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First Flight (Epilogue and Last Thoughts)

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I was searching for threads to explain how to get spoilers to work on this forum, and somehow I ended up in this thread...

(spoiler: we can't make spoilers in posts, we can in signatures though)

Read it all in one go. I especially like how you express Kerbal society. Part tribal and part industrial, in peaceful coexistence with mutual respect.

I think it is spot on how imagine 'Kerbal nature' would influence their culture. Strong connections with plant life (I still think Kerbals are plant related...), which lead to strong convictions of sustainability and balance. Combined with an enormous drive towards explorations and general 'trying new stuff'.

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Woah, lots of comments since the last update.

Jake, Will, Lazro - glad the singing worked :D I've had a beach party scene in mind pretty much since I saw Sir Nahme's sig. It's been reworked and repurposed since then (the shepherdball stuff is a recent addition :) ) but the basic 'booze, bonfire and guitar' elements were always there.

Patupi - thanks for the rep! And yeah - it takes more than a booster going boom to dampen KIS spirits for too long.

Alec and Nessus - thanks for dropping by and its good to hear that you're enjoying the portrayal of Jeb & Co. I'm also flattered that 1/4 of your collective forum posts are comments on First Flight!

And OrtwinS - that's a pretty good summary of my version of Kerbal society! More on that to come... :)



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Oh yes - while we're on the topic of forum references, my forum avatar is borrowed from Hayoo's work. It looks way better as a larger image - and how could I resist a Kerbal 1 mission patch? :)

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Consider the following copy edits and advice.

"The Barkton Space Centre launch bunker was warm and stuffy. The launch bunker and smelled of the sharp ozone tang of overheated electronics. The launch bunker smelled of the earthier scent of overheated kerbal. Geneney's head throbbed. He stifled a yawn amidst humming equipment and clacking keys while the flight control team worked their consoles. His glazed gaze hung on an overhead monitor whereupon endless expanses of numbers shifted like desert sands. Then it switched to show the grandstands: they were bursting! Geneney grinned at a great throng of kerbals that sat on the grass between the stands and the safety fence. Even after half a dozen launches, these guys just keep sitting here."


1.) Show instead of telling to increase immersion. Instead of saying that Geneney "was gratified to see" the bursting grandstands, show how his gratification affects him e.g., by writing that he "grinned". Or replace narration with thoughts or dialogue, as I did above.

2.) Tell instead of showing to decrease immersion. Any form of literary 'technique,' be it motif, similie, alliteration, or pun informs the reader that they are reading an account, not attempting to experience. One can mimic the confusion of listening through a door by telling the reader what the characters beyond say instead of quoting it, omitting or making indirect information about their movements, or using the aforementioned 'techniques'. In this case, use repeated boring, uncomfortable writing--simple sentences--to show the boredom and discomfort of the launch bunker.

3.) Simplify where possible. The word "amidst," for example, can be used to surround things.

4.) Check the accuracy of your onomatopoeia (sound words) by saying them aloud and looking for real examples thereof: keys thud and "clack" whereas mice "click".

"Wheels squeaked on concrete: the rest turned to see Wernher roll his chair around the corner of his console, “Jeb haz ey point. After all - vee ah in no hurry to retrieve de rocket. Vahtevah's left of her is probably in little, tiny pieces, scattered over square kilometre or two of de Great Tranquil Sea. We might verk something awt from de telemetry," he sighed, cracking his wrinkled neck, "but experience tells me zat telemetry will make much more sense after couple of Jorfurt's latest and good, long dream.â€Â


5.) Wernher Von Kerman is the KSP analogue to Wernher Von Braun and therefore must show the Kerbal equivalent of a German accent, and as a rocket scientist, he also likely spent little time learning the finer points of English: phonetically spell mispronounced words, randomly remove articles or otherwise necessary words, and insert incorrect ones. Wernher will thereby gain a distinct voice that can add richness and flavor to your story.

6.) A brief phrase then a colon can create a causal effect wherein the cause is before the colon and the effect is after, e.g., "He fired: the building exploded into a cloud of dust and splinters!"

"Like fireflies through a cavern had the Kerbal Interplanetary Society flown through its early days: with swat of failure or bite of frustration each fell, rent bodies upward gleaming. Yet with eternal smile and boundless enthusiasm, Jeb had led his team through to frolic the dawny fields of glory."


1.) Beware unnecessary commas.

2.) Combine many words into one word, "kept going despite X" can be replaced with "overcame X".

3.) When attemping 'epic' language, use metaphor with emotional torque. Nothing is more evocative, striking, or haunting. Work at these as long as you must, but be sparing with their number: I spent more time making mine than I did on the rest of this post!


Edited by Duxwing
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Who died? Wasn't this the lunar probe, ie robotic?

Yup - this was a robotic probe. I think I mentioned that a couple of chapters back when the KIS were planning the flight and then a bit later in the Rockomax review of KIS capability. Easily missed if you're only reading the story in small chunks but a small edit could be helpful anyway:

"I'm seeing some noise on data bus 2," said Lucan, "but the probe telemetry can work off a single bus if anything happens."

Something like that, just as a quick reminder. I did hope that the lack of crew was apparent from the general mood of the scene but if my vision of a scene is at odds with how people are reading it, then I need to work on that.

Specifically: there's no chatter between the controllers and the pilot and then after the initial 'oh %%£&^' moment when the result of many many 80 hour weeks blows itself into shrapnel, it's all fairly low key. All the conversation is about the rocket - again no mention of a pilot. Then Jeb's plan is to chill out with some beer and come back in the morning. Given that he was up all night worrying about the Moho 3 flight, it seems a bit out of character to be so relaxed about a fatality on the very next flight.

But again - if there's a disconnect between how I'm picturing the characters and how they're being read, then I need to work on that.

Duxwing - thanks for your other comments. As a quick response:

1-2. Fair enough.

3. Also reasonable, although to use your example 'overcame X' sounds rather matter of fact to me whereas 'kept going despite X' makes X seem like more of a challenge that took a long time to work through. Although simple language - and then adding a bit of detail about X and why it was such a problem - would probably be better.

4. Depends on the keyboard but point taken. :)

5. I'm going to respectfully disagree on this one. I take your point about a distinct voice adding flavor but I would prefer to move away from the direct parallel between Wernher Kerman and Wernher von Braun and lose the stereotype accent at the same time. Admittedly I could have avoided the whole problem by choosing a different name for the chief engineer!

6. That's very helpful - thanks.



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Yup - this was a robotic probe. I think I mentioned that a couple of chapters back when the KIS were planning the flight and then a bit later in the Rockomax review of KIS capability. Easily missed if you're only reading the story in small chunks but a small edit could be helpful anyway:

"I'm seeing some noise on data bus 2," said Lucan, "but the probe telemetry can work off a single bus if anything happens."

Something like that, just as a quick reminder. I did hope that the lack of crew was apparent from the general mood of the scene but if my vision of a scene is at odds with how people are reading it, then I need to work on that.

Specifically: there's no chatter between the controllers and the pilot and then after the initial 'oh %%£&^' moment when the result of many many 80 hour weeks blows itself into shrapnel, it's all fairly low key. All the conversation is about the rocket - again no mention of a pilot. Then Jeb's plan is to chill out with some beer and come back in the morning. Given that he was up all night worrying about the Moho 3 flight, it seems a bit out of character to be so relaxed about a fatality on the very next flight.

But again - if there's a disconnect between how I'm picturing the characters and how they're being read, then I need to work on that.

I assumed that they were avoiding the subject of death, and you had said that someone would die; I connected the dots. >_<

Duxwing - thanks for your other comments. As a quick response:

1-2. Fair enough.

3. Also reasonable, although to use your example 'overcame X' sounds rather matter of fact to me whereas 'kept going despite X' makes X seem like more of a challenge that took a long time to work through. Although simple language - and then adding a bit of detail about X and why it was such a problem - would probably be better.

True. You could say, "continued despite".

4. Depends on the keyboard but point taken. :)

5. I'm going to respectfully disagree on this one. I take your point about a distinct voice adding flavor but I would prefer to move away from the direct parallel between Wernher Kerman and Wernher von Braun and lose the stereotype accent at the same time. Admittedly I could have avoided the whole problem by choosing a different name for the chief engineer!

Ok! :) You can still change the name: so doing is a matter of pressing Ctrl+F, finding instances of Wernher, and replacing them with a new name.

6. That's very helpful - thanks.



Cool! I have just edited the metaphor.


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It's well worth waiting for. The main two I'm reading right now are this and Next Frontier by JakeGrey... oh and of course The Grand Tour by Czoktlemuss and more recently got back into Beagle Flight by BostLabs. Anyway, stories often take long sabbaticals. People have real lives. Honestly my own AAR I expected to take AGES to write (Me and procrastination go WAY back!). For some reason it's gone like a rocket. Go fig!

Edited by Patupi
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I'd figured it was an unmanned probe because they'd mentioned it earlier, or at least I'd taken it that way since you've established this is less a set of co-workers and more a family that's grown together ever since things started, so a casual 'hey let's go grab drinks and hit the beach so we can look at the problem a different way tomorrow' just... didn't seem to gel with the idea they'd lost somebody. Ergo. Probe or a non-payload rocket test. Then again simple test wouldn't have explained the audience so failed munshot.

And don't feel bad for the long pauses between writing. I know how hard it can be when wanting to post the next section of something on blog that nobody reads. Can't imagine how you feel with half to most of the forum waiting at the edge of their chairs for the next tidbit on this thread.

Hat's off to you man. It's good work.

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Patupi - this one's for you...

Beyond Kerbin

A single shaft of sunlight peeped through a gap in the shutters, illuminating the chin of a kerbal sprawled out fast asleep on his bed. As Kerbol rose into the clear morning sky, the shaft crept upwards until it brushed silently over one large green eyelid, suffusing it with a soft green glow and revealing a faint tracery of blood vessels beneath the skin. The eyelid twitched and then suddenly it snapped open.

Jeb blinked and sat bolt upright, automatically checking the time on his alarm clock. His eyes widened and he jumped out of bed, frantically scrabbling around for his clothes. Half past ten! Everyone would have been waiting in the yard for hours! Then, as he reached for his shirt, it occurred to him that it was oddly quiet outside. No mutter of voices, no banging on the warehouse door. Nothing at all in fact, to suggest that a crowd of impatient kerbals was milling around outside.

Then it all came back. The failed Mün flight, the beach party... and Genie's parting words reminding everyone not to come into work until the afternoon. Jeb winced as he also remembered his last mug of beer and conversation with Ornie. Going to have to apologise for that, Jeb,  he thought to himself, as he swung the shutters open, letting the crisp autumn sunlight flood into the room. Across the road could see the first dusting of frost on the ground. A brittle skim of ice sparkled on the puddles in the road, dazzling him with reflections.

Jeb grinned as he took in a deep lungful of chilly air. Plenty of time for a long shower, a good hot breakfast and then maybe a quick stroll to clear the last of the beer fog from his wits before everyone else turned up for work.


Jeb scraped the mud off his boots and sauntered across the warehouse towards the canteen, whistling the tune from the Ballad of the Kerbal 1 and chuckling as be remembered Bob's lyrics from the night before. There was a clattering of mugs and then the rattling of a stuck drawer, followed by a crash and a muttered oath as the drawer popped open, spilling its contents over the floor. Presently though, there was a cheerful burbling noise and the scent of fresh coffee filled the air. Jeb emerged from the canteen clutching a large steaming mug and made his way over to his office.

Swiftly he sorted through the pile of rolled up strip charts covering his desk, setting the recordings from the LV-T20 to one side and unrolling the charts for the four LV905s. A quick look was enough to convince him that the 905s were not responsible for the loss of the Muna 1 but they had been running slightly hot before the explosion, which was a problem all by itself. Jeb sipped his coffee as he pored over the charts, rapidly becoming engrossed in the thin squiggles of ink from the telemetry recorders.

The last of his coffee had long since gone cold when Jeb straightened up from the strip charts and pushed his notebook to one side. He dug his fists into the small of his back and stretched, grimacing as his spine popped in protest. He rolled his shoulders, mentally reviewing his analysis of the telemetry data and then nodded in satisfaction. He would need to talk things over with the propulsion team but he was reasonably confident that the overheating could be traced back to a problem with the pressurisation valve calibration. The overheating was obviously down to excess propellant flow into the engines and the excess was sufficiently similar for all four engines that a mechanical error seemed unlikely. Jeb made a note to get one of the spare 905s up onto the test stand after lunch and then glanced up at the clock. Perfect, he thought happily. Time to open up for the day and then grab a quick bite to eat before everyone else arrives.

As Jeb walked over to the warehouse doors, he thought he could hear voices outside. He smiled to himself. Not even friendly threats from Genie could deter everyone from turning up to work early, he thought. The bolts on the side door were sticking slightly and squealed in protest as he worked them back and forth. Finally, he forced them back with a sudden metallic clack and swung the door open.

Jeb's jaw dropped, as the entire Kerbin Interplanetary Society poured around him into the warehouse.

“Thought this place was never going to open," somebody called out cheerfully.

“Yeah," came the good-natured reply, “Some of us have got a rocket to build today!"

“At least the boss has been up long enough to get the coffee on!" called out a third voice, as everyone hurried over to their benches.

Jeb closed the door behind him and then fell into step beside Geneney and Ornie.

Geneney sniffed the air appreciatively and then looked at Jeb apologetically. “Looks like you were right about taking some time out," he said. "It's been a while since I've seen the gang this eager to get to work."

Ornie nodded. "Something we should do more often," he agreed, “and it wouldn't hurt to do a little more to celebrate our successful launches too."

Jeb grinned at him. “The launch was perfectly successful," he said, “It was just the flying into space part that didn't go quite to plan. Speaking of which, I think I've figured out the overheating we saw with the 905s. I'd appreciate a second opinion on the numbers though, if you've got a minute?"

“Sure," said Ornie, “Gene - could I have a word later? I need to see what our inventory is like for the 905 gimbals."

“Whenever you're ready, Ornie, although I think we've got everything you need in stock for the rest of the 905s. I'll be over with the payload team when you need me."

As Jeb walked back to his office with Ornie, he flicked a quick sideways glance at his friend. “I think I owe you an apology too, Ornie," he said quietly.

Ornie's forehead crinkled. “What on Kerbin for, Jeb?" he asked.

Jeb didn't reply for a moment. “For last night," he said eventually, “I have to confess that the details are a touch hazy but I definitely remember the conversation turning more than a little bitter towards the end."

Ornie's face cleared. “Oh that," he said, “Don't worry about it, Jeb. Sounded like you'd needed to get that off your chest for quite a while." 

Jeb nodded gratefully. “I think I did, Ornie - thanks." He pushed open his office door. “Anyway - about those 905s. I'm thinking that we've got a little problem with our test stand is all..." The two kerbals bent their heads over the strip charts littered over Jeb's desk, Ornie tapping his fingers thoughtfully as Jeb flipped open his notebook and started pointing out various underlined numbers.

Later that afternoon, Jeb finally made his way back to the canteen for a long overdue lunch. As he rummaged around in the fridge, he could hear the the propulsion team arguing over the LV-T20 telemetry. The canteen televsion was deliberately placed to be visible from behind the kitchen counter and Jeb was able to keep half an eye on the KBS news bulletin as he chopped up left over potatoes and meatcakes and tossed them into a pan.

"Meatcake hash and ketchup!" he announced, taking a seat beside Bob. "The recommended lunch of rocket scientists everywhere." The rest of the table were too caught up in conversation to notice.

“There's no way it was the bearings!" said Malmy. “No matter which way you look at the turbopump strips, there's just no sign of any wobble at all. I'm telling you - something fell into the fuel manifold and chewed up the blades."

Wernher scowled. “Which doesn't explain why everything was working perfectly right up until the loss of vehicle. Besides - there's nothing to 'fall into the fuel manifold'. I suppose one of the slosh baffles might have fallen off but they're far too big to do any harm."

Malmy shrugged, “Maybe it got caught on one of the baffles and didn't come loose until the booster pitched over past a certain point. I don't know. All I know is what I'm seeing from the flight recorders and they're just not consistent with impeller flutter."

Ornie raised his hands in a placating gesture. “Easy, guys. Wernher - assume for the sake of argument that it was debris in the fuel line that broke the turbopump. What can we do about that? Can we fit a filter over the manifold inlet or something?"

Wernher took a bite of his sandwich. “We already do put a filter there. I could redesign it but it's not as easy as you might think. A coarse filter is next to useless but I don't really want to fit anything too fine in case it causes too much of a pressure drop across the inlet. At best that gives us poorer performance...", he swallowed a mouthful of cheese, “and at worst it gives us turbulence and possibly cavitation."

All four kerbals winced. “Good safety tip, Wernher," remarked Hando, “lets try not to do that if possible."

Ornie nodded. “I'm not sure we have time to redesign the filters for the next launch anyway," he said reluctantly. "We'll need to take a long hard look at the tank design for the Moho 4 but for the Muna 2, I think we'll have to go with what we've got and just make sure to triple check everything."

At that moment, the picture on the television screen changed from that of a group of kerbals sitting around a table to a view over a launch site. A news ticker down the left hand side of the screen announced that this was the maiden launch of the Rockomax BA-CA solid rocket booster. Malmy scrambled to his feet and turned up the volume.

“... latest generation of solid rocket booster, augmented by additional laterally mounted B1 boosters. For those just joining us now, the second stage is a single B1 solid rocket and the final stage uses clustered 48-7D liquid fueled engines for a precision insertion into kerbostationary orbit."

Hando turned back to his lunch. “Kerbostationary orbit huh? Impressive but there's a long way between Kerbin orbit and the Mün."

Ornie wasn't so sure. He casually looked around the canteen and, as he expected, Jeb, Lucan and Edsen were all staring intently at the Rockomax spacecraft. Jeb caught his eye and surreptitiously beckoned him over.

“Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Ornie?"

“I think I probably am, Jeb. And if I'm not, our flight dynamics team almost certainly are."


Danfen and Hanbal stood behind the flight director's chair, eyes flicking between the status indicators on her control board and the orbital tracking screen on the far wall. Nelton briefly considered exercising flight director's privilege and ejecting them both from Mission Control, or at least putting them somewhere where they couldn't breath down her ear. Then she shrugged. She could hardly blame them for wanting to be here, she thought and besides - they might just be useful. Provided that they kept their mouths shut until asked and kept out from under the feet of the rest of the team.

"Approaching max Q. B1 thrust profile nominal."

Nelton put the two engineers out of her mind. "Thank you, Booster," she said, "Flight Dynamics - status please."

"Airframe stresses acceptable, Flight. Ascent trajectory is good. Launch vehicle has passed max Q."

Behind her she could sense Danfen relaxing slightly. Hanbal's head was still restlessly swivelling from side to side as he tried to follow all the readouts for the B1s. Nelton rolled her chair to one side to give him a better view over her shoulder.

"Thirty seconds to burnout. Decouplers one through four armed."

"Copy that, Booster. All systems Go for staging."

The pattern of indicator lights on Nelton's control board abruptly shifted and one panel flickered and went out. She leaned forward in her seat.

"Lateral booster detach confirmed. Backer status please, Booster?"

"BA-CA thrust on profile, Flight."

"Thank you, Booster. Guidance?"

"We're go, Flight."

"Flight Dynamics?"

"Altitude 24 kilometres and climbing, Flight. Vehicle attitude is nominal."

Hanbal let his breath out explosively. "It worked," he murmured under his breath, "it actually worked." Danfen nudged his arm. "Keep the analysis out of earshot would you," he whispered. Hanbal ducked his head and then turned his attention back to the tracking screen. The stylised rocket depicting Satellite 4 had barely moved, although the altitude and velocity readouts were clicking upwards on schedule. He watched as the projected altitude climbed past 75 kilometres and continued to rise. "Any moment now," he thought.

"Approaching MECO, Flight. Decoupler five armed and ready."

"Backer shutdown in three...two...one. Decoupler firing." There was a long pause. "Second stage ignition confirmed!"

"Thank you, Flight Dynamics. Payload?"

Melvey hands shook as he worked his console. "Fairing jettisoned on schedule, Flight. Instrumentation looks good. Bringing propulsion and guidance systems online."

Nelton nodded. "Thank you, Payload." A green light lit up on her console. "Flight Dynamics, I have a projected periapsis - please confirm."

"Copy that, Flight. Twenty seconds to shutdown. Projected orbit two-forty by one-sixty by plus twelve. Altitude raising burn in thirty-one minutes."

Danfen squeezed Hanbal's shoulder. "Time for us to take a break and pass on the good news," he murmured. The two engineers nodded politely to Nelton and made their way quietly out of the room.

As soon as the door to Mission Control closed behind them, Hanbal punched the air in triumph. "It worked - it really worked! Tapered propellant loading on the B1s, lateral decouplers - it all went off without a hitch!"

Danfen beamed at him. "It really did! Gotta hand it to you - I never actually thought you could throttle down the B1s that far in flight and bring them back up to stable thrust. That was fine work!"

Hanbal grinned "Truthfully?" he asked.

"I know, I know," laughed Danfen, "neither did you."

"Well it all worked on the test stand so I shouldn't have been surprised."

Danfen chuckled at the old joke. "True, true. Anyway, we've got a little over an hour before the big test. Just got time to go thank the troops before we point our baby at the Mün!


The glowing green trace on the tracking screen showed Satellite 4 in an almost perfectly circular orbit around Kerbin, although Nelton knew that was more due to the scale of the display than anything else. A small red circle blinked slowly against the orbital track with a timer display beside it slowly unwinding down to zero.

Nelton rubbed her suddenly sweaty palms on the arms of her chair. She leaned forward and tapped her microphone for attention.

"All controllers report in for trans-Munar injection. Payload?"

Melvey swallowed the lump in his throat. "Go, Flight."


"We're Go, Flight."


"Looking good, Flight."

"Flight Dynamics?"

"Go for TMI, Flight."

Above their heads, the Satellite 4 marker inched its way round the screen. As it passed over the edge of the blinking circle, the red colour shifted to orange and a flashing '22' symbol appeared on Melvey's console. He scanned the propulsion and guidance readouts on his console one last time, crossed his fingers and punched the 'Proceed' button.

"Ullage motors are go. 48-7D ignition confirmed." Melvey watched as the readings on his console settled down. "All engines burning," he reported, "vernier firing pattern looks good."

"Thank you, Payload. Status report please, Guidance?"

"I'm with Payload, Flight. Verniers looking good, spacecraft attitude holding steady and tracking."

Everyone in the control room tilted their heads up to watch the flight tracking screen. A dotted elliptical tongue began to protrude out from the solid green line marking the known Satellite 4 orbit. Slowly at first and then faster and faster, the tongue stretched away from Kerbin towards the white circle depicting the Mün. Melvey watched his readouts, finger hovering over the manual shutdown.

It wasn't needed. The dotted line flickered as the flight computer updated its trajectory prediction and then snapped into an extremely lopsided figure-eight configuration with the Mün sitting squarely in the smaller of the two loops.

“48-7D shutdown confirmed, Flight," said Melvey quietly. “Deploying cameras and orienting vehicle for Kerbin observation programme."

“Understood, Payload," said Nelton. “Flight Dynamics - do we have a trajectory confirmation."

“One moment, Flight." Lemgan spoke quickly into his microphone, cocking his head as the answer came back through his headset. “Our tracking team report that they have the vehicle. Jerdo's team are having some problems with their antenna which is slowing things down a little. We estimate 5-6 hours for initial fix, another two to three hours after that for confirmation."

Nelton grimaced. “Six hundred miles is not enough of a baseline. If we're going to be doing this on a regular basis, Ademone needs to see about getting us another tracking station. Will nine hours give us enough time to work through the midorbit correction?"

“Not a problem, Flight. First correction burn was scheduled for ground elapsed time +eighteen hours but we have a reasonable window with our remaining propellant levels. Suggest we delay the burn to GET +twenty-two to give Tracking and Guidance a little more time."

“Noted and accepted, Flight Dynamics. Thank you."


“OK, thanks, Sigbin. Can you send through the next lot of frequency shifts in thirty minutes or so? Yeah I know - chasing down Rockomax isn't the trial run I was expecting either. Huh - I guess. Might as well get the bugs ironed out before we give it another go ourselves. OK, speak to you in thirty. Thanks, Sigbin."

Lucan put the phone down and ground the heels of his hands into his eyes. Beside him, Edsen threw his pen down on the table and turned to face Ornie, Jeb and Geneney

“Kerbostationary orbit, my cheeks!"

Jeb sighed. “You're sure then?"

“Positive." Edsen shook his head. “Tracking data isn't good enough to give us a trajectory yet but that spacecraft is going way beyond a stationary orbit. Look."

Edsen reached for a sheet of paper and quickly sketched out a diagram. “We've still got a large error space here but I figure their trajectory is somewhere in between this... and this."

Jeb scratched his cheek as he looked at the roughed out orbits. “What's the centreline estimate?" he asked.

Edsen drew a third line on the diagram. “Munar flyby, 1000 km periapsis. Give or take."

“Would that work? For the Prize I mean."

Geneney was picking at a piece of loose insulation poking out of the top of Lucan's console. “I'd want to check with Bill first but my best guess is no. Not reliably. The picture quality would be pretty bad from that altitude - hard to prove anything."He studied Edsen's diagram.“And if this is anywhere near to scale, they'd have problems transmitting the data back too."

“Well then," said Jeb, “It sounds like they're planning a midcourse correction of some kind. I think we just wait for the next lot of data from Sigbin and Doodlie, try and sharpen up that tracking and see if we can work out what they're up to from there."

Ornie looked at him, “So what do we tell everyone in the meantime, Jeb?" he said. Jeb frowned. “We tell them what we know," he said at last, “Better that they get the bad news from us than KBS."


Melvey was hunched over his console, paging back and forth through the first images from Satellite 4, when he heard the door open and the rest of the team file back into the control room. Nelton took her seat and checked the flight tracking screen. The dotted figure 8 had gone, replaced by a sinuous line that snaked out from Kerbin and curved gently around the Mün before disappearing off the edge of the screen. She tapped her microphone.

“A good try for a first attempt," she said, “but not quite what we need. Lemgan - do we have a burn solution for the midcourse correction?"

“We do, Flight. Guidance and trajectory teams concur." Lemgan pressed a button on his console. “An eight metre per second burn here..." he pressed another button,“along this vector, should put us back on the nominal flight plan." On the screen, another red circle appeared, with an arrow pointing away along the burn vector. A dotted line curved away from the circle and into the predicted figure-eight path around the Mün.

“Very good. Payload - what is the spacecraft status please?"

Melvey twisted his chair round to face her. “All instruments deployed, Flight,"he said, “and I have the first images from the Kerbin observation sequence. I think you'll find them interesting." He flicked a switch and one of the large monitors next to the flight tracking screen lit up. There was a clatter as one of the other flight controllers dropped his pen. Not a single one of the other controllers so much as twitched at the noise. Even Nelton sank back into her chair and gazed at the glowing blue and green sphere neatly filling the screen.

“It's round!" she whispered.

“The colour filters are working well," said Melvey. “but that's not the most interesting part." He brought up another image.

“This one was taken just a couple of hours ago. We're a lot further from Kerbin now of course but as you'll note, the image is also a lot noisier."

Lemgan peered at the screen.“Is there a problem with the camera?" he asked, “a loose feed causing static or something?"

Melvey shook his head. “The camera systems are fine. It's the environment the camera is flying through that's the problem."

"Radiation,"said Nelton.

Melvey blinked. “Yes. We expected some background radiation of course, mainly charged particles ejected from Kerbol. We also did our best to shield the cameras but there's a limit to the amount of shielding we could use, given the payload mass requirements. As it turns out, this may have been a happy accident."He tapped a key on his console and the images on the monitor began to cycle past in a crude and rather jerky film clip.

It took Lemgan a while to work out what he was seeing. “Hang on," he said slowly, “the noise is fluctuating." He jabbed a finger towards the screen. “There! Stop the film there." He swivelled his chair to face Nelton. “Look. Just as noisy as that last still shot but a lot closer to Kerbin too. Melvey - could you move the film on a few frames?"

Melvey smiled faintly and tapped at his console.

“There!" said Lemgan. “Further out from Kerbin but the noise has dropped away again!"

“Like rings," said Nelton wonderingly, “rings of invisible particles wrapped around Kerbin."

Melvey coughed. “I imagined them more like belts, myself," he said, “but obviously we don't have enough data to tell."

Nelton smiled. “Then that's what we'll call them in our research paper," she said, “The Melvey Radiation Belts!"


<< Chapter 20 ::     Chapter 22>>

Edited by KSK
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Very good chapter.


Well done indeed.

Edit: Would you please put all the chapters up in your blog. When I'm reading up on the story I much prefer not having to look for 'em. Well either that, or links on the front page.

Keep going strong Amigo.

Edited by Danish_Savage
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Aww, so Kan Allen didn't work for Rockomax? :) (Van Kallen? Van Halen? Oooh, not going there!)

Thanks for the mention KSK, and love the detail you bring to this. I think you know way more about NASA speak than I do. Very verbose and catches the mood perfectly. Keep it up!

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The Van Halen belts - like the Van Kallen belts but louder and with more rocks in.

I'll get my coat...

Seriously though - thanks folks! Danish - thanks for the reminder about the blog. I'll do that once the next chapter is finished. It follows directly on from 'Beyond Kerbin', so the two together will probably make a single large blog entry. I'll most likely merge some of the other forum chapters too.

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Great chapter!

Interesting leap in writing style, you really took that advise to heart eh?

And I call sabotage!

Rockomax couldn't have the KIS beat them to the Mun with one day to spare. KIS has been to open in their applications... a spy sneaked in!

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Next part is up.

Far Side

“Looks like they're aiming for a free return trajectory." Edsen shook his head. “Makes perfect sense I guess. Why bother with a tricky Munar orbit insertion when you can just swing past, grab your far side pictures and be done with it."

Lucan squinted at the screen. “Depends how well you can point your camera I guess," he said, “They're not quite there for a free return but it shouldn't take much of a burn to get them on track. I'll ask Sigbin and Doodlie to keep sending that frequency data - as Sigbin says, we may as well use this as practice for the real thing."

“You really think we'll get another shot, Lucan?"

“Damn right we will. Jeb's been busting to send something to the Mün ever since the Kerbal 1. We might not win any money for doing it but sure as luffas sit by the sea we'll get another shot." Lucan paused. “And once we're finished with Project Moho, the Mün is probably all we'll be doing for a while, assuming we can find the money. I wouldn't take any bets on going there in a capsule but we'll get all the photos that we can handle."

“Thanks, Lucan. That's... comforting."

“Oh - and if we really need to pull off another 'first', there's always Minmus."

“Hey come off it," said Edsen, “I appreciate the positive attitude but there's positive and then there's crazy."

“Run the numbers sometime," said Lucan, “you'd be surprised. It doesn't take that much more delta-v than getting to the Mün - the big problem is getting to the right place at the right time. Anyway - one of us had better head back to the warehouse and let the gang know what's happening."

Edsen sighed. “We can talk to an orbiting Moho capsule from here but I can't pick up the phone and call the junkyard? We really need to do something about that." He picked up his notebook. “I'll go - too many hours in this place drives me nuts. Bring you anything back?"

“A bag of djan chips would be good. Spicy if you can find them but nothing sweet. A can of smoky sapwood would go down well too."

Edsen made a face. “How can you stand that stuff? It tastes like wet ashes to me."

Lucan laughed. “It is a bit of an acquired taste. Used to be a speciality of our Grove, so I guess I just grew up with it. Now scoot before I decide to go instead."

Edsen shot him a look of mock horror, grabbed his coat and ran for it. It was dark and blustery outside the bunker and he was glad he'd parked so close to the door. By the time he drove up to the warehouse, it was raining hard, the wind driven droplets racing towards him out of the dark and lashing against the windscreen.

There were only one or two lights on at the windows but then, Edsen reflected, it was getting pretty late. As he let himself in, he was relieved to see the light still on in Jeb's office, even if it didn't do much more than highlight the looming shadows in the darker corners of the assembly area. His footsteps echoed as he strode across the warehouse floor and Edsen had to remind himself rather forcefully that the half-seen shapes hanging from the ceiling were just the old familiar sections of fuel tank and not anything more sinister.

He knocked on the office door and poked his head round the doorframe. Geneney and Jeb looked startled as he came in but then Jeb leapt to his feet to greet him.

“Edsen! What news from the bunker?"

Edsen blinked in the sudden warmth and sneezed violently. As he shrugged out of his soaking raincoat, Geneney pressed a large mug of hot djeng into his hands, which Edsen sipped at gratefully.

“Thanks, Gene. It's not pleasant out there."

“Come and take a seat. Is Lucan still out at the bunker?"

Edsen nodded. “Still working away. I'll take him some food when I head back over. I don't suppose you have any smoky sapwood do you, Jeb?"

Jeb raised his eyebrows. “Now why on Kerbin would I keep that muck around my office. Tastes like wet firework ashes - and trust me, I should know."

“I'm sure there's a fascinating story right there," said Geneney dryly. “There's a couple of cans left in the canteen, Edsen. I think Lucan is about the only one that drinks it."

Edsen took a gulp of his djeng, greedily inhaling its fragrant steam. He patted his lips dry and carefully put the mug down on the edge of Jeb's desk. Geneney and Jeb looked at him expectantly.

“We've got a trajectory plotted for the Rockomax probe. We think they're trying for a free return trajectory but if they are, they'll need to make a midcourse correction burn sometime tomorrow morning."

Jeb's eyelids drooped as he worked through the implications. “That makes sense," he said, “one less burn to worry about, although they'd better be sure where they're pointing their cameras if they're only getting one chance to get what they need."

“Or they could do what we did and put the probe into a slow spin," said Geneney, “It wouldn't give them as much useful data but it would be something."

“True. It won't help them much if their attitude is really cockeyed but if they pull off that course correction that'll be a solved problem anyway. Thanks Edsen - that's good to know." Jeb reached for his own mug. “Looks like the Probodyne Prize has gone then but at least the Muna 2 will be the first probe to orbit the Mün rather than just trundling round it and back to Kerbin."

“It's not going to be much of a consolation prize for the team though,"said Geneney.

Jeb stared down at the floor. “Yeah, I know, Genie - I know. The money would have come in handy too, no doubt about it."

Edsen couldn't help himself. “It would have paid for a phone line between here and the bunker if nothing else."

Jeb's head jerked upright. “There is a phone line, or at least there used to be. That explains why you came all the way out here in person then - I did wonder." He frowned. “I'll take a look at that tomorrow. What sort of launch control bunker can talk to an orbiting spacecraft but can't make a simple phone call."

Edsen yawned. “Thanks, Jeb. I'd better be heading back there now - Lucan will be getting hungry."

Geneney stood up. “I'll go, Edsen - you look dead on your feet. It'll be pointless trying to persuade Lucan to go home but I should at least remind him that there's a folding bed and a heater in the corner of the bunker. That probe isn't going anywhere else tonight."

“The couch in here makes a pretty good bed too," said Jeb cheerfully, “and somebody even replaced the spare toothbrush."

Edsen's head was drooping on his shoulders. “...know..." he said, “...put it back myself."


Lemgan peered through the glass door into the Mission Control room. Most of the flight controllers were already at their stations, a semicircle of green heads poking out above the high backed chairs, headsets clamped firmly over their ears. The viewing area around the edges of the room was packed with kerbals, all leaning against the balcony rail and staring up at the orbital tracking screen. Just inside the doorway, a prominently placed signboard read 'Quiet Please - Mission in Progress'.

Outside in the corridor, a shuffling crowd of Rockomax workers were pressed up against the long curved windows, all trying to get the best view they could of the screens. Lemgan squared his shoulders and pushed the door open. Everyone in the viewing area turned to watch as he walked down the steps towards the consoles, took his seat and plugged in his own headset.

After satisfying himself that the Satellite 4 position and trajectory were still within expected values, Lemgan set to work, occasionally calling up one of his colleagues on a private loop to consult them on a particular detail of the guidance or propulsion systems. Just as he flipped over the next page of his checklist there was a crackle from the comms system as Nelton's voice cut in on all loops.

“Good morning everyone. All controllers report in please."

Lemgan listened to the systems reports as they came in one by one. Above his head, the timer on the orbital tracking screen rolled over from 1:00:00 to 0:59:59.

“Flight Dynamics?"

“We're Go at fifty-eight minutes Flight. Spacecraft is in stellar inertial. Orienting for burn at MC minus forty."

Ademone gripped the balcony rail tightly as the clock ticked down. The monitor still showed Kerbin floating in space, although the cloud cover made it difficult to pick out surface details. Sheer distance from Satellite 4 had reduced the atmosphere to nothing more than a thin glowing line, wrapped around the edges of a diminishing disc.

Nelton glanced down at her console and gave a guilty start at the comm system settings. As she clicked one of the dials round a notch, there was a soft hissing noise out in the corridor as the public address loop came to life.

Lemgan took a deep breath and switched his console to conference mode.

“MC minus six. How do you read, Melvey?"

“All s..systems go Lemgan. RCS tank pressure is high but acceptable, steady current to all propellant line heaters."

“Looks good, Melvey. Orbald?"

RCS controller is Go. Attitude deltas uploaded to guidance system."

“Good work, Orbald. Guess we're as ready as we'll ever be."

Lemgan put his console back to public mode. “Flight, this is Flight Dynamics. We're Go for reorientation."

“Understood, Flight Dynamics. Thank you."

RCS firing in 3...2...1..."

Kerbin began a stately drift across the monitor and slowly disappeared off screen. For a long moment, there was nothing to see as Satellite 4 revolved silently agains the backdrop of space. Then, along one edge of the screen, a thin grey crescent appeared and slowly spun into view. Without an atmosphere to wrap it in a diffuse halo of light, the Mün stood out starkly against the blackness.


“That's about what we're seeing too Sigbin. Looks like they had a pretty clean burn. Has Doodlie had any luck decoding their transmissions? No? Pity - it would be nice to get a look at whatever pictures they're sending back. KBS - oh Kerm yes. They'll be all over this. Yeah, don't blame you. We're going to sign off here as well. Thanks Sigbin."

Edsen slumped into his chair. “Well that's that then." He looked at Lucan's crumpled clothing and stubbled chin. “At least we were right about the free-return."

Lucan stared at him and then flopped down on his bed. “Yep."

“I'm going to shut everything down."


One by one, the displays on Edsen's console flickered and went out. He walked over and switched off Lucan's console at the wall.

“C'mon Lucan."

The clean salty sea air smelt remarkably good after the enclosed fug of the launch bunker as Edsen switched off the lights and locked the door behind him. The two kerbals climbed into Edsen's car and drove away.


Conversation on the assembly floor was muted and for the most part, limited to strictly technical matters. Even the noise of the engine tests out in the yard didn't seem as loud as usual although, Adelan thought, that was more to do with the thicker blast shields around the test stand than anything else.

The lathe beeped, as the turret returned to its index position and the motor switched itself off. Adelan picked up a micrometer and began to check over the newly machined pusher rod. Satisfied that the part was within tolerance, she put it down on the bench with the others and loaded a new billet onto the lathe.

Richlin and Ordun walked past pushing a half assembled LV-T20 on it's trolley. “You got those valve heads ready, Adelan?" Ordun called out.

“Couple more rods to turn yet," said Adelan, “but valve heads are next on the list."

“Cheers, Adelan. Good to see someone looking halfway happy with their work too. I've never seen such a miserable bunch as the tankage team this morning."

Richlin swung the trolley round. “Having your Mün rocket go boom will do that," he said equably, “specially when somebody else's Mün rocket is about to make it there in one piece."

“Pfff. I'm with Gene. We gave it our best shot - and we got a damn fine party out of it if nothing else. If we'd just come back here, started plugging away at the next rocket - and then got the news about Rockomax today... well I might have been a bit grumpy then. And Kerm's sake, Richlin - it was only a box of electronics that went boom. It could have been Adelan sitting on top of that booster."

Adelan rolled her eyes. “Thanks, Ordun."

Ordun grinned. “Don't mention it. Besides that's why we have abort systems right?" He pulled out a radio from his pocket. “I don't know about you two but I want to find out what's happening out at the Mün."

“....rollers are preparing to put Satellite 4 into a controlled spin before it passes around the far side of the Mün. According to Flight Dynamics officer Lemgan, this will ensure that Satellite 4 can photograph as much of the Mün as possible on its single pass."

“This is Leland Kerman at Rockomax Mission Control. The atmosphere here is tense but controlled as Satellite 4 plunges towards the Mün. Payload officer Melvey reports that everything is Go for the spin up maneuver."

“And 3..2..1... ignition. Well not ignition precisely as this maneuver will only be using the spacecraft reaction control system. The propellant for the main engines was of course used up nearly three days ago for trans-Munar injection. One of the main screens at Mission Control is showing the view from the onboard cameras and I'm watching the Mün start to spin."

“That's odd. Two of the flight controllers are crossing the room to speak to Flight Director Nelton..."

“Oh and this doesn't look good. The Mün is spinning faster now and it's starting to slide off the screen. I think we may have a problem here..."


Jeb came skidding up to Adelan's workbench. “What...!" 

Ordun raised a finger to his lips and then pointed at the radio.

“This is Leland Kerman at Rockomax Mission Control. The spacecraft is off course in an uncontrolled tumble. We're waiting for an update from the flight control team but at this time it appears that one of the reaction control thrusters is stuck on..."

"Above my head, I can see the main orbital tracking screen. The picture has just changed from showing the Mün and Kerbin to showing the Mün only. I think those two dotted lines are possible new trajectories. One of them gets very close to the surface indeed. It looks like the spacecraft will stay in orbit but it may not stay in a high enough orbit to make it safely round..."

“And we've just lost contact with the probe. Loss of signal happened a few seconds later than expected and the guidance team are now using that information to measure the spacecraft trajectory more accurately..."

“The dotted lines have gone.... and they've been replaced by a single unbroken line. Wait, wait one moment. Flight Dynamics reports that the periapsis, that is the lowest point of approach to the Mün, will be no more than 4 kilometres. If all goes well, Mission Control will re-acquire contact with Satellite 4 in approximately 19 minutes..."

The assembly floor was silent as every kerbal in the building gathered round Ordun's radio.

"Reaquisition in 2 minutes... This is Leland Kerman at Rockomax, reporting on Satellite 4's flight around the Mun. Earliest reaquisition expected in forty five seconds. Thirty seconds... twenty... acquisition in ten seconds..."

“We are now at reacquisition plus two minutes and there is nothing but static on the monitors. The flight controllers have confirmed that there is a sizeable error margin on the reacquisition time but at two minutes and thirty seconds we are running out of margin..."

“Reacquisition plus five minutes. Flight Director Nelton is crossing the floor to speak to Ademone Kerman, owner and company manager of Rockomax."

Reacquisition plus seven minutes. Flight Director Nelton has just confirmed that the spacecraft is lost. I repeat, Satellite 4 is lost over the far side of the Mün.


<< Chapter 21::     Chapter 23>>

Edited by KSK
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It looks like Rockomax have borrowed Dunkel's prototype RCS unit. Oh dear. Oh, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for not using the word 'Orientating'. So much wrong with the English language today, including people who can't use it correctly :) At least you can!

Oh, and btw... good story! Sometimes I actually forget why I'm typing on this thing.

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Tip: add an index to your first post, and number your chapters. It will be easer to refer to 'chapter X' without having to search through all the pages.

I gathered some links for you already:

Prologue: First Flight

1: Space Program Rising (Part I)

2: Space Program Rising (Part II)

3: New Directions

4: Sattelite

5: Two's Company

6: These New Engines

7: The Courage of Conviction

8: The Other Side

9: Kerbal in Space Soonest

10: Project Moho

11: The Seed

12: Poyekhali

13: All the Proof They Needed

14: Decisions

15: New Homes

16: Mun Or Bust

17: We all build them - We all fly them

18: MarkusA380 Fanart

19: Reunion

20: Beached

21: Beyond Kerbin

22: Far Side

*Phew* That was more than I thought...

I also vote for bundling all this at some point in a big .pdf For the Kerbal Archives (Yea, One day I'll make a thread to collect the most legendary writings, some day :P)

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Please add this to the op.

Thanks for the links Ortwin. I'll add them to the OP as requested. I've also updated the blog (go-go post spam), so that's all in one piece now, right up to Far Side.

Patupi - yeah that was hard lines for Rockomax. They're not beaten yet though :)

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