KSK

First Flight (Chapter 99 - The Needs of the Many)

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2 hours ago, KSK said:

Four apparently, although there were backups on the first two. From Wikipedia:

The Venera 9 lander operated for at least 53 minutes and took pictures with one of two cameras; the other lens cap did not release.
The Venera 10 lander operated for at least 65 minutes and took pictures with one of two cameras; the other lens cap did not release.
The Venera 11 lander operated for at least 95 minutes but neither cameras' lens caps released.
The Venera 12 lander operated for at least 110 minutes but neither cameras' lens caps released.

Heh, didn't realize that. I was actually thinking of Venera 14 where the lens cap did pop off.. and landed in the exact spot one of the arms tried to sample, so all they got was a sample of the lens cap. :huh:

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You couldn't make it up, could you? I did wonder whether a stuck lens cap was getting a bit lolkerbal for First Flight - I don't think I'd have dared go as far as scooping the thing up and sampling it!

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Comedy gold right there, just change the instrument a bit:

Jernie: "Ah, finally, soil analyses data coming in. Strange....

Sidbo: "lets have a look."

Jernie: "this can't be right, it says the soil on Laythe is made up of long-chain hydrocarbon polymers... butyl rubber, and... massive amounts of highly refined aluminum?"

Sidbo: "Great Kerm, we've landed on an ancient alien space ship!"

Cue spinning newspapers, massive public upheaval, and, a couple years later, a Kerbonaut removing the lens cap from underneath the sample arm while his mouth moves silently.

 

And then of course, there's also the story of the "Angry Alligator" which reads like a Benny Hill bit, installing a G-switch upside-down and crashing into the ground, or just forgetting to convert to/from metric. Nope, can't make this stuff up.

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On 8-6-2016 at 9:54 PM, KSK said:

[snip]

And no - no Jordan anxiety, although you might just have kicked off a bout of Erikson anxiety. :) [snip]

One is glad to be of service.

:wink: 

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14 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

*snip*

Sidbo: "Great Kerm, we've landed on an ancient alien space ship!"

*snip*

Crashed alien spacecraft - the ultimate 'parts found lying by the side of the road'. :) 

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On reading Next Frontier and its sequel, I reached this post:

Quote

Thread locked due to necromancy. If the author wishes for the thread to be unlocked in the future, please contact a moderator.

;.;;.;

I read to fast... It was a great read though.

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Yup - I think the sequel has been on hold for a while due to other commitments and projects eating into Jake's time. The Spacebattles forum mods are pretty good about unlocking threads though, so if he does find time to get back to it there shouldn't be any problems.

And on a totally different note, I had an idea on the way home tonight. Once I've finished First Flight, if I ever get round to editing it then I need to include this line somewhere.

"Fire in the Sky - we put the Rock into Rocket Science!"

\m/

Well it amused me anyway - but then again it is Friday and I have the weekend to look forward to - doesn't take much to amuse me right now. :)

Edited by KSK

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Next chapter is up. Quite a bit a shorter than usual and may contain snafus - I found this one pretty hard to edit.

 

And Fears

The Minmus landing trainer squatted on the launch pad, four angular girders supporting a central jet engine. A cage of struts over and around the engine held an array of fuel tanks, reaction control thruster blocks, radar antennas and a pair of LV-9T throttled rocket engines. A symmetrical set of booms, jutting out from the cage, sported another set of thruster blocks and the pilot’s ejection seat protruded from the front, surrounded on three sides by corrugated iron panels.

Standing at a safe distance, behind a prominent yellow line on the ground, Jeb watched the preparations for Ornie’s next test flight. Barely new enough for its concrete to be certified for flight operations, too new for the launch tower sections and other supporting infrastructure to have arrived, Pad 3 marked the far edge of the rapidly expanding Barkton Space Centre facilities. The ground crew climbed aboard their truck and Jeb hastily clamped a pair of heavy ear-defenders over his head.

The start-cart’s high pitched scream broke the quiet, startling a flock of birds into flight. As they scattered, squawking silently over the mechanical din, the ascending howl of a jet engine spooling up added to the noise levels. Ornie raised his arm, a pneumatic hose fell away from the underside of his ungainly aircraft and the ground support truck peeled away. Ornie watched it cross the yellow line, waited another minute for safety, then fed power to the LV-9Ts and floated into the air.

Jeb watched the MLT accelerate into a zig-zag ascent, canting sharply left then right at impossible angles, only kept airborne by its gimballed jet engine and constant thruster inputs from the autopilot and fly-by-wire system. Ornie climbed higher, side-slipping far away from the launchpad, before bringing his vehicle to a hover. Eyes intent on his instruments, he tipped the trainer back into pitch-over attitude then began a simulated powered descent. 

Curving low over the scrub grass and weeds around the launchpad, the noise from the training vehicle scared another pair of birds out of the undergrowth. To Jeb’s sudden horror, they flapped past the intruder, screeching indignantly and missing the pilot enclosure by metres. Startled, Ornie reflexively jammed his throttle wide open and hauled back on his attitude controller. The MLT lurched skywards, nose pointing vertically up then tipping over backwards. Instantly, Ornie cut the power to his engines and slammed the attitude controller hard forward, but instead of obediently pushing nose-downward, the MLT continued it’s backward roll. Without pausing to think, he wrenched the joystick sideways, rolling his aircraft upright, other hand pulling back on the throttle lever…

One of the protruding thruster booms dug into the ground, shearing straight off and sending the MLT cartwheeling into the air, before flipping over and slamming back to earth. The superstructure crumpled under the impact, driving twisted steel spears through the jet engine housing. Pressurised fuel tanks ruptured in a concussive blast, spraying out a blazing mixture of jet fuel and high test peroxide. The ejector seat shot free, trailing flaming debris behind it before smashing into the ground, tumbling over and over and finally coming to a stop. 

Jeb was already racing for the ground support truck. Grabbing an extinguisher from the back, he thumped on the cab window, jabbing his finger at the distant Space Centre buildings, them miming a telephone call. The white-faced driver nodded and, no sooner had Jeb sprinted clear, than the truck screeched away, laying down thick streaks of rubber against the concrete. Pausing only to douse a handful of grass fires with his extinguisher, Jeb dashed along the trail of metal fragments and churned up earth until at last, he came to the wrecked ejector seat on its side with Ornie still strapped in. Mercifully his eyes were closed and miraculously he seemed to be intact, although large areas of his flight suit were soaked with blood. Jeb approached on suddenly watery legs, set his jaw and reached out to touch his friend’s throat. 

His legs gave way at the faint, fluttering beat under his fingers and he sank to the ground, turning his head away from Ornie’s battered face.

The airborne rescue team found him sitting by the ejector seat, arms wrapped around his knees, watching the still-burning MLT through tear-blurred eyes. One medic wrapped a blanket around the shivering kerbonaut, pressing a flask of hot djeng into his hands and talking to him in low, soothing tones. Behind them, his grim-faced colleagues began cutting Ornie free of the wreckage.

-----------

Hesitantly, Wernher stepped through the side door of VAB Two, taking in the organised chaos within. The spare Minmus landing trainer stood in one corner of the room surrounded by blueprints and engineering drawings pinned to the wall. Bill, Lucan and other members of the electronics team sat hunched over a table, studying a set of heavily annotated flowcharts. Much of the remaining floor space was taken up with the painstakingly recovered remains of Ornie's MLT. So far as Wernher could see, every last kerbal in the Propulsion and Structural Engineering teams, overseen by blue-uniformed investigators from the Kerbin Air Accident Board, were sifting through them, labelling even the smallest fragments of metal and piecing them together. A few of the pieced together parts resembled components of an MLT.

Most of them didn’t.

Wernher walked over and tapped Jeb on the shoulder. “The medical centre just called,” he murmured. “We should go.”

Jeb nodded heavily. “I’ll round up Bob and Gene. You get Bill and Lucan.”

-----------

Geneney shoved the stack of folders into his safe, locked it and then hurried out of his office to find  Bill, Bob, Lucan and Wernher waiting outside. “Richlin?” he asked.

“Can’t find him anywhere, “ said Bob. “Jeb’s had him on make-work all day to keep him out of the VAB, but there’s no sign of him.”

“That might be for the best,” said Geneney reluctantly. “We should get moving - I’ll send Jeb back to find him once he’s dropped us off at the medical centre.” He opened the warehouse door, only to be greeted by a flushed and breathless Richlin clutching a large paper bag.

“Sorry, Gene. I finished pulling out all the Eve capsule schematics to send over to Rockomax like Jeb asked, so I thought I’d take a break.” He gave Geneney an embarrassed smile. “I stopped off on the way back to get some fruit for Ornie.” Richlin shook the bag. “I got him some of his favourite blueberries - he likes the Doreni ones best you know.”

“I didn’t know that,” said Geneney gently “We were just about to go visit him, Richlin. Would you like to come too?”

Richlin’s face lit up. “That would be great - thanks, Gene! He’ll be so pleased to see everyone.” He looked around. “Hey - what about Jeb? Isn’t Jeb coming too?”

“Jeb’s just fetching his car, Richlin. Look here he comes now.”

Jeb wound down his car window. “Hi Richlin - they found you then?”

“My fault,” Richlin replied cheerfully. “I was out getting blueberries for Ornie!”

The corner of Jeb’s eye twitched. “That’s great, Richlin,” he said carefully. “He’ll like those. Squeeze in people - we’d better be going.”

The journey to the medical centre passed in awkward half conversation, nobody having the heart to ignore Richlin’s chatter entirely. Jeb cast around desperately for something to say. “So - how did the KDS Stretch test flight go?” he asked at last. “That was supposed to be today wasn’t it?”

“It didn’t,” said Bob briefly. “They got bad pogo on the lateral boosters although everything held together until staging. Core stage dropped on schedule but something must have shaken loose somewhere because the upper stage blew itself to pieces just after start-up.”

Jeb’s knuckles turned white on the steering wheel. “Oh,” he said. “Un-crewed test, wasn’t it?”

Bob nodded. “It was. Fortunately.”

“No harm then,” said Richlin, “Wernher can work some redesign magic and Ornie can lend a hand too, as soon as he gets out of hospital!”

There was an uncomfortable silence. 

“I don’t know, Richlin,” said Wernher at last, “It was a bad crash - it might be a long time before they let Ornie out.”

“Oh, it’ll take more than that to stop Ornie,” said Richlin confidently. “You haven’t known him as long as I have - he’s one tough kerb you know. Besides, he’ll have the Kerm to fix him up - he’ll be  good as new!”

Bob stared out of the window to hide the tears at the corner of his eyes. Wernher just nodded. “I’m sure they’ll do their best, Richlin. And you’re right - he’ll have the Kerm to look after him too.”

Jeb pulled up outside the Barkton medical centre. Silently, everyone climbed out of his car and  made their way over to Reception, Richlin carrying his bag of fruit and humming softly as he walked. The receptionist looked up as Jeb approached the desk, a flicker of recognition and sympathy crossing her face; quickly replaced by a professional smile.

"Visitors for Ornie Kerman?"

Jeb nodded. Wait till you see him, Jeb. No sense getting your hopes up yet. "We are,  yes. Could you tell us where his ward is please?"

The receptionist's smile slipped a notch. "He's still in the moss room I'm afraid. You can find it down the corridor to the left there, through the doors, then second on the right. Room number three."

Jeb summoned up a small smile of his own. "Thank you."

Moss room number three turned out to be an airy, pleasantly air-conditioned chamber dominated by the Kerm trunk growing through the centre of the domed ceiling and the circular pool in front of it. A figure floated in the middle of the pool, body obscured by a blanket of sweetmoss, a thicket of tendrils emerging from the water around him and  burrowing into the soil around the base of the Kerm trunk.  Richlin darted forward with a happy cry, waving his bag. "Ornie! How they treating you? Bet they won't have brought you any blueberries!" Two medics hurried towards him, a third, dressed in a wrinkled grey robe walked over to the others. One look at the Keeper’s bloodshot eyes told Jeb everything he needed to know.

“I’m so sorry. Believe me, we tried everything we could but the damage was simply too great to repair.”

Jeb nodded blankly. He heard Richlin’s puzzled question from across the room.

“What? No, no - that can’t be right. Ornie’s tough you know. He’ll just need to rest a bit longer but he’ll be fine - you wait and see.” The medic knelt down beside Richlin, murmuring something too faint to hear. The sudden bewildered plea in his voice tore at Jeb’s heart. 

“Tell them they’re just being silly, Ornie. Tell them you’re going to be alright!”

“Ornie? Please wake up, Ornie.”

“Ornie?”

 

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Wow.  First casualty of the story.

I mean, I knew it'd have to happen sometime, but I wasn't expecting it to be like that.  Typically, from what I've seen, first casualties are usually re-entry problems, insufficient parachutes, or insufficient propellant to land safely.  But for it to be an accident, a result of startled birds and startled pilot alike, followed swiftly by structural failures and an ejector seat that ejected poorly...

I guess in the end, it had to happen, and I suppose there's more to the story than meets the eye right here.  It's the risks of a space agency, after all, and accidents can, did, and probably still do happen.  Just we, here on Earth, have had enough of them for safety technology to march onward.  For the Kerbals, this seems to be their first major accident.  A landing-test craft, by the sound of it, that ended up out of control, and a pilot who ended up paying the ultimate price in the end.

So what remains to be seen is whether the KIS turns this into a push for better safety measures, or a push to do more unmanned testing.  Whether someone higher up than the KIS tries to get the space program shut down, or whether they accept that accidents can happen in the course of scientific discovery.

Now, the curiosity I have is that Ornie appeared to try a bit more than what I would have expected.  Soon as I had it upright, knowing I had an ejector seat, I would have used it.  Craft's still out of control, altitude's too low, you punch out and hope for the best on landing.  But it appears he was still trying to wrestle control back when one of the thruster booms hit.  Unless my perception of time is skewed.  That's also a highly likely possibility.  Might have been that he'd just gotten it pointing heads-up when the boom hit and trashed the ship, at which point, ejection is not likely to help.

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I think there's also a question of training. Like you said, Ornie tried to bring it back under control instead of ejecting straight away; someone not used to operating on such a tiny budget that losing the first prototype makes it very unlikely you'll get to build a second would have bailed out as soon as everything started going pear-shaped.

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Blast! Dam and blast! This gul-durned forum never sends me updates when you post, @KSK, so I had to learn about poor Ornie from another reply before I even knew the chapter was up.  ;.;

Blast you, forum!

 

@JakeGrey A good point. I seem to recall a certain Mr. Armstrong in rather a similar situation who got while the gettin' was good. Turned out quite a bit better for him.

Poor Ornie...

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3 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Blast! Dam and blast! This gul-durned forum never sends me updates when you post, @KSK, so I had to learn about poor Ornie from another reply before I even knew the chapter was up.  ;.;

Blast you, forum!

 

@JakeGrey A good point. I seem to recall a certain Mr. Armstrong in rather a similar situation who got while the gettin' was good. Turned out quite a bit better for him.

Poor Ornie...

Ack - sorry to hear that. :( I didn't get a notification for Jake's post either so looks like the ole forum is feeling a little flaky today.

Thanks for the comments folks. And yeah, first casualty of a major character. Guess that's a writer's milestone of sorts. Although right now I'm not sure how George R R Martin handles it. Maybe you get numbed once you've killed off the first dozen or so.

@Madrias , @JakeGrey Yep, there's a bit more to this than meets the eye. More to come in the next chapter so no spoilers for now but I think there are a couple of clues in the crash description. They  are quite small though and may be too small to count.

Edited by KSK

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33 minutes ago, KSK said:

I think there are a couple of clues in the crash description

The control core was upside down:

13 hours ago, KSK said:

...tipping over backwards. Instantly, Ornie cut the power to his engines and slammed the attitude controller hard forward, but instead of obediently pushing nose-downward, the MLT continued it’s backward roll. Without pausing to think, he wrenched the joystick sideways, rolling his aircraft upright...

Also explains the wobbly flying out there: every action Ornie put into the stick had the opposite reaction he wanted.  The SAS was probably the only thing that got him that far.

It also explains why sideways worked: If your front and back are backwards and you're going upside down, sideways is a good option in a panicked "This isn't working, do something else!" move.

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And there's the downside to "We all build them, we all fly them." 

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Finally caught up!

What is this MLT? Hovering a dynamically unstable craft lifted by engine thrust somewhere with as much gravity as kerbin is nearly impossible... totally asking for trouble (and far harder than doing the same on Minmus, so I really don't see the point of the training exercise).

I don't agree with Madrias. If the controls were backwards or the stabilisation was compensating in the wrong direction, Ornie would have crashed in under a second if he didn't realise before taking off. (I fly RC helicopters, so I know what I'm talking about here.)

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The idea, as exemplified by the real-life LEM trainer, is that you use a jet engine at constant thrust to counter most of Earth's/Kerbin's gravity, leaving only what would be experienced on (above) the target body.

(Note that the article mentions at least three incidents where test pilots, including Neil Armstrong, were forced to eject - all safely, one less than a second before impact.  Poor Ornie wasn't so lucky.)

Edited by Commander Zoom

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Ah, thanks for the link. It's a pretty crazy idea though. But much more important for landing on the Mun than Minmus I'd think?

Edited by scy

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Hey folks,

Sorry I've been incommunicado for a while - blame it on a combination of weekend guests and rather distracting domestic news, of which I will not speak here lest mods gaze in our direction.

Some good comments on here and yeah - the KSA are taking a long hard look at scy's question right now...

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33 minutes ago, KSK said:

... rather distracting domestic news...

Most British description of such I've yet heard. :D 

Good luck working on more pleasant distractions. 

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Come on KSK, I leave you to write unattended for almost 7 weeks, and two chapters is all you can pull together!?! How dare you!

[/s]

 

But seriously, first casualty of the story. I guess its a miracle that it took that long. NASA wasn't so lucky. :wink:

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Hey, in his defence, the government of the country he lives in does currently resemble a terrifying hybrid of Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey.

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11 minutes ago, JakeGrey said:

Hey, in his defence, the government of the country he lives in does currently resemble a terrifying hybrid of Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey.

But without all the good parts. So yes, let's give the fellow some patience. 

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On 4 July 2016 at 10:46 PM, JakeGrey said:

Hey, in his defence, the government of the country he lives in does currently resemble a terrifying hybrid of Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey.

Heh - Sean Bean for (temporary) Prime Minister.

Rather depressingly, I'd throw more than a dash of Fawlty Towers or Monty Python in there too. But back to the story! No promises but I'm hoping to get the next chapter out by the end of this weekend. Writing eulogies, albeit short ones, has been tough.

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