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First Flight (Epilogue and Last Thoughts)

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Just so you know, KSK, for me, the link to the most recent chapter does not work. If you would please fix the issue, I'd be happy.

Is that the link from the chapter list on page 1? Whatever it is, I'll take a look once I'm not working from a tablet and fix it ASAP.

Cheers. KSK.

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Is that the link from the chapter list on page 1? Whatever it is, I'll take a look once I'm not working from a tablet and fix it ASAP.

Cheers. KSK.

Yes, it is the one on the first page, but it seems to be working just fine now. Just for future reference, it might be a good idea to put some more space between individual links, because I have had problems with selecting specific ones in the past when they're as close together as they are here.

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Glad it's working now Ramnrmeul. I've spaced the links out too and organised them into sections. Hopefully they should work a bit better now. :)

Thanks for all the comments folks - and Patupi, that's because your guys are pros. Mine are still learning the ropes!

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Glad it's working now Ramnrmeul. I've spaced the links out too and organised them into sections. Hopefully they should work a bit better now. :)

Thanks for all the comments folks - and Patupi, that's because your guys are pros. Mine are still learning the ropes!

I think it's more I have a knack for docking... just not a lot else :D I still have difficulty landing where I want to on any planet with atmosphere, FAR or no, and as to efficient launches.... not so much.

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Just so you know, that's WAY better. Not many people do what you just did, KSK.

Actually I've been pretty pleasantly surprised by the helpfulness on these forums compared to others. Mostly the KSP people seem helpful and friendly. :) Always nice to see somewhere break from the norm, eh?

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And seconded.

Not a problem about the chapter list - it was a quick fix and well worth it, especially if it made things way better. :) Thanks in return for the feedback!

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  • 2 weeks later...

This one's for Jake...

Pioneering Spirit

Jeb pushed the last thumbtack into the wall and stepped back to check his work. Fortunately, the cluster of pinholes around each corner of the poster section weren't visible from a distance, although the corners were starting to look a little worn. The fluorescent tubes high above him cast pools of light and oddly angled shadows across the vehicle assembly building; lending a stark immediacy to the finished mural.

Jeb walked around the half assembled Eve capsule to get a better view. Behind him, Geneney emerged from his office, carrying an armful of fabric. He stopped, letting the moment linger. Jeb, a half built spacecraft and an outlandish plan in front of them both. If Bill was here now, he could capture the entire Kerbin Interplanetary Society in one photograph. Quietly, he joined Jeb by the capsule.

“It doesn't seem real does it, Genie?" said Jeb softly.

Geneney squeezed his friend's shoulder. “Hard to believe," he agreed. “Did you manage to get the nameplate finished?"

“It's right under that dust sheet," Jeb said, “Not as neat as Bill's work, but I think it'll do."

Geneney lifted up a corner of the sheet and peered underneath. A small, polished copper plaque twinkled at him; secured to the spacecraft hull by four gleaming, round headed rivets. The letters KIS were engraved on one corner, alongside the familiar tilted rocket logo but the rest of the foil was taken up by one word and a single digit. Geneney brushed his fingers gently over them.

“I think it'll do very well, Jeb," he said quietly.

Jeb stifled a yawn. “Doubt anyone will be looking at it too closely anyway," he said. “C'mon, Genie, let's get those screens hung up."


The mill shut down with a heavy clunk and a rapidly fading whirr of high speed cutting tools coming to rest. Pneumatic actuators hissed, snapping the tool-changer out and back, and swapping the cutter for a slender steel wand, tipped with a polished ceramic ball. Wernher watched the touch probe begin its pre-programmed dance over the newly machined injector, flitting over the gleaming alloy, darting towards it, backing off, then approaching more cautiously.

Satisfied that the measurement program was working, he removed his goggles, hung his protective gear on its peg, and jogged over to the vehicle assembly building in search of breakfast.

By the time Wernher emerged from the canteen, clutching an egg-and-greenleaf wrap, a crowd of kerbals had gathered around the ropes surrounding the Eve capsule. Wernher blinked, Since when did we starting roping off parts of the VAB? He took a bite of his wrap and went over to investigate.

“Any idea what this is about, Wernher?" asked Ribory.

Wernher shrugged. “No idea," he said, “Jeb mentioned something about an RCS test last night though - maybe there was a leak?"

Ribory sniffed. “Doesn't smell like it," she said. She pointed at the drapes hanging from the wall. “Monoprop would have made a right mess of those too. Besides, nobody told the capsule team about any testing."

“Looks like it's been mothballed," said Ordrie gloomily, “Reckon we finally ran out of money."

Bob shook his head. “Geneney's been pretty chipper lately," he said. “And trust me - it's just not Jeb's style to mothball a perfectly good capsule whilst there's even half a rocket to launch it with."

“And we've got a lot more than that," said Wernher, “Last of the T-thirty injectors is on its inspection cycle, Bob."

The babble of anxious speculation died away before Wernher's matter of fact tone, leaving a lot of very puzzled kerbals staring at the shrouded capsule and muttering amongst themselves. Wernher left them to it and went over to inspect the hanging drapes more closely. Hmm, why bother stapling them in place? He hooked a finger under the edge of the sheet and prised it carefully away from the wall. Hang on - there's something underneath these. Looks like a poster...

Wernher's pulse began to race. I think you've got a little announcement to make haven't you, Jeb? And I doubt you'd go to all this trouble if it was bad news. Which means...

“Don't suppose you left me any greenleaf, Wernher?"

Startled, Wernher jumped back, nearly bumping into his grinning friend. “Uhh, plenty in the fridge, Jeb." He gestured at the crowd gathered around the shrouded capsule. “I'd get it before someone sees you though."

“So what do you think, Wernher?" Ribory turned her head and realised that she'd been talking to herself for the last two minutes. “Wernh... JEB!"

Everyone's head snapped round.


“Hey boss!"

“What happened, boss?"

“What's with the sheets over everything?"

Jeb raised his hands to fend off the jostling throng of kerbals. “Woah, woaaah - everyone take it easy. There's been a little change of plan that's all."

“What plan, Jeb?"

“What do you mean - change of plan?"

“Are we mothballing the ship, boss?"

Jeb gestured for silence. “I'll tell you all about it in a minute folks, once the rest of the team are here.“


The clock ticked over to 8:30, just as Edsen pushed open the door to the vehicle assembly building. He was promptly greeted by a clamour of voices from the entire Kerbin Interplanetary Society, all gathered round a fabric draped shape. He hurried over to them.

“Hey guys - what happened to the capsule?"

“It's right there, Edsen."

“What's it doing under those covers?"

Jeb cleared his throat. “I was just getting to that, Edsen."

He stared solemnly at everyone. “As I was saying, there's been a little change of plan. We're still going to launch Eve 2 but after that, Project Eve is cancelled." He hooked a thumb over his shoulder. “Eve 3 isn't going to fly."

There was a stunned silence.

“You might have told us earlier, Jeb," said Ornie quietly, “Propulsion team have been workin' round the clock on that booster."

“That's right," said Ordrie, “Wernher's been up since dawn, working on the last engine! Waste of effort that was."

Everyone looked at Wernher, who was leaning casually against a wall and not looking at all perturbed by Jeb's bombshell. “On the contrary, Ordrie, I don't think it was wasted at all. Right, Jeb."

Jeb grinned at the bewildered faces staring back at him. “There's no fooling you, Wernher. You got my scissors, Genie?"

“Right here, Jeb," replied Geneney.

“Excellent,†said Jeb and stepped up to the wall drapes. “Give a kerbal a hand here?"

Geneney reached up with his own scissors.

“Project Eve is no more," Jeb said. “But now good kerbals, we give you..."

Two pairs of blades snipped shut and the dust sheets plummeted to the floor.

"....the Pioneer Program!"

Edsen gaped at the mural spread out behind the shrouded capsule. On one side, the familiar cloud streaked sphere of Kerbin glowed amidst the star speckled blackness of space. On the other side, the cratered, plaster-grey Mun provided a stark contrast. White lines, arrows and a whole flotilla of different spacecraft decorated the space between and around the two orbs. Looks like a flight plan but where... His heart leapt. One of the spacecraft had been drawn right on the edge of the largest Munar crater. And, right beside it, somebody had drawn two kerbonauts and a flag.

“They went for it. Great Kerm, they went for it!"

Ornie blushed as everyone turned to stare at him.

"That they did, Ornie," laughed Jeb, "That they did!" He whisked the dust covers off the capsule, revealing the gleaming plaque underneath. “Eve 3 isn't going to fly, my friends - but Pioneer 1 is." He raised his hands. "And I can see that everyone is busting with questions, so before we get to those, how about I run you all through the flight plan first?"

A buzz of excited assent ran through the crowd. Jeb picked up a spare piece of antenna from the workbench next to him and waved it at the mural.

"OK, the basic plan isn't much more complicated than the ones we used for the Muna 2 and Muna 3 flights. From low Kerbin orbit we do a trans-Munar injection burn, coast, and then do an insertion burn into Munar orbit. Powered descent to the surface." Jeb's eyes gleamed. “Then we launch from the Munar surface, rendezvous, and prep for trans-Kerbin injection. Aerobraking re-entry and parachutes to splashdown as usual."

Ornie whistled, “That's a lot of flying, Jeb. Gonna take one helluva booster to lift all that fuel."

Jeb nodded. "Yep. Genie and I went through the numbers with the folks at Rockomax, and doing the round trip with a single ship needs a much bigger rocket than either of us can put together any time soon. Likewise for a couple of the other flight plans we thought up. So eventually we came up with this."

Jeb jabbed his piece of antenna at the image of Kerbin. "It's a bit easier to go through the flight in reverse. We use an Eve... sorry, a Pioneer capsule for re-entry and splashdown. The service module provides the juice for trans-Kerbin injection." The antenna traced a path back to the Mun. "The lander is a separate craft. It goes out to the Mun docked to the front of the capsule. We undock, fly it down to the surface and back, re-dock, and then jettison it.

Jeb pointed at a larger spacecraft in the middle of the mural. "The capsule, service module, and lander are boosted towards the Mun by a disposable Kerbin departure stage. That stage is jettisoned during the coast phase and we use the service module engine for Munar orbit insertion." Jeb tapped the mural. "Ademone reckons that Rockomax have the heavy lift capacity to get the lander and Kerbin departure stage to orbit from Foxham. We launch the Pioneer capsule and service module from Barkton on the usual booster, and put everything together on orbit. We'll be launching to an inclined orbit of course; Rockomax can't launch directly to an equatorial orbit and they'll be pushing their systems just to get to orbit; changing planes isn't an option."

Jeb put his antenna down and looked expectantly at the crowd of kerbals. He wasn't disappointed; the questions came thick and fast.

"Fraid not, Camrie. Launching everything on a single booster would make things easier for sure, but it would take a crazy amount of engine clustering to pull off, even with Skipper engines."

"Yeah, the telemetry and control linkages between the spacecraft and the departure stage are going to be tricky. I figured you might have some ideas there, Bill?"

"The guidance systems were accurate enough for the Muna 2 and Muna 3 trajectories, Neling. We should be OK."

"We think so, Lucan. We worked the numbers twice and the service module should have enough delta-V for both manoeuvres."

"Almost like somebody planned it that way," said Geneney dryly.

"Just thinking ahead, Genie; just thinking ahead," said Jeb airily. "What's that, Bob? Oh right, yeah that's the missing piece for sure. To be honest, I was kinda hoping you could handle that? The lander is probably gonna be a joint project and you get on pretty well with the Rockomax folks."

"Ahh - now that is an excellent question, Ornie. Nope, we're not going be shooting straight for the Mun. You want to take this one, Genie?"

"Sure," Geneney said calmly. "OK people, we've got a lot of hardware to build for this.Then we have even more training to fit in for the crews and flight control teams." He retrieved a piece of chalk from his pocket and began to sketch out a timeline on the wall. Jeb slipped away unnoticed, closing the canteen door behind him.

"The current plan is for a three stage program. Stage One is ground team integration; Stage Two is flight hardware construction and qualification; Stage Three is gonna be bootprints on the Mun time.

He smiled faintly at the disappointed looks on some faces. "Don't worry folks - there's going to be plenty of flying before we get to Stage Three. First up is the Rockomax crewed flight - and we're going to lend them a hand. Two hands actually; we're going to build them a target, and we're going to lend them a flight control team."

"Target, Gene?" asked Wernher

"Rendezvous target, Wernher. Modified Moho booster with a docking adaptor on top instead of a capsule. We're gonna need all the docking practice we can get because, without docking, we're not even getting out of Kerbin orbit. Communications during the CORDS flight were also pretty rough in places, and we need to straighten that right out. Plus the Rockomax pilots need to get used to working with our flight control team."

"The second Stage 1 flight will be Eve 2. More joint flight control operations, this time to get our pilots used to working with Rockomax controllers." Geneney's eyes flicked from Ornie to Ordrie to Edsen. "The flight objectives have also been substantially upgraded. Assuming you guys are up for it, Eve 2 will be a full duration shakedown of the capsule and service module systems."

Edsen raised his hand. "Does that include engine tests, Gene?"

"Yes," said Geneney, "Simulated Munar orbit insertion and trans-Kerbin injection burns; both at periapsis. Total delta-v is a little under two kilometres per second. Not quite enough for kerbostationary transfer but you'll still be busting the Moho altitude records."

"What about the heat shield, Gene?" said Ornie

"The heat shield will be fine," replied Geneney. "All the ground tests were positive, ablation on the recovered Moho capsules was in line with predictions, and we're building in a healthy margin on top of that."

Ornie looked dubious, "I don't know, Gene. I don't mind taking the risk that something will go wrong but I do want to know that we'll get home if everything goes right. Isn't there some way we can test the shield at Munar return velocities?"

Geneney scratched his head. "I'll have a think," he said, "We could probably do something sub-orbital with one of the Mohos."

"Put an RT-5 under it," said Bob cheerfully. "Launch 'em straight up, flip 'em over and light the Trashcan on the way down."

"And hope we hit the sea and not our own heads," said Geneney dryly. "Like I said - I'll have a think."

"So what's the plan for Stage 2?" said Wernher.

"Glad you asked," said Geneney. "At the moment we're thinking it's going to be a minimum of three test flights, probably more if we don't hit all our objectives the first time out. First up will be a shakedown test of the Kerbin departure stage. Then we prove out the lander in Kerbin orbit. Full Munar flight duration, docking and undocking with the Pioneer capsule, flight testing of all RCS and guidance systems, simulated Munar descent burns - everything we can think of." He nodded at the expression on Wernher's face. "Yep. I think we'll need more than one flight for all that too, but we'll give it our best shot."

"And the third flight?" said Wernher quietly.

"All-up rehearsal for the landing," said Geneney simply. "Everything bar the final powered descent, and launch from the Munar surface.

Camrie raised a hand. "Why bother with a rehearsal?" she said, "Seems like a long way to go to not bother landing."

"Probably because we'll have our hands full just getting to the Mun for the first time," said Ornie. "No sense overloading everyone with the landing too."

Geneney coughed. "Second time actually, " he said. "How else did you think we were going to test the Kerbin departure stage?"

A broad grin split Camrie's face. "Now, that's more like it!" she said. "Don't suppose you've picked the crew yet?"

"Not yet," said Geneney, "Not all of them anyway. The plan for the Stage 2 and Stage 3 crews is to have one pilot each from us and Rockomax. I've no idea how Rockomax intend to pick theirs, but we'll be going with our usual method. The third slot is for the commander though - and we'll be picking them from kerbonauts that have already flown."

There was a rumble of discontent.

"I know, I know, it's not the way we run things, but Ademone insisted - and just so everybody is quite clear - I agree with her. These are gonna be big, complicated flights, people, and I want a bit of experience on board. We'll still be picking our commanders from the basket so don't worry about that."

"So who goes first?" said Ornie, "I assume we're takin' turns with Rockomax?"

"They do," said Geneney, "First flight to the Mun will launch with two Rockomax crew on board." He surveyed the crowd patiently.

Wilford was the first to get it. "Hang on, Gene. Does that mean...?"

"It does indeed," said Geneney. "We only get one seat on the first Munar flight people, but if everything goes to plan, we get two for the first Munar landing!"

The smell of fresh coffee filled the air. Jeb wheeled in a large trolley, and was promptly mobbed by excited kerbals. Lucan's voice rose above the din.

"So who gets that first seat, Gene?!"

"Already sorted, Luco!" Jeb called out. "Eve 3 is changing her name but she's not changing her pilot!"

Wernher's stomach lurched. He was dimly aware that Jeb was still talking and that everyone around him had suddenly fallen silent. Somehow, neither fact seemed particularly important.

The Mun... I'm going to the Mun.

Jeb just smiled at him."You set us all on this road in the first place, old friend. You ready to make a little history?"


<< Chapter 36   :    Chapter 38>>

Edited by KSK
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Heh. Interesting. At first, I was thinking that you were copying the Apollo mission a bit slavishly - there are other, equally reasonable plans, like Lunar Orbit Rendezvous or the Soviet Crasher-stage design - but the Earth Kerbin Orbit Rendezvous option is different enough.

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The earliest version of the story (as in - before I decided to write in Rockomax in quite such a major way) was pretty much an Apollo clone. In the end I figured that having the KIS build a Saturn V class vehicle was probably stretching the 'space program in a junkyard' conceit a little bit too far! I did have (what I thought) was a pretty good launch sequence written though - quite a bit of that got recycled into the Endurance launch.

EOR - sorry KOR - seemed like a good compromise. More realistically sized ships for current kerbal booster technology and the extra complication of LKO assembly is mostly offset by kerbal computer technology being significantly more advanced than 60s America could manage.

Edit. Just read up on the Crasher stage concept - almost a pity I didn't know about that before. It is very kerbal!

Edited by KSK
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Edit. Just read up on the Crasher stage concept - almost a pity I didn't know about that before. It is very kerbal!

No reason you can't use it now. Plans like this should be expected to go through multiple major revisions between the start of the project and the actual mission. The only part that is really set in stone is the command and service module, since it's already been designed and partially built. Both the lander and the Munar insertion stage are still being designed - you mention that prominently in the chapter - so there's no reason they couldn't adjust the plan appropriately.

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Stayed up way too late reading this and finishing in two days. Your book is just so awesome! I must have MOAR!

P.S. Did the naming of the Endurance have something to do with a certain Ernest Shackleton? I think it doth.


Afraid that Endurance wasn't (consciously) named for that Endurance, although I'm more than happy to invoke the spirit of Sir Ernest! Rockomax gave their ship that name because it was intended to be the first truly long duration LKO flight. Not the most original name in that regard, but then Rockomax do tend to hire rocket scientists rather than writers. :)

Endurance probably isn't the most auspicious namesake though - perhaps Nimrod would be better?

Very glad you're enjoying the story. I'm working on the next chapter and there is definitely more to come after that. I can't let Wernher down now that I've promised him a trip to the Mun! :)

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So Wernher is going to the first trip to the Mun, but not the first landing, right? :) I wonder who the first two lucky Kerbals will be? Come on, Jebs gotta be on the list. Or maybe the crew decide he deserves it for all he's done and rig the random selection? *grins* I wouldn't put it past them given what we've seen so far.

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Oh Jeb's on the list. Along with Camrie, Wilford, Adelan, Richlin, Joemy, Roncott, Ribory, Calzer, Ornie, Ordrie and Edsen. :) They've all flown on Moho or Eve, so they'll all get a chance at a commander slot for Pioneer.

I don't know if I have a favourite to be honest - there's a good story to be made for each of them, although Jeb would be very canon!

Then again, how about Wilford? Wilford the nervous, who mustered the courage to fly aboard Moho 3, and now gets to command the first Munar landing. Or Ornie - all the folks back on the airshow circuit would be all over that. Or Edsen - of all the pilots, he's probably the closest that the KIS have to Buzz "Dr Rendezvous" Aldrin. Or Ribory - commander of the first joint Rockomax/KIS spaceflight, now leads them on to the next adventure! Or Camrie - we didn't get to see much of her Moho 2 flight, maybe it's time to see what she can do.

Yep - there's something to be said for random selection - it does make things more interesting to write. :)

Edited by KSK
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On the Mun! :)

Well anyway - right now Bob and the guys don't much care about the details of who goes - they're just pretty stoked that anyone is going! Bob was inspired enough to pen some lyrics for the occasion...

(With apologies to Michael Stipe)

Kerbin spinning on the edge of the night.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

My capsule drifts towards the morning light.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Life support, parachutes - and boosters I guess.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Feeling pretty happy that we aint made a mess.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Now, Lodan did you hear about this one?

Tell me, are you watching us, son.

Hey, Lodan - we aint goofing off early.

Not when we’re having fun.

And you’d better believe,

We’ll put a kerb’ on the Mun!

A kerb’ on the Mun.

And you’d better believe; there’s plenty up here to see.

And all of it’s cool…

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  • 4 weeks later...

Not dead, but yes, it's been slow going for a while. Blame it on a combination of tough weeks at work, real life getting in the way, and finally getting the new computer that a) made KSP faster and prettier and B) made a detour into the Elite: Dangerous beta possible. Both of those were quite distracting. :)

The next chapter is about 40% done. I've also got some leave to burn before Christmas, so I see a couple of writing weeks in my near future which should help move things along.



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