtime:

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Everyone was slightly confused by the change in rocket plumes. Maybe it was Linus' homebrew that he'd brought to the Munshot 4 party, which definitely had a whiff of formaldehyde about it...

Unlike previous missions, Munshot 5 aimed to intercept the Mun close to its apoapsis, meaning it managed to land with more fuel left over than previous attempts.

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The landing site was chosen carefully- a canyon-like feature at the edge of a large crater- and a short biome hop was successfully executed to gather science from both. The only complication was that the probe lost its connection to Kerbin during the second descent and it took over a day to reconnect, much to the relief of the KSC crew- some more than others, as there had been a little sweepstake going about whether or not the probe had survived.

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Two days later after yet another party, a slightly dishevelled Gene found a line of wealthy Kerbals all offering to pay handsomely for the privilege of flying into space. The team came up with a design that might do the job, carrying two tourists and a pilot in one go, but the KV-series pods added too much drag and the first launch was aborted; the two tourists on board didn't mind too much, becoming the first Kerbals (along with Jeb) to experience an in-flight launch abort, but the other tourists waiting for their turn looked a little less keen after that.

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More industry reps showed up offering money for doing some strange things to their parts. Thumper SRB, Erebus hydrolox engine, Compsognathus methalox engine, parachute, landing gear, heatshield- all were tested, launched to specific altitudes and speeds or otherwise (mis)used as requested.

Bob was impressed by the little Compsognathus- just 62.5cm across yet packing more than triple the thrust of the Pug and performing almost as well at sea level as in vacuum, it would make a great engine for a side booster or for a small probe. It also looked great at full power:

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With the Mun Probes strategy complete following three successful landings, a strategy meeting was called to decide on their next steps. Science is still needed so more Mun probes are an option, however their yields are relatively low and there may be more science to be gained by looking further afield.

Wait, isn't that Dres lurking just beyond Kerbin's SOI? And what's that little moon beside it- Minmus!?

Spoiler

 

Edited by jimmymcgoochie
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"I'm booooooooored!"

For all that Jeb's a great pilot, he can be a bit petulant and sulky at times. Fortunately for everyone else at KSC, there's a solution that puts his piloting to good use and can get some science at the same time.

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After a bit of initial confusion as to why the "Blue Steel" wasn't actually blue or steel, Jeb took the plane out for a spin- it flew well enough with a low minimum speed, but seemed to have asymmetric lift and was very prone to rolling when physics warp was on Jeb started daydreaming.

With atmospheric pressure readings gathered above the shores, highlands and mountains, Jeb spotted something up the coast from KSC and decided to take a look. So naturally, that's when the engine failed.

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A parachute landing and a lot of rolling later, it turned out to be an abandoned launchsite, slowly being reclaimed by the sea:

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With the engine repaired and Jeb busy exploring this new launchsite, it was up to Val to take the plane for its next mission in the desert.

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"Hey, Control? What's that metal doodah?"

"Uh, let me get back to you on that. TERRY! WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT LEAVING YOUR "ARTWORKS" LYING AROUND ON THE BASE!?"

"Your mic is still on, Control... OK, I'm taking off now, oof this thing's suspension is awful- ouch! ooyah! *scraaaaaaaaaape* ow, my shin!"

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The ground team worked wonders, replacing the broken parts and upgrading the engine to a more powerful model to give the plane a bit more speed. Unfortunately they didn't manage to fix the wheels...

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Val: "Wow, this thing handles terribly! It's like half a wing is missing."

Control: "Uh, Val? You're missing a wingtip and they're the only ailerons on the plane."

Val: "Well, that figures. Ooh, what's that down there?"

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Val: "Can I go and see it, pleeease?"

Gene: "No can do, Val, you don't have the fuel."

Val: "Bah, you're no fun."

With that mission over with and some more science gathered, someone had the bright idea of stapling some big solid boosters to that plane and launching it from Woomerang launchsite towards the polar ice caps.

There was only one Kerbal up for the job of piloting it...

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Jeb: "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

Bob: "Hey Jeb? You're on a science mission, not a-"

Jeb: "Yeah, yeah, science stuff switched on, it'll do its thing when I get there."

Bob: "The hard drive is full."

Jeb: "So?"

Bob: "So, you need to get out and take the data so it can keep running."

Jeb: "...get out? I'm almost at the north pole, ice all around me, and you want me to GET OUT!?"

Bob: "What, you're scared of a little cold? Just remember to leave the engine running-"

Jeb: "To keep me warm?"

Bob: "No, to power the science stuff."

Jeb: ...

Bob: "And to keep you warm too I suppose..."

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The jet fuel ran out in the end, halting the science gathering. Jeb wasn't too impressed about having to stand around outside in the freezing cold until the recovery team arrived, but the science data was worth it.

While Jeb defrosted with copious application of "antifreeze" (read: more of Linus' homebrew), the science team put their heads together and modified the Munshot probe design to include a return capsule. Munshot 6 wouldn't land but instead orbit, gather the mystery goo readings from low altitude around the Mun and then send that sample back in the capsule while the rest of the probe stayed in Kerbin orbit doing more science. The mission was hampered a bit by the high electricity use of the new MITE and SITE experiments, however careful energy management was enough to ensure that it completed its primary objective.

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Munshot 6's orbiter also included a relay dish so it could provide some signal relaying capacity; the existing DSN stations worked well enough for equatorial orbits, but the Mun's orbit had been shifted to 60 degrees inclination by The Anomaly and launching into that orbital plane meant a probe could go around for an entire orbit without getting any signal at all.

The next launch, Highshot 3, also carried a relay dish and was launched into a polar orbit. A modification of the earlier Munshot probes, Highshot 3 traded most of the extraneous parts for maximum fuel cell fuel and was designed to gather as much MITE and SITE data as possible with over 6 days worth of continuous power generation with everything running. Not nearly as good as having solar panels, but they're still some way away yet.

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Seeing an opportunity, Bill proposed another idea- using bigger fuel tanks and a more efficient Terrier engine, it should be easy enough to launch a probe into interplanetary space and most likely to Dres, which continues to hover just outside Kerbin's gravity well. The Sunshot 1 probe was pared back, carrying only the science experiments that could be transmitted back and which consumed the least power to stretch out the fuel cell fuel for as long as possible, but carried two relay dishes to improve its communication range.

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At last, Kerbin's inhabitants have begun the exploration of their reshuffled solar system. There's still a long way to go, but Sunshot 1 is the first step on that path and with any luck will find out how Kerbin's second satellite ended up around that good-for-nothing-not-really-a-planet-

Jeb, stop tampering with the official reports!

- Gene

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Another day, another probe launched to get science around Kerbin. The team at KSC are amassing an impressive collection of loyalty points from various rocket suppliers and hardware stores by launching all these probes.

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In between probe missions, there was time to squeeze in an engine test along with a materials bay experiment.

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Purple fire? Nice.

And then came the big incident...

Gene: So we're going to launch a special crewed mission-

Jeb: DIBS!!!

Gene: Jeb, I haven't even told you what-

Jeb, already climbing into the pod before it's even attached to the rocket: MINE!

Gene: *sigh* fine, you can have this one.

later...

Jeb: Aaaand engine cutoff! So now that I'm in space and all, are you going to tell me what this mission is for?

Gene: It's a long-duration mission to test the effects of long-term exposure-

Jeb: yawn...

Gene: -for thirty days.

Jeb: What?

Gene: Controls locked out, see you in thirty days.

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'While Jeb orbited Kerbin again, and again, and again, Sunshot 1 arrived at Kerbin's new neighbour, the moon-thieving sub-planet called Dres.

OK, seriously, what do you all have against Dres? It may not be that big, or pretty, or interesting in any way whatsoever, but...

Hmm, actually you may have a point.

- Gene

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Soon after arriving, it set a course for Minmus and first orbited, then landed on the little minty moon.

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With a large reserve of fuel left over, the probe hopped to several different biomes to maximise its science yield. Unfortunately for the probe, Bill was too fixated on the rated ignitions counter to notice that the rated burn time counter had ticked down to zero, resulting in an engine failure at the worst possible time- half way through another biome hop, with the probe flying through the air.

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The team were convinced that the probe would be destroyed on impact, however the service bay seemed to protect the probe inside from most of the impact forces and the probe survived, minus one of its two dishes, to transmit the remaining science data.

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Of course, it was only after this that they realised the probe hadn't sent back any data from space low around Dres, because it hadn't actually been to space low around Dres. Intercepting Minmus on the first orbit meant that it never lowered its periapsis far enough. Still, any excuse for a second probe...

With all the data coming back from Sunshot 1, the team were able to get their hands on some new tech- the OKTO probe core, with built-in SAS and reaction wheel, and solar panels! No more relying on fuel cells with finite fuel to provide the power for these probes. They were also able to upgrade the launchpad from a scorched lump of concrete to a proper launchpad with a real pad crawler instead of an old tow truck to move the rockets out there, upping the maximum launch weight sevenfold to a hefty 140 tons.

That's a looooot of boosters...

The next launch only required two boosters, but due to the increased launch mass it could fire the boosters first and then activate the core liquid-fuelled stage once the boosters were burnt out. On the top, the first X-20 spaceplane configured to carry a crew of up to 4 and so complete all those space tourism contracts.

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Trying to launch a plane on top of a rocket wasn't particularly easy- one slip-up and the whole rocket flips- so for the first flight it was just Val on board to steer the slightly unwieldy shuttle into space; a task which she was more than capable of completing, making orbit with a healthy margin of fuel in the upper stage.

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Spaceplanes are uncharted territory, especially for EDL (entry, descent, landing) so perhaps unsurprisingly, Val totally overshot the KSC. She was still over 20km up as she flew over!

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By the time she slowed down and turned around she was too far out to fly back to KSC. She tried to make it to the Island Airfield, but a combination of tricky controls and accidentally leaving the airbrakes switched on meant she fell short of that too and had to ditch in the ocean instead. The KSC team watched with concern as she dropped into the ocean, but they needn't have worried- the ditching was textbook and no damage was done to Val or the shuttle.

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She even landed close to the KSC this time!

With the test flight out of the way and the shuttle demonstrated to be flightworthy, the tourists were queueing up for flights. Flight number 2 took Val, two tourists (the same two who flew on the first aborted tourism flight) and Bill, who got his first flight at last (and made orbit before Bob, who wasn't best pleased) before returning on a much more accurate re-entry trajectory. They still overshot, but not by much and Val brought the shuttle in for a landing- on the runway of all places!

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Spoiler

At this point I couldn't be bothered to actually fly all the other tourism contracts using the same craft and doing the same flight in each, so I calculated the funds gained from the contracts, subtracted launch costs and just cheated the whole thing done. I'm only doing them for the money anyway and I have better things to do with my time than repeat the same boring flight over and over again.

Bill was so caught up in his first spaceflight (and Bob so caught up in his jealousy at not having had his own orbital flight) that they completely forgot about those new-fangled "sun panels" on Sunshot 2, sending it off to Dres with a new OKTO probe core and vastly improved data storage, but still powered by a fuel cell.

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Spoiler

Jeb: Hello? Anyone!? I'm getting bored up here!

Val: What's wrong, little bro? I thought you wanted to set all the spaceflight records?

Jeb: ...

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Good news- my broken GPU has been replaced under warranty and the new one is on its way. However I'm rather enjoying this playthrough and I think I'll continue it- just with the graphics turned up again and without the lag whenever I look at the ground!

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These newfangled solar panels require some experimentation. Deploy the probes!

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Back to fuel cells for a materials bay probe to grab that data from space high over Kerbin- it requires 2EC per second which is the equivalent of about 14 solar panels, or one fuel cell and a couple of little tanks of hydrogen/oxygen since it'll be in space for an hour at most.

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That brought back enough science to research something new. New engines? New plane-related stuff? New probes? New experiments?

Nah, in the end they went for fuel tanks, then created this thing:

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Not the prettiest rocket ever- in fact it's mildly absurd- but methalox is lighter than conventional LF/Ox so gets good delta-V without making it too heavy to get off the pad. The first stage had a probe core on it to do a propulsive landing (said StageRecovery) and then the upper stage put the probe above into orbit around the Mun, for science!

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This one is solar powered and used 10 of those little panels (out of a total of 30 parts!) to feed the power-hungry materials bays. Getting to the Mun was pretty easy, but capturing into orbit required a lot more fuel than expected, partly because the probe was launched into an equatorial Kerbin orbit instead of matching the Mun's inclination. Returning from the Mun at apoapsis is a lot easier, just leaving its SOI retrograde to its orbit around Kerbin puts you on a suborbital trajectory; wait until the Mun has moved away before trying to fix that or you'll end up falling back into the Mun's gravity and getting flung off in a strange direction or crashing into it.

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With those samples returned, the team realised that materials bay samples had been acquired from everywhere in Kerbin's SOI, apart from Kerbin's upper atmosphere. This was quickly fixed with a pair of probes to skim through the rarefied air over 60km up and gather those samples before returning.

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And finally- FINALLY!!!- it was time for Jeb to come home after 30 long, long days in orbit. His behaviour was rather... erratic.

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Unclear if he was kissing the ground or eating it, all the recovery crews know is that by the time they got there, all the grass in a hundred metre radius had withered and the smell was unbelievable. With the benefit of hindsight, maybe including some kind of tank to hold the, er, waste products, would have been advisable...

Shortly after that Sunshot 2 arrived at Dres, completely overshot its course correction burn and ended up having to use Minmus for a gravity assist to capture into a retrograde orbit. It seems the automatic alarm system in Mission Control didn't go off properly in time for the burn, resulting in the probe having less fuel than planned.

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The landing attempt went ahead anyway but disaster struck- the probe ran out of fuel and hit the ground at about 35m/s, smashing the engine and fuel tank and sending it tumbling away downhill. Everything looked OK until the second impact, which ripped off one of the two HG-5 dishes and also destroyed the fuel cell and with it the probe's only source of power. The probe stopped on the surface with no further damage and collected its data, but without the fuel cell the batteries wouldn't last long and with only one dish data transmission rates were painfully slow. Most of the data was still waiting to be sent when the power ran out, marking an inauspicious end to the first Dres landing.

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But then again Dres did steal Minmus so it was hardly surprising that it didn't play fair. Substantial financial rewards for reaching Dres and landing on it, as well as the flyby of Minmus and a variety of contracts, are almost enough to upgrade the VAB and escape the 30 part limit bring in a bigger workforce and better cranes to make the rockets even bigger.

At this point Bob stormed into Mission Control, stole Gene's master launch key and refused to give it back unless he was sent to orbit on the very next launch. Two tourists turned up at around the same time looking for their own orbital experience, so Val took the Tourist Shuttle out for another flight.

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The ascent was completely fine, Bob got his orbital flight at last and Val's re-entry profile was perfect, skimming through the atmosphere and controlling their descent rate nicely. She overshot a bit though, but had ample speed and altitude to turn around and approach from the east.

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At Bob's insistence, the Tourist Shuttle had been fitted with a parachute for emergency landings; seems only fair that they tested it while he was on board. Unfortunately it didn't go entirely according to plan, providing insufficient drag to slow the shuttle down entirely and resulting in a hard landing when the landing gear phased through the ground collapsed due to the high vertical speed and the tail fins broke off on impact.

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No sooner had the parachute crumpled to the ground, Bob burst out of the rear hatch, bolted across the KSC complex and locked himself in his office in the R&D department where he's been ever since. It's rather unlikely that he'll ever go to space again so we may need to hire some more scientists for future missions...

Spoiler

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/5oiOdig

My new GPU is here at last! Still no graphics mods, but now I can turn all the textures up full and play the game at a reasonable resolution- and with sound too! Though why the integrated graphics thingy couldn't do sound is beyond me...

The VAB upgrade is top priority, however it might have to be put on hold to upgrade the Astronaut Complex instead- that upgrade would allow EVA training so Kerbals could do EVAs in flight, as well as plant flags.

Spoiler

Jeb- Why can't we plant flags now? It's not rocket science, you just stick the pointy end in the ground, pull that handle and *smacks himself in the face with the extending flag boom* never mind...

 

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What just happened? Was it another Anomaly? Everything seems... brighter, sharper, more defined than before. Look at the ground! Look at the water! Look at, well, EVERYTHING!

Spoiler

New GPU is here! :D All graphics settings go from (almost) minimum to maximum, spot the differences in the screenshots :wink:

Some crazy rich guy turned up at KSC offering good money for the privilege of being made to black out from excessive G-forces. While the sanity of the idea was questionable, the KSC crew never knowingly turn down easy money and stuck this crazy tourist in a capsule on top of the biggest and most powerful SRB they had with the bare minimum of solid fuel.

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15G or more for five seconds did the job!

Seeing an opportunity, Bill, Bob and Wernher put their heads together and soon unveiled their new creation- a self-driving rover for the Mun, launched using another of those big SRBs but with full fuel and a more sensible thrust curve.

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Then they launched another, but then...

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Engine failure on the second stage when it ignited to circularise over Kerbin. While the rover isn't going to the Mun, the skycrane on top is more than capable of doing a powered landing on Kerbin- and is stupidly overpowered for the Mun.

The replacement for that mission seemed to launch at exactly the right time, arriving at the Mun a whole day before the first one.

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The skycrane worked as intended, though it barely got above 5% throttle, and the rover landed safely on the Mun in a Highland Crater.

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Once the skycrane was jettisoned and the science had been gathered, the Bon Voyage module was switched on and programmed to take the rover to one of the Mun's largest craters to get more science.

A day later, Mun Rover 1 joined its sibling on the Mun and went in search of science:

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With the Mun rovers done it looked like the KSC team were ready to move on to something new, but then Linus had a brilliant idea- why not send rovers around Kerbin?

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The first Kerbin rover rolled out from Woomerang shortly after, its mission- go to the northern ice shelf via as many icy biomes as possible and get science. It also has a big relay antenna and might be useful as a signal booster for craft in low polar orbits, though that remains to be seen.

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Positively giddy at being listened to, Linus threw an even more outlandish suggestion out there- what if we made a rover that can go on water too! And that's exactly what they did:

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Three Amphibious Rovers were built in total, one dispatched from Woomerang to drive to the ocean then sail itself to Crater Island and two sent from the partly subsided Cove launch site, discovered by Jeb on his first plane flight, which went in opposite directions: one headed south-east towards Kerbin's second continent to try and find the semi-mythical "badlands" where no Kerb dare tread, while the other headed south-west to explore some islands in the southern hemisphere and eventually reach the south pole.

The loss of Sunshot 2 after its crash-landing on Dres was still weighing on Wernher's mind- if only they'd had a better signal, they could have gotten much more data out of the stricken probe before its batteries died. Working long into the night and then into the next morning, he finally revealed his idea to the rest of the KSC crew, whose reaction was... lukewarm at best. Most of that was just because he said "Dres" though, the idea itself was sound plus they got to see one of those new-fangled hydrogen-burning engines in action:

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The Dres Relay was duly dispatched to everyone's least-favourite planetary body where it will take up a high polar orbit, gather some SITE data and hopefully boost the signal transmission rates for future missions to Minmus. 

(Fine, and to Dres too...)

And then, just when they thought they'd seen every contract offer out there, some rather sheepish looking corporate reps turned up with a rather embarrassing coincidence- three private companies had tried to launch Kerbals into space, but all three had failed and there were now three Kerbals stuck in low Kerbin orbit with no way to get back.

The heads of the KSC departments got together to discuss, The deal was simple- rescue them and they'll join the Space Program, free of charge; in fact the companies they previously worked for were offering pretty significant financial rewards for rescuing them. CFO (sole accountant) Mortimer was immediately onboard with that and managed to talk Head of Facilities (chief janitor and maintenance man) Gus into it when he pointed out that the money saved would mean they could upgrade the VAB; VP Public Relations (a.k.a. three-time Kerbin's Most Soporific Voice winner) Walt saw the reputation benefits of rescuing the stricken Kerbals (though by this point he was really regretting losing that bet with Morty during the "first orbit" party since he now had to do all the press conferences wearing a full hazmat suit for the rest of the year); Acting Head of Science (because Wernher was Head of Design in these meetings and the others felt that giving him two roles- and two votes- was a bit unfair) Linus didn't contribute much, he would much rather be in Mission Control keeping watch over his fleet of rovers, despite the fact that they were fully autonomous; and Head of Design Wernher was too busy demolishing the tray of pastries in the middle of the table to make any meaningful contribution, besides suggesting they use the Tourist Shuttle and rescue all three stranded Kerbals in one go (through a massive spray of pastry crumbs).

With that decided, the Tourist Shuttle was duly wheeled out and despite the reservations of many, Jeb was chosen to pilot it. They weren't sure how Jeb would react to being back in space following the flight of Endurance 1, but aside from the occasional eye twitch or spontaneous giggling fit he seemed to be back to normal; or something vaguely resembling normal at any rate.

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There was a brief panic in Mission Control when Jeb suddenly popped the hatch and went out on an EVA, but all they heard over the radio was "WHEEEEEEEE!" as he jetted around for a few minutes then returned.

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One by one the stranded Kerbals were rescued, the task using up all the fuel in the shuttle's upper stage and a sizeable portion of its onboard RCS too. When they were all aboard Jeb deorbited the shuttle and soon realised that the weak RCS thrusters weren't slowing them down nearly quickly enough to try and land at the KSC. Sure enough, they overshot by a much higher margin than Val ever did (which she was happy to remind him of at any available opportunity, in much the same way that he had reminded her of her two failed orbital flights while he made it on his first try) and splashed down into the ocean some distance away.

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Recovery teams were scrambled to pick them up, however a passing merchant freighter saw them splash down and quickly came over, fished them out of the ocean with an onboard crane and took them to the nearest port- after the entire crew posed with the shuttle and its crew of spacekerbs, obviously!

Spoiler

The money from the rescue missions was enough to upgrade the VAB at last, meaning much bigger and better rockets can now be assembled and launched to more far-flung destinations. At long last, Kerbalkind can discover exactly what happened to their solar system during The Anomaly and where all the various planetary bodies ended up. Besides the Mun, Minmus and Dres it's not clear what happened to everything else; most of the planets seem to be in the same places, more or less, but the moons are anyone's guess.

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For over sixty days the Space Program has been exploring, investigating, pushing the frontiers of Kerbalkind's understanding of The Anomaly that reshaped their solar system. Well, today The Anomaly fought back:

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Spoiler

Quit smashing my rover wheels, Bon Voyage :mad:

The loss of both Mun rovers hurt, they could easily have visited all the Mun's biomes and gathered a lot more science; maybe the next generation of rovers will have more luck? The rovers on Kerbin aren't doing much better- Amphibious Rover 3 lost some of its wheels followed by a high-speed crash when it tried to stop itself careering downhill, Amphibious Rover 2 keeps stopping because the autopilot module thinks it's out of fuel (it's still almost full, and the identical Amphibious Rover 1 has no such issues) and the pole-bound Kerbin Rover 1 is just really, really slow. The team sent out another Amphibious Rover from Woomerang, but modified with many more solar panels and some backup communications systems in case the main dish breaks, which will take up the lost rover's mission of visiting Crater Island.

To make up for the losses and to boost morale at the KSC, the most significant mission to date was launched- CREWED MUN LANDING!

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Shortly after Val launched into orbit, Jeb was found in a store cupboard in the VAB with a splitting headache and smelling faintly of chloroform...

The mission went exactly as planned, most of the time.

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And then the weirdness began...

Val: Wheeeee! This low gravity is great fun!

Gene: OK Val, we've done the publicity shots so you can pack up those lights again.

Val: ...um, no.

Gene: What do you mean, no?

Val: I mean, I can't pick them up. They're too big and heavy.

Gene: Val, they're two kilos each.

Val: I know that, but...

Linus: Hey Val, try again now?

Val: ...nope.

Linus: Really? Even with the mass/volume cheats switched on?

Val: Say again?

Linus: Er, I mean, um... Is that a Kraken?

Val: KRAKEN!? I'm outta here!

Spoiler

Yeah, those lights seemed to be cursed- Val could quite happily take them out of the pod and carry them and they were well within the volume and mass limits, but picking one up once it had been deployed? Not a chance, even with the cheats turned on it would "exceed her carry limits" or something like that. Weird.

Despite the incident with the lights the mission was an outstanding success- much science was gathered, many funds were acquired from a variety of contracts and world-firsts rewards, and Val returned without any further incidents- even hopping out her pod to plant a flag once she'd returned to Kerbin's surface.

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A mission was being put together when an urgent call came in- someone had tried to do a Mun mission of their own but had managed to strand their intrepid Kerbonaut in orbit of the Mun. This was a perfect opportunity to test out a new upper-stage engine, complete a bunch of contracts and bolster the Space Program's reputation, so the existing design was modified to include RCS thrusters and launched at the next alignment with the Mun's inclined orbit.

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Actually rendezvousing with the stranded craft was tricky- they were in a near equatorial orbit whereas the rescue craft arrived in a highly inclined orbit due to the way the Mun orbits Kerbin. A series of course corrections were performed using the same RK-0109 second stage as for the Mun lander, then with a prototype "Hecate" cryogenic engine with a simply astounding ISP of 465s, making up for the low density of liquid hydrogen with sheer efficiency and low overall mass.

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The craft was fitted with strobe lights in case the rendezvous happened in the dark (as is right and proper), however it happened in daylight instead.

Gene: Rendezvous coming up, stand by to cancel relative velocity at closest approach.

Jeb: Roger that.

Gene: What's our closest approach?

*clang scraaaaaaaaaaape*

Gene: Never mind...

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The collision was at a very slow speed so there was no real damage to either craft besides a bit of paint swapping; that being said, where did this big flange thing come from and should we be worried that it's not attached to anything any more?

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The return trajectory was downright weird- leaving the Mun at its apoapsis, the craft ended up in a retrograde orbit of Kerbin and spent most of the trip back down stuck in Kerbin's shadow, requiring a course correction radially to get light on the solar panels and avoid running out of power entirely. There was plenty of fuel left on that oh-so-efficient upper stage to make that burn and to brake before re-entry and the pod landed safely without any trouble.

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The craft wasn't intended to get any science, however an EVA report combined with the observations of that flange (how is that "science"? -Jeb) meant that it got a higher science return than some of the old Munshot landers.

While that was going on, the other three rescued Kerbals headed out on a "team building exercise" as Gene put it, deploying a big cluster of deployed science equipment near the flagpole outside the Astronaut Complex.

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(How is golf "science"!? -Jeb)

And finally, the Dres Relay arrived at nobody's favourite celestial body and captured into a high polar orbit where it will stay for a while and gather science. Orbital velocity up there is a mere 60m/s and there's several hundred left in the tanks so plenty of scope to change the orbit if the signal to other craft isn't strong enough at that range.

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With the recent influx of science the new Hitchhiker crew module is now available, along with a series of crew experiments that can be done in a variety of places. A space station might be a good idea, however it would still need to be powered by many small static solar panels and small batteries, connected up with the smallest docking ports and with limited signal bandwidth to the surface even using those HG-20 quad dishes. Better technologies require a lot of science and a very expensive R&D upgrade though, so it might be a case of making the best of what's available now. RCS systems are available now so at least docking is a possibility.

Spoiler

 

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Gotta say I'm loving this mission report.

 

 

18 hours ago, jimmymcgoochie said:

While that was going on, the other three rescued Kerbals headed out on a "team building exercise" as Gene put it, deploying a big cluster of deployed science equipment near the flagpole outside the Astronaut Complex.

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(How is golf "science"!? -Jeb)

Just asking though, what's that cuboid-ish deployed science part in front of the leftmost kerbal? It doesn't look like any of the stock parts I've seen, and if it's a mod, which one?

Edited by The Dressian Exploder
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Spoiler

So here's the thing- I've already done a playthrough of the stock system with Kerbalism and after nearly 6 years of in-game time I barely managed to put a base on Gilly: 

 

I'm not sure how long I'll stick to this game as while it's still interesting enough now I don't particularly fancy the grind of unlocking everything and doing interplanetary missions again, especially after two Kerbalism Grand Tours. That said, I'm still playing with the science, funds and reputation gains at 50% so I might bump those up to make the game less grindy without making it any easier to do the missions.

And now back to our (ir)regularly scheduled viewing...

The idea seemed simple enough- launch the core of a space station into orbit, take the contract money, then use the station to do some science. Thus a new station was launched with loads of batteries, some reserve fuel and even some blinky lights to show where the doors and docking ports are.

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Unfortunately nobody bothered to look at the small print for the one crew experiment currently available, which says it needs four crew, about a whole hitchhiker's worth of internal space for each of those four crew, and six electric charge per second to run the experiment. Oops. That "station" might yet be useful for something, but until then it'll just sit in orbit as a gloriously overdesigned relay.

Too late, the next X-20 shuttle was already built with a docking section to allow it to dock to the station. Instead of doing that, it took a tourist into space and rescued another stranded Kerbal:

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And this is why they call them the "Whoopstooshort Mountains":

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The shuttle landed safely under parachutes after turning back to avoid the mountains. Nobody was really paying attention at that point, too busy either trying to figure out why the Amphibious Rovers kept stopping and saying they were "out of fuel" when they're clearly not (OOC: Come on, Bon Voyage, it can't be that hard- AR1 is absolutely fine but all the others keep stopping every other day and have to be rebooted, which isn't easy when there's no signal due to a lack of relays in Kerbin orbit) or building Munlander 2 to take a crew of two to the Mun. Jeb was once again eager to get his boots on the Mun, but oddly enough when it reached the launchpad he was nowhere to be found and so Bill and Bob went up instead.

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And then just as they started the trans-Munar injection burn...

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The second stage engine blew up. With nearly 2km/s still left in the tanks that was a major blow for the mission- Bill and Bob would still make it to Munar orbit and most likely to the surface as well, but once landed they'd be stuck there.

Fortunately for them there was a backup Munlander and an untested prototype Mun crew rover that could be launched in a hurry to salvage the mission:

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There was a little bit of a delay to the launches as the Dessert Launchsite moved around into the Mun's orbital plane, allowing a little relay to be stuck on the top of the second Munlander to be dropped off in orbit of the Mun. (This delay also meant Jeb and Val had a chance to try and sneak onto the second Munlander and steal a ride to the Mun, but they were discovered before the launch and unceremoniously removed from the capsule...)

Once the relay was deployed, rover and lander made their descents.

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And once the return infrastructure was in place, Bill and Bob headed down to the surface too. They ended up running out of fuel about ten metres above the surface, showing just how much fuel they'd lost when the second stage engine failed.

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The deployed science site was deployed, the, er, "EVA science" was performed, and then the rover arrived in the nick of time to carry them to their new lander- but not before Bill had nicked some parts off their now defunct lander.

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Spoiler

And once again, Bon Voyage wrecked the wheels on arrival :mad:

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8 wheels on it, but it ended up with just three; enough to still drive with Bon Voyage but I don't trust it any more...

There was just time for a single postcard shot of the lander with Kerbin right behind it:

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(That's going to sell a lot of postcards and fridge magnets - Mortimer)

After launching near the Mun's apoapsis they came back to Kerbin, giving Bob a chance to grab some more "EVA science" along the way:

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And despite the lack of heatshields (because 1.875m heatshields are in a node that hasn't been researched yet) the re-entry went without incident, bringing Bill and Bob back home with a bounty of science data which will be put to good use in the near future.

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Spoiler

There's a lot of science still to be had on the Mun and loads more over at Dres and Minmus, which have only been visited once each- this would normally call for a fleet of rovers, except that many rovers have met untimely ends or had serious incidents with exploding wheels so the KSC team no longer trust them to work as intended once they arrive at their destinations. Perhaps a fleet of tiny probes would be a better option? Maybe even shooting interplanetary to somewhere like Eve or Duna? And how about a proper communications network around Kerbin?

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TEAM MEETING

Boardroom.

2 o'clock sharp.

Everyone is required.

(That means you, Jeb!)

 

Jeb: owowowowowowowowowow (Val and Jeb enter the room, Val dragging Jeb along by the ear) OK, OK, I'm here please let go...

Gene: So now that we're all accounted for, here's the situation. Next slide please.

Bob: Uh, Gene? That's not a slideshow, that's a window...

Gene: As I was saying- the Munlander 2 mission may have been a success and we got some good publicity out of the whole "daring rescue" thing, but there are a lot of people asking why we deliberately sent Bill and Bob down to the Mun knowing they couldn't get back and had to rely on a rescue mission in the first place. And quite frankly, they're right- it was reckless, dangerous and we can't afford another mishap like that. Until we get some solid successes to reassure the public that we know what we're doing, no more crewed missions beyond low Kerbin orbit.

Jeb: inarticulate whimpering noises

Gene: Over to you, Wernher.

Wernher: Thanks Gene. With the additional scientific data gathered by Bill and Bob on and around the Mun, we've developed a new generation of small, lightweight probes that we can send to other planets in groups to maximise the gains and at the same time form a preliminary communications system. We have two missions ready for construction: the first will send four small probes out to Dres-

Jeb: Boo-ouch! My shin! *glowers at Val sitting opposite*

Wernher: -with the aim of attempting multiple landings on both Dres and Minmus; the second uses a similar design but adds relay capabilities to the transfer stage and will be launched to Duna. It's not the ideal time to be launching to Duna, but the design has the delta-V for it and the low chance of failure is outweighed by the potentially large gains for success. We have to start investigating The Anomaly further afield than Kerbin's immediate vicinity and ground-based telescopes seem to suggest that Duna's moon Ike has either broken apart or disappeared entirely, which this mission can investigate in advance of a more sophisticated mission that will be better equipped as a result of the data we can get now.

Gene: I'm not too fond of the idea of launching a "risky" mission, however the low cost of the probes and the potentially large gains make it worth doing. If we're going to find out what caused The Anomaly, we're going to need to take some risks. The cluster missions are a go.

Bill, Bob, Linus, Wernher, Gus: :); Jeb: :( 

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Dres Quartet, above, and Duna Quartet, below, launching to their respective planets destinations (Dres is NOT a planet!)

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Gene: The next item to discuss is the fate of those amphibious rovers we sent out across Kerbin. Linus, can you update us on their progress?

Linus: Unfortunately the Amphibious Rovers haven't worked nearly as well as we'd hoped. There seems to be an issue with the autonomous control module that causes them to repeatedly stop and go into a safe mode; it's easy enough to reset them, but for that we need to connect them to the DSN and right now they're in remote areas of the oceans where communications are patchy at best.

Gene: I thought you included the best relay dishes we had on those rovers.

Linus: It's not the rovers that are the problem- they just can't "see" any of the ground stations where they are and there are no dedicated relays around Kerbin to connect to the DSN stations. We get occasional, sporadic connections when one of the Kerbin orbit probes with a relay dish happens to pass by overhead, but most of the time they're operating blind and so will keep stopping for long periods of time if there's a problem.

Gene: Wernher, would a keostationary relay network around Kerbin be possible with the Mun in its current orbit?

Wernher: It's, er, possible, but the margins around the Mun would be too close for comfort. It would be more practical to launch them into a higher orbit that avoids the Mun completely when it's passing through Kerbin's equatorial plane, providing better coverage of higher latitudes.

Linus: We could re-use the probe design from the Dres and Duna Quartets, simplify it by removing the scientific instruments and launch three of them on a much smaller rocket, then use a resonant orbit to ensure they're evenly spaced in their orbit.

Gene: Sounds like a good idea- do it.

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Gene: Next up, we've been contacted by no less than three aerospace companies who've been trying to launch their own space programs but keep stranding their crews in space.

Val: We could send up that tourist shuttle with just a pilot on board and pick all three of them up in one go.

Gene: Ah yes, I remember you doing that before. Very good- do it again.

Val: :DJeb: ;.;

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This mission was completely successful, absolutely no problems with the landing skids clipping through the ground resulting in many explosions as the whole shuttle was destroyed on landing, nope, no siree...

Gene: Now we move on to this "SCAN" stuff. Bill, Bob?

Bill: Yes, the planetary mapping folk. They want us to create maps of Kerbin in multiple wavelengths including radar, infrared and UV to get a better picture of what Kerbin actually looks like.

Bob: If the technology works out around Kerbin we could use it around other planets and moons (and Dres...) to not only find the best landing sites and any unusual surface features, but also to look for any tell-tale traces of The Anomaly or what caused it.

Bill: The scanners are rather bulky compared to our available probe cores and they use quite a lot of power, but the results will be worth it. It'll also give us an extra relay satellite in a polar orbit which should cover a few black spots in the relay network. We'd like to launch from Woomerang for two reasons- Kerbin's rotation is slower nearer the poles so it requires less effort to reach a polar orbit, plus the higher elevation will save some delta-V to make up for the increased fuel cost of launching into a polar orbit.

Gene: Very good. Make it so.

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Gene: And now for the final item on the agenda- Linus?

Linus: After the mishaps with the rovers on Kerbin and the Mun, we've designed a new and improved rover that should address the issues encountered by those earlier models. This new design uses rugged girders to protect the more delicate electronics, comes with powerful communications and reaction wheels and ample solar panels to allow fully autonomous exploration. We call it the "super-rover" and the same design should be usable on the Mun, Minmus and coughcoughnotarealplanetcoughcough Dres. Making three identical rovers should reduce the chances of any mistakes in the manufacturing process.

Gene: I like the sound of that.

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Linus: ...hang on a minute- oh...

Gene: What?

Linus: Just a second-

F9

Gene: *confused blinking* ...Sorry, did you say something, Linus?

Linus: Nope. Nothing at all, everything is absolutely fine, the probe cores are definitely the right way up as they were the whole time, nothing to worry about.

Gene: Huh. OK then...

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Bob: Uh, Linus? You seem to be a bit low on fuel there.

Linus: Don't worry, this design features a novel landing system

*KABOOM*

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Bob: How is "running out of fuel and smashing the transfer stage into the Mun" a novel landing system?

Linus: It worked, didn't it? The rover is perfectly fine.

Bob: Explosions aren't "perfectly fine"!

Jeb: Did someone say explosions? :D 

 

Gene: Meeting adjourned. Wait, why can I smell burning?

Jeb: Barbecue time!

Wernher: You didn't take one of those "Poodle" engines and turn it upside down like the advertising blurb said, did you?

Jeb: ...

Wernher: ...you didn't, did you?

Val: I saw a meme like this once...

Spoiler

 

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Jeb: Hi Gene, you wanted to see me? And was that Walt with a tranquiliser gun?

Gene: What? No, of course not. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know before we announce it to anyone else...

Jeb: *hopeful* Go on.

Gene: A very lucrative contract has just come in, one which will require a trip over to the Mun.

Jeb: *barely contained excited squeals*

Gene: It's a satellite repair contract, so we're sending Bill.

Jeb: *eyelid twitching*

Gene: We're getting a lot of funds out of this and by the looks of the small print access to the satellite too, and quite frankly we need that money. Now.

Walt: *shoots tranquiliser dart*

Jeb: *dodges* HA!

Val: *shoots tranquiliser dart from behind Walt*

Jeb: Val... whyyyyy? *thud*

Gene: Alright team, we are go for launch.

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Bill: Uh, guys? Someone forgot the forwards/backwards RCS thrusters on this thing. How am I supposed to park beside this thing?

Val: Like this.

Bill: Aaagh! No barrel rolls! Hey, is that a gravity sensor on that satellite?

Wernher, Bob, Linus: Gravity sensor?

Bill: Oh. That's not good- for some reason the nosecone won't come off the top of my capsule so I can't take the reaction wheel underneath it off and stick it to that satellite.

Linus: Just a second-

saving edits to persistent.exe...

Bill: ...huh, that's weird, it just popped off fine. Must've been stuck or something.

Linus: Must've been...

Morty: Contract complete, look at all those sweet, sweet-

Bill: YOINK! All your satellites are belong to me!

Gene: Bill, what are you doing? That's not our satellite!

Bobak: According to my display, it is now.

Morty: So they paid us to fix their satellite then gave it to us? That makes no sense at all.

Bill: Behold, Bill-Sat One!

Gene: ...

Bob: ...it's literally exactly the same as it was, but with the OKTO probe core from the top of your capsule instead of the objectively better HECS core that it had originally. And some RCS bits you ripped off your own craft. And you've stolen some parts off of it too.

Bill: Shut up and take your gravity readings.

Bob: Ooh, gravity readings!

Bill: I'm coming back now, alert the recovery teams.

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Bill: ...hello? Where is everybody?

Gene: Bad news Bill, you landed in the middle of the Badlands.

Bill: So? Badlands aren't "bad lands", that's just a misunderstanding of the geological term.

Gene: Yeah, but the recovery teams are a superstitious bunch. They'll be there as soon as they find three spoons and a shrubbery.

Bob: And grab us some science data while you're there- reports, surface sample, that sort of thing.

Bill: What's the shrubbery for?

Gene: Who knows...

 

*several days later*

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It's Dres Quartet time! The intrepid foursome of dinky little probes are about to science the, er, science(?), out of nobody's favourite celestial body. And also Minmus. Communications hampered by low signal strength resulting in really low data rates (single digit bytes per second) even with the Dres Relay providing some relaying capabilities; that relay is too high and is already being moved to a lower orbit.

Probe 1: 5/10, landed in the lowlands like the Sunshot 2 probe did, but did a hop to the nearby midlands and got some science from it. Took a long time to transmit its science due to LOS and generally weak signal when it had one.

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Probe 2: 6/10, expensive plane change burn brought it down almost on top of the south pole. Found a strange crater nearby but couldn't do anything about it. Maintained a signal, but low data rates still meant it took a long time to get and transmit all the science due to limited hard drive space.

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Probe 3: 8/10, initial landing accuracy wasn't great but it was landing on the edge of that gopping great gouge in Dres' surface so that's forgivable. Did a hop down into the canyon for some science, signal and sunlight are hard to come by down there so took a while to get the data out.

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Bobak: I never realised it was that big.

Morty: That's going to sell a lot of fridge magnets at the gift shop.

Probe 4: 17/10. Blatant cheating going on as it rode the transfer stage out to Minmus then landed repeatedly using the remaining fuel, burn time and ignitions on that stage before flying under its own power. Visited four biomes in total with fuel to spare for more hops in the future. Also fell over and had to scrape itself across the ground to try and point the right way up again. Exhausted engine burn time and ignitions so failure was inevitable, occurred at low altitude and speed so no explosions.

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Spoiler

If you zoom in closely enough, you can see the crescent of Kerbin in that last image, but it's so small that it's really hard to see even in the original screenshot. Distant Object Enhancement is now installed but Kerbin is visible from here without it.

*smash cut back to the KSC*

Gene: They want us to SCAN the Mun now? Is that feasible?

Bill: Actually yes- a few minor tweaks to the probe that did the scans around Kerbin and we can use it for the Mun, no trouble at all.

Bob: Slightly bigger upper stage, rearrange the solar panels a bit... Yup, entirely workable.

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A rare launch from the Dessert Launchsite to take advantage of its position relative to the Mun's orbit (i.e. directly below it so the rocket could launch directly into its orbital plane), not a single solid booster in sight. Pathetic :rolleyes:.

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*impromptu team meeting*

Val: We need to give Jeb his Mun landing. It's just not fair how we've been treating him lately and it would mean a lot to him-

Bob: What if we sent him to Dres instead?

Val: -what?

Bill: Yeah, going to the Mun is boring and we've already done that, but nobody's been to Dres yet.

Val: But-

Wernher: That's not a bad idea, actually- it's an interplanetary mission, but one where he's still close enough to come back pretty quickly and without worrying about transfer windows or anything like that.

Val: Wait-

Gus: What about all those other Kerbonauts we've rescued? Don't they deserve a chance too?

Val: Do you want Jeb to try and fly a plane through the VAB? Because that's how you get Jeb trying to fly a plane through the VAB.

Gene: OK, that settles it. Prepare a mission to Dres and make sure Jeb's flying it. I want him planting that flag on Dres and if possible Minmus too.

Val: Hmm, first Kerbal to land somewhere outside Kerbin's gravity well and a double landing too? That might just do it.

Jeb: Do what? Why is everyone staring at me? And why does Gene have "SEND JEB TO DRES" written on his notepad?

Spoiler

Full album: https://imgur.com/a/1G3HT2P

I wasn't actually planning a crewed mission over to Dres/Minmus, but there's nothing actually stopping me right now- I have the technology to get there and back, the life support systems to keep the crew alive for the trip and it's a good dress rehearsal for a trip further afield- Dres stays close to Kerbin for its entire orbit so the trips can be just a few days long either way depending on how much fuel you're willing to use.

(Sorry, Jeb...)

 

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Operation Send Jeb To Dres is a go!

But first, the design team got their heads together for a serious discussion. Since the Dres mission is (hopefully!) coming back and the two-crew pod has ample sample storage space, why not take the materials bays and mystery goos on that trip and return with the samples?

...well, aside from the additional weight of nearly a ton from the six materials bays and two mystery goo capsules (each one holds three samples), that is. Adding that to the crew mission would be prohibitively heavy, so instead they came up with a compromise: launch them separately, have them do their science and then the crew can pick up the samples later. Simple!

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With the maximum size of rockets still limited by the relatively small launchpad (and the relatively small parts currently available) there was no chance of building an all in one craft to fly out, land on Dres and Minmus and then return in one go, or to launch the lander on the same rocket either. The lander was launched separately instead, with the crew and service module (CSM) launched on the next orbit.

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Jeb: SECURITY! There's some weirdo in my capsule!

Sanlan: Uh, I work here?

Jeb: Wait, do you?

Gene: Yes, she does.

Jeb: Huh. I was expecting Bill or Bob.

Sanlan: I think I heard them saying something about "fifty days in a tin can with Jeb? Not for all the funds in the world!" or something like that.

Bob: Hey! That was Bill, not me!

Bill: Well, you said you'd rather spend the time rubbing a cheese grater across your face.

Gene: Can we focus on the launch please?

Jeb: Roger that, LAUNCHING!!!

Gene: Jeb, wait-

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Gene: Jeb, you launched too early- you were supposed to wait so you could launch straight up beside the lander; now you have to try and rendezvous with it- in the dark.

Linus: As is right and proper.

Gene: Huh?

Linus: ...never mind.

Val: *whispers to Bill* Is it just me, or has Linus been acting weird lately?

Jeb: Docking in three, two, one...

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Jeb: So you want me to burn that upper stage on the bottom of the lander first, then dump it once it's empty and finish on the CSM engine with a handbrake turn half way through?

Wernher: That's not what I said, but close enough.

Jeb: OK then, firing the engine and oh boy this thing is wobbling like crazy I mean it's just constantly swaying back and forth like a pendulum-

Sanlan: Don't throw up don't throw up don't throw up...

Jeb: What's that docking port made out of anyway, plasticene? It's not so bad now with the main engine but that was horrible.

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Val: Hey Jeb? Did you bring your EVA pack with you?

Jeb: ...yes?

Val: Because I just found an EVA pack with "Property of Jeb, do not touch" written on the back in your locker and I don't remember seeing you wearing one when you headed out to the launchpad.

Jeb: ВЯЕZНЙЕVS ТФЕИДILS!

Val: Hey, that's my line!

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And now for something completely slightly different...

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It's rover time! The Dres and Minmus super-rovers have arrived in Dres' SOI and will now begin their landing sequences. First up, Dres:

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9/10 successful landing with fuel to spare despite switching to a direct descent trajectory because the margins looked tighter than they were.

And now Minmus:

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8/10 Landed safely with fuel to spare, on a plateau above the flats. Points deducted for nearly breaking the antenna while trying to remain "surface retrograde" when already landed.

And finally, the Dres Relay completes its move to a lower (~400km) polar orbit to try and boost the signal from craft on the surface of Dres and Minmus back to Kerbin.

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6/10 nearly drained the batteries by pointing the solar panels away from the sun but recovered at the last minute.

***

Wernher: So what's the situation with those rovers we sent out across Kerbin?

Linus: Well, Kerbin Rover 1 should have reached its destination by now and hopefully it'll find what we're looking for.

Wernher: ...which is?

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Linus: That's odd, we haven't had that message saying that the launchsite is available yet, maybe it needs to drive away a bit then come back because spawning inside the radius doesn't trigger the dialog?

Wernher: Dialog box? Spawning? What are you talking about, Linus!?

Linus: *grabs Wernher by his lapels* You ask too many questions, von Kerman. *dead-eyed stare*

Werhner: meep

Linus: *acts like nothing happened* See, just needed to drive away for a bit then come back, sometimes these geolocation things don't work first time.

Spoiler

Bob: Uh, Jeb? Sanlan? Your course keeps changing and the tracking systems are struggling to plot your trajectory properly.

 

Bob: Guys? Hello?

 

Radio: *heavy breathing*

Bob: ... :blush:

Jeb: Sorry about that, Sanlan just found a tiny little spider in one of the storage bins and had a little freak out.

Sanlan: It was a HUGE spider! Absolutely massive!

Jeb: So obviously she tried to get away from it, but it's a small capsule and she kept crashing into stuff like the controls (good job I switched those off, eh?) and she must have scared it into hiding because now we can't find it again.

Sanlan: I'm sleeping in the lander from now on.

Jeb: How do you know the spider isn't in the lander already?

Sanlan: ...I hate you.

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