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First Flight (Epilogue and Last Thoughts)


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Heh. I wonder if the kerbal language equivalent for 'dongle' makes small children and ladies of a certain age giggle uncontrollably as well?

Heck, it's probably their equivalent of 'tinkle' :D Bonus points if it's a slight twisting of a medical term for 'those' parts of the Kerbal anatomy.

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Heck, it's probably their equivalent of 'tinkle' :D Bonus points if it's a slight twisting of a medical term for 'those' parts of the Kerbal anatomy.

Careful now. Everybody knows that kerblets are made when a mummy kerbal and a daddy kerbal ask a Kerm tree very nicely... :)

I'm not entirely sure what the kerbal equivalent of 'the stork' is. Having kerblets brought by 'the gronnek' probably wouldn't work too well...

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Careful now. Everybody knows that kerblets are made when a mummy kerbal and a daddy kerbal ask a Kerm tree very nicely... :)

I'm not entirely sure what the kerbal equivalent of 'the stork' is. Having kerblets brought by 'the gronnek' probably wouldn't work too well...

Found under a Kerm leaf, of course. Heck, it;s nearly true~

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Commander Zoom said:
What macdjord said. And I imagine "from the grove" is actually a very common answer when a kerblet asks.

I think so too. :)

Neither your answer nor macdjord's had occurred to me, but they both really fit with the rest of the story - which I'm ridiculously pleased about!

And on that note - next chapter is up...

Second Mün

Starlight shone through the glass, impinging on a delicate grid of photodiodes, and triggering minute bursts of current deep within the underlying circuitry. Amplification and processing swiftly followed. Patterns were identified, compared with stored data, encoded on a burst of radio waves and transmitted back to the waiting antenna. The journey took seconds, the response much longer.

Then it arrived. An answering burst of radio waves, subtly different to the first, encoding commands instead of data. Relays tripped, valves opened, fire burst forth. The starlight shifted minutely over the sensor grid, and this time the data matched the expected values. A second, far simpler message blasted out and the reply was far swifter. The main engine fired, altering the probe velocity by a tiny fraction. Searing gases froze almost instantly in the unforgiving vacuum, leaving nothing but an invisibly faint crystalline trail, drifting away along a divergent vector.


“Midcourse correction confirmed!" Bobrie called out. “Estimated time to Minmus encounter, 4 days, 18 hours."

“Propulsion telemetry looking good," added Ferlan. “Valves, line heaters and helium pressure are all Go."

Of all the KIS's spaceflight firsts, Germore reflected, defining the language of spaceflight had to be their most pervasive. Listen to coverage of any launch, watch any spaceflight documentary, and the argot of Mission Control was exactly the same. Understood, Standing By, Go for this, No-Go for the other. Then again, she thought, it works. Fast, precise, no wasted words. Of course any newcomer to spaceflight also feels that they need to speak the jargon to be taken seriously. Ruefully, she glanced around the modestly sized Deep Space Operations Centre. That would be us then.

"Understood," she replied, "PV array status?"

She watched Ferlan work his console. We certainly picked a grandiose name for our little room. But then again - why on Kerbin not. Minmus Explorer is already far beyond the reach of the crewed programmes - and Minmus is just the start. She shivered. Plus we have the first genuine mission in spaceflight history. We're not just in this for curiosity and wanderlust - what we're doing may - literally - save the world. She sat up straight, thumping her chair off the wall behind her. Besides it's impossible to be grandiose in this broom cupboard!

Originally set up as Communications Room Number 4, and hastily enlarged by knocking through a wall into the adjacent room, the Deep Space Operations Centre had a distinctly cobbled together feel. Raw steel girders held up what was left of the dividing wall and nobody had yet had the time to plaster over the brickwork, let alone paint it. The floor around the flight consoles was badly scuffed and the whiff of cleaning fluids in the air mingled harshly with the metallic tang of hot electronics and ionised dust. Bundles of cables trailed everywhere, neatly corralled under black rubber floor protectors.

"PVs are Go," reported Ferlan. “Main bus looking good, reserve bus online. Not a twitch in the voltage, even under thrust."

The room was dominated by a large wall mounted screen, which flickered briefly before displaying a, by now familiar, view of a star field with one small, blue dot in the middle. Bobrie glanced at the screen worriedly.

“We're getting blurring again. I thought we were using the new camera setup this time?"

“We are," said Ferlan. “Look at the background, Bob - the stars are all fine, it's just Minmus that's a bit fuzzy."

Bobrie waved dismissively, “Point sources," she said, “There's nothing there to blur." She looked over at Germore. “We should re-orient to Kerbin, or the Mün and get a comparison shot."

Germore shook her head. “I want to keep manoeuvres to a minimum," she said. “Better to keep everything pointed at Minmus and get something to show for this, than get a couple of long distance shots of the Mün - and nothing else." She paused, “Besides, there's no need."

“Oh come on," said Ferlan, “You're not still holding to the cometary theory?"

"I still think it fits the data better than the mineral theory," Germore replied. “Inclined orbit, apoapsis barely inside the Lemney Sphere..."

"Yeah but that doesn't explain the colour," said Ferlan impatiently. "And Melvey's latest analysis of Kerbin-Mün perturbations found any number of solutions for the inclined orbit."

Germore shrugged. “We'll find out in four days," she said. "Anyway, decision made - we're not re-orienting."

Ferlan gave her a mutinous look and pointedly turned back to his console.


The aircraft nose dipped, slowing its meteoric rate of ascent. The pilot checked his instruments, one finger sliding over the throttle levers towards a small toggle switch, seemingly oblivious to the screaming kerbal sitting behind him. Lodan pounded on the pilot's seat, on his flight helmet, on the cockpit canopy next to him, desperately trying to get his attention.

It didn't help. It never did.

The toggle switch flicked over in slow motion. The pilot frowned as the aircraft wings twitched, and nudged the control stick to compensate. Lodan watched the puffs of gas lazily expand from the wing mounted rocket control nozzles, and drift away on the slipstream. The aircraft began to roll, its nose creeping upward centimetre by centimetre.

Time reasserted itself.

Instantly the pilot snapped the toggle switch back, wrestling with the controls as he tried to return the aircraft to level flight. The nose pitched sharply up, far past its rated angle of attack at this altitude, disrupting the precariously stable airflow over the wings. The starboard wing abruptly stalled, slamming the aircraft into a spin. Lodan's head smashed against the cockpit canopy, warning lights lighting up around him. Calmly, the pilot pulled the throttles back to shutdown, snuffing out the twin rocket engines that had been hurling them skyward. Fighting against the mounting G forces, he pulled a lever, dumping the remaining propellant overboard, trying to shift the nose down.

The plane plummeted towards the ground, still spinning furiously. The airframe shrieked and groaned, juddering violently in the thicker air. The pilot lowered the undercarriage in a last ditch effort to regain control, but by now, every warning light in the cockpit was glowing a solid red. He braced his head and neck against the back of his seat, tucked his legs in and pulled the ejection handle. Pyrotechnic bolts fired, and promptly jammed, wrenching the cockpit canopy free but failing to detach it. A fraction of a second later, tiny rocket engines exploded under their seats, slamming the pilot and Lodan through the flapping mass of aluminium and polycarbonate.

The cockpit alarms shrilled in Lodan's ears. The last thing he saw before everything turned black was Enley's screaming face, lacerated and streaming blood as he tumbled away towards the waiting clouds.


Lodan jerked awake, his alarm clock warbling in his ears. Automatically he reached out to switch it off, only to bark his knuckles against the wall. The sudden explosion of pain woke him all the way up, sweaty, dishevelled and twisted around in his bed covers. He squeezed his eyes closed for a minute, trying to block out the nightmare then, resignedly, set to work disentangling himself.

Four in the morning. Not that I was going to get much more sleep anyway. And at least it wasn't the one about the Kerm.

The small, sparsely furnished apartment did at least come with its own moss room. The freezing cold water was a welcome tonic, sluicing away the dried sweat on his skin and chilling the fading fire of the nightmare down to it's familiar dull ache. By the time, Lodan emerged, his black mood had lifted to the merely bleak. A scalding cup of KSA tar masquerading as coffee, and a warmed over bowl of crispy noodles later, he began to feel marginally kerbal again. As Jebediah would say - the recommended breakfast of rocket scientists everywhere. He grabbed a redfruit from the bowl and set out into the dark.

Dark purple streamers of cloud huddled around the mountain tops, glowing faintly in the first light of dawn. Across the grounds, much brighter light spilled out from a row of ground floor windows in the main communications wing, and away to the right, the familiar bulk of Tracking Station Two was lit up against the sky. Lodan checked his watch. Nearly time for a shift change. Hope the Eve 2 crew managed to get more sleep than me.

The soothing smells of wild sage and mountain parsley filled his nostrils, as he strode towards the main wing. He tossed his redfruit core into the bin by the door, wiping his fingers on his handkerchief as he went. Before he could grasp the handle, a bleary eyed kerbal stumbled through, holding it open for a second, equally tired looking kerbal pushing a large urn of coffee on a trolley.

“Morning, Director," he yawned.

“Good morning," said Lodan quietly. “A busy night I take it?"

Adney rubbed his eyes. “Just a long one,"he said, “Nothing to report really - barely a glitch or a gurgle from the spacecraft systems, and the crew were asleep for most of the night. Just gotta take this for the next shift, and then I'll be catching a couple of hours myself."

“Good to hear that it's been so uneventful," said Lodan, “I won't hold you up any longer."

Adney nodded gratefully. “Appreciate that," he said, “Thank you, Director."

Lodan strode down the corridor, following the distant babble of voices. He turned the corner and then stopped dead at the Deep Space Operations Centre window. To his astonishment the room was crammed to bursting with kerbals: Probodyne staff, off-duty controllers from the Eve 2 flight, KSA workers, and a number of others that he didn't even recognise. Dunney's voice boomed cheerfully over the crowd as Lodan pushed open the door.

"Impeccable timing as usual, Director! We're just setting up for what-do-you-call-it... ahh yes - Minmus orbit insertion!" He gestured expansively, narrowly missing Germore's head. "Or so the experts here tell me!"

Lodan glanced at the main screen which was showing an image of deep space. The familiar constellations glowed steadily in the distance but otherwise, there was nothing to distinguish it from any other patch of sky. Can't tell anything from that. Not pointing at the Mün though, which is a good sign. Behind Lunney, Bobrie and Ferlan tapped away at their consoles, consulting with each other in murmured undertones. Finally Bobrie looked up at the screen, finger poised over a button on her keyboard. Lodan glanced over at them and saw Ferlan's fingers firmly crossed behind his back. He could almost hear the soft click as the button depressed and rebounded.

A light blinked on on Bobrie's console and data began to scroll past on a small screen. She studied the flickering lines of code intently, although they were far too fast for Lodan to follow. The significance of the second, green light though, was clear to everybody in the room. Bobrie smiled tightly as she swivelled to face Germore.

"MOI program confirmed and loaded. Ignition at T minus nine minutes," she checked her console, "twenty-two seconds."


The probe glided silently through space. Two long photovoltaic panels and an unfurled dish antenna protruded from an ungainly collection of propellant tanks, thrusters and instrument boxes. The antenna pointed unerringly at the small blue-green disc of Kerbin, a jewelled ornament floating silently in the void, basking in the life-giving electromagnetic fields from distant Kerbol.


Now, electromagnetic fields of a different timbre reached into space. Incomparably fainter than the torrent of energy blazing from the nearby star, the ripple of radio waves raced out past the moons of Kerbin, stuttering out their coded message to anything or anyone that could understand it. The antenna swivelled on its boom; tracking, seeking, locking on. Swiftly, the message was decoded and acknowledged, triggering new instructions for the probe systems.

Thrusters twitched into life, making final, tiny attitude corrections. Then a pause, a near eternity on the scale of the flickering digital pulses that controlled the probe, but longer still for its kerbal builders. Then, a flurry of activity. Once again, valves opened, grudgingly releasing a precisely metered trickle of liquid onto a catalytic mesh. Once again, fire exploded from the engine, no mere course correction this, but a long, steady braking burn.

The stuttering radio pulses fell silent, hiddden in the shadows of the second moon. The moon's feeble gravity tugged on the speeding visitor, slowing it, pulling it round onto a new trajectory.

The probe raced onwards, skimming mere hundreds of kilometres above the surface before soaring back out into space. It emerged from the shadow, antenna swivelling, broadcasting a short string of numbers on a continuous loop.


Bobrie punched the air in triumph. "We got it! One-nine-five by five-two-eight by fifteen dot three!"

"Splendid work!" Dunney boomed over the cheering crowd, "Quite, quite splendid!"

Germore sagged into her chair. "Let's see what we've got," she said. "Re-orient the probe, Bobrie. Ferlan, instrument check please." Both controllers nodded and bent over their consoles. Bobrie was the first to speak.

"Program loaded. Starting pitch and yaw manoeuvre."

"All systems are Go," Ferlan added. There was a long pause and then it was his turn to punch the air. "Picking up image data! Ten minutes to go, folks!"

Lodan quietly opened the door, the sudden cooling draft earning him grateful looks from everyone around him. A ripple of activity flowed through the room, as the waiting kerbals stretched stiff limbs, bent over to relieve tired backs and grimaced at the taste of coffee long since gone cold. Then the main screen flickered, instantly drawing everyone's attention. Static rippled over the blocky image, which steadied, and then sharpened rapidly as it decompressed. Dozens of puzzled faces stared at it.

"Are you guys using the colour filters?" asked Sidbo.

Germore nodded, just as another voice spoke up from the far wall.

"I thought Minmus was blue?"

Lodan stared. I thought it was too - apparently not.

Seen from orbit, most of Minmus was a coal black shadow blocking out the stars. Only the nebulous haze surrounding it and the blotches and whorls of lighter material spattered over the surface, provided any sort of guidance to its true shape or size. Lodan made his way over to the Probodyne team gathering around Ferlan’s console.

Ferlan looked at Germore apologetically. "Sorry, boss. Looks like you were right after all."

"So we've knocked the mineral theory on the head, once and for all?" said Dunney.

Germore's nod was matter of fact. "We should wait for the spectrometry results first, but I believe so."

Sidbo sighed. "My poor old mum will be disappointed," he said sadly. "The Mün wasn't a giant djan after all, and now we find out that Minmus isn't made of blueberry ice-cream either." He grunted as Jernie elbowed him sharply in the ribs.

"I dare say we'll also discover that Duna isn't actually a large frosted redfruit," said Lodan dryly. "Perhaps one of you good kerbals could enlighten me about the mineral theory?"

Dunney shot a quelling look at both of his colleagues. "Certainly, Director," he said. “It was a leading theory to explain Minmus's blue colour by assuming that its surface was composed of certain characteristic minerals." He waved at the screen. “Clearly that's no longer supportable."

Lodan shook his head. “It certainly doesn't look like it. I presume there were rival theories?"

“Indeed," replied Dunney. “The cometary theory proposed that Minmus was just that - a comet. A number of variations were proposed, but a consensus developed that it was probably a temporary Joolian satellite which got too close to either Laythe or Tylo - maybe both - and was kicked in-system. That explains Minmus's orbit rather well actually, but it doesn't easily explain its colour."

He scratched his head. “I'm still at a loss there myself to be perfectly honest."

Ferlan grinned. “I'm not," he said. “Diffuse dipole scattering would do it - right Germore?"

Dunney frowned, “But you only get that with..." He looked closely at the probe image and his eyes widened. “Well, I'll be..." His sudden guffaws startled everybody else in the room.

“Oh that's priceless! Likely too sparse to be useful for anything of course, but the Astronomical Proceedings editors are going to have a fit when they get this one!"

He wiped his eyes and slapped Ferlan and Germore on the back exuberantly. “What do you two say to: “The Minmusian atmosphere: composition and dynamics," as a working title for our paper?"


<< Chapter 39:     Chapter 41>>

Edited by KSK
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..And if they'd sent the probe up a few months ago it wouldn't have had an atmosphere :D Um... intense solar activity stirred it up since then? I bet they use some scanning system that has the initials BAM. Bi-modal Anti-proton Modulation scanner? :)

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Another exciting chapter! I am curious, though, about Lodan's nightmare. Trying to determine if it's subtle foreshadowing or an actual past event, or just Lodan doesn't like flying.

The pilot in the nightmare was that dead C7 guy from the funeral where they start designing the MACE, so I'd say past.

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What macdjord said. And I imagine "from the grove" is actually a very common answer when a kerblet asks.

Or, heck, maybe Kerbals don't have the same hangups about ... and recreation as humans do, and they see no reason for an euphemism at all.

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Nothing like a spot of ACcurate Renaming Of NewlY acquired Machinery and spare partS. :)

And, Patupi - they actually use the Bimodal Antiproton Deceleration And Scanning System.

Well not really - but they should. :D

On a different note, I just read the 0.9 announcement thread, and I have to admit that a couple of the comments made me smile:

gooddog15 - 14th October 2014, 18:44

"take your space center from an amateur project to a world class space center"

so, do we get to start with a few sheds and bottle rockets?

KerrMü - 14th October 2014, 19:04

kerbals in sheds change the world!

All that in one update? I´m truly amazed.

Yes. Yes they do. :)

Edited by KSK
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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey folks,

I don't post too many of these, but thought a quick update - and heads up - was in order.

The last couple of weeks have been been pretty stressful. Nothing disastrous, thank goodness - we're not talking bereavement or anything - but a lot of small stuff that, when put together, made for a large pile of suck. Which didn't leave me in a great place for writing, and particularly not for figuring out the next couple of chapters. So rather than bash my head against those, I've skipped ahead a bit and started in on a part that I've been looking forward to writing for a while.

As to what it's all about - I'll let Gene explain in his own words:

Thirty-six kilometres. Pioneer 1 - your trajectory and guidance are Go!

TL: DR - Don't worry - this thread aint dead but it might be a while before the next chronological chapter comes out.



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That's fine. I don't mind if they are out of order, I just want new chapters! :)

I don't think he meant he was posting stuff ahead of the plot, but that he was writing it ahead of time. Personally I'd rather wait than get it out of sequence, but maybe that's just me?

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Patupi has it right.

Engineer - I'd prefer not to post stuff out of sequence on the main thread, but if you're busting for new material, and don't mind the odd spoiler, I can sling you the new chapter by PM if you like? Once it's done of course. :)

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KSK, judging from the up-gradable buildings WIP pictures it looks like your fanfic is becoming canon :).

Getting there. :) Lots of discussion on the Daily Kerbal thread at the moment, including a couple of shout-outs to First Flight, which is just tremendously gratifying. Thanks folks - you know who you are!

And yeah, I'm very much looking forward to the upgradeable buildings. It probably won't surprise anyone to hear that my Career games are usually played through a KIS tinted glass, so actually being able to start from somewhere close to my imaginings is going to be sweet. :)

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Hey folks,

It seems that we've added an extra digit to our page count.

One hundred thousand views, 100K views, 0.1 megaviews - it doesn't much matter which way you write it, that's a big number. Thank you all, newcomers and old-hands alike. Thank you for all your overwhelmingly supportive and encouraging comments. Thank you for the shout-outs on other threads and other forums. Thank you for all the on-thread discussions and entertaining detours! Most of all, thank you for your patience. I posted the original First Flight short story back in June 2013. The fact that some of you have been following the adventures of Jeb, Jonton, Ademone, Lodan and all the rest, for nearly a year and half is... well I count myself very fortunate indeed.

And we've still got a way to go yet. Speaking of which - I have a chapter to get back to. :)


Edited by KSK
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