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Voyage to the red planet (Duna on Kerbalism)


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This thread will tell the tale of the brave four kerbals that traveled to Duna with kerbalism. The Kerbal Space Agency has mastered the Kerbin system and with regular flights to Mercury Station in LKO and Atlantis Base on the Mun the time is right to go out in the great void and travel to the red planet. Will they make it? or will they die in the process? So far only one kerbal died on the moon when the fission reactor of the Atlas 4 roving lab collided with the terrain, but there were many near misses. Time will tell if they are prepared enough. I will update during the mission and it will be picture heavy.


1.) The dawn of the Odyssey

2.) Some assembly required

3.) Arrival and farewell presents

4.) The chosen ones

5.) The bucket of bolts

6.) The Magic Carpet Ride

7.) Return of the Falcon and the great silence

8.) The Great Abyss

9.) The kiss of the Dunatian

10.) The ride of the stung bull

11.) First flags

12.) The face of Duna

13.) Snowstorms

14.) A sparkle in the sky

15.) Household chores

16.) Flight of the red dragon

17.) The unexpected detour

18.) A hike on Ike

19.) Up, up and away

20.) The return

21.) Epilogue



Edited by MacLuky
added two chapters
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Chapter 1: Dawn of the Odyssey

Werhner von Kerman looked up from the schematics and shook his head. For the last months, they had tried to find a way to fit the Odyssey in a new rocket, but it just didn't fit. And with all the delays in the development of the spacecraft, the time to experiment was gone. It had to happen in the upcoming weeks, just before the launch window. 

The rocket on the launchpad was the biggest ever designed, seriously! In all the multiverse this was the first 5m rocket that stood on the pad. It towered almost beyond the VAB, 50 meters tall, 14 in diameter, 1 and a half million tons. Its boosters were larger than the Soyuz launcher that runs the supply runs to Mercury station and delivers the occasional kerbinaut. Though most fights now use the Eagle planes that can take off much quicker than the entire assembly of rockets.


Inside the fairing is the nuclear drive section, weighing almost 150 tons and with two engines any mistake during launch would level the KSC. Werhner crossed off the last checkmark on his sketch. Yes, it will work he muttered.

Alexmoon at flight planning and the mechjeb computers had confirmed the ideal launch window was within 30 days. The mission plan didn't pick the lowest delta-v transfer but one that minimized transfer time. The plan could still change, but not much. Gene looked it over just before the countdown of the first Saturn class rocket started:


Mission Plan
Event Year Day Duration Delta-V
Depart for Duna 2 406   3000
Arrive at Duna 3 259 279 Aerobreak
Depart for Kerbin 3 319 60 1500
Arrive at Kerbin 4 173 280 Aerobreak
Total 1 194 620 4500

Gene covered his ears as the sound drummed in from the launchpad.


Lift-off, we have lift-off and nothing exploded so far mumbled Jeb who sat next to Wernher and watched the show.


Telemetry is looking good, thrust is at 90% we are right on the ball. Delta-V stats are in the green.


Reaching the 15km mark, booster separation sequence is initiated.


Mission control lost the external camera feed and for some reason, the remainder of the launch was not logged in visuals, but the drive section ended up in a nice 200 km orbit and the upper stage got deorbited just fine. Wehrner had 14 days to prep his second Saturn rocket and mount the crew section which would need to dock with drive section.

Docking large craft had been practiced during the construction of Mercury station. After the initial Mercury 1 and 2 who had been single launch stations to learn about the effects of long-duration spaceflight the construction of Mercury 3 was done in LKO. Even the Salyut program that was built in orbit of the Mun, for radiation studies was done in segments. However, the Odyssey would be much much heavier. Gene scratched his head, he was thinking about the latest progress supply craft that had knocked half the solar panels from Salyut 2. They really couldn't have another of those accidents.

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Chapter 2: Some assembly required

The second Saturn rocket stood on the pad. The payload turned out to be a mere 100 tons and since the previous launch had reached orbit with plenty fuel left, Werhner trimmed down on the boosters. Just enough to make the TWR work out. "Looks like a giant earplug," said Bill to Bob who had been the lead development team on the crew module. Their experience on the Mun-Minmus missions had given them unique insight and a love for redundancy.


All systems nominal, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!



"What a sight!" they exclaimed. And they would not see it again for a long time to come. At 500k per launch, this launcher was just way too expensive for the Kerbal space agency, let alone the insurance fees for the 400k payload it was carrying. 9 clusters of RD-170 engines with 4 nozzles burned their liquid hydrogen and oxidizer and lifted off the platform without a hitch.


At booster cutoff, the angle was slightly too steep, but a small correction maneuver fixed that. The burn raised the entire vehicle to a close encounter with the drive section and circulation and velocity matching happened simultaneously which saved a lot of fuel. In fact, the upper stage was almost completely full when it was jettisoned and send on a re-entry trajectory.


Thus began one of the most tedious docking operations ever conducted. Fortunately, the navyfish docking alignment indicator helped out.


At less than 0.1 m/s the two craft approached each other for their entangling rendez-vouz. 


"Hard dock confirmed, we are activation power connections". In the hours following the docking, the mission team remotely checked all systems and double checked the resources on board. The navigation team was calculating the final trajectory and setting up the maneuver nodes. The Odyssey was ready for departure with 3.5 million units of oxygen, 17500 oxidizer, 15000 liquid fuel, 10 million units of nitrogen, 4000 units of water, 17k of food, 210k hydrogen (for emergency power), 240k units of ammonia for the onboard growing of food and 22 units of uranium.

She carried 2 nuclear fission generators and a third in spare, two huge solar panels and tons of little ones for backup, 4 fully shielded crewed sections with redundant life support systems, two rings of each 4 radiators, multiple reaction wheels, batteries for a day and 4 shield generators. The gravity ring, cupola, and greenhouse should provide a pleasant environment for the crew.

Designed for a two-year mission, the Odyssey could hold out for almost 4 with food being the problem factor, but in case of an emergency a resupply mission was quite well possible and in fact, a modified progress supply ship was already en-route to Duna, just in case.


"Operational system test complete". All systems are go for departure. "I really would have liked that shake-down cruise to Minmus, Bill said". "I understand but there simply isn't time in the schedule," said Gene. "It's going to be touch and go to meet the window as we speak, I wish we could launch multiple times per week, but really that is not realistic." and with that Gene went back to mission control for another sleepless night, figuring out the launch schedule.


And with that beauty shot, the second mission came to a successful end.


Edited by MacLuky
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Good luck, Odyssey!  Uncaring Kerbin and Unholy Kraken bless this ship and all who sail in her!

I must say, I approve of your rocket design philosophies.  Looks like you use the same lifter strategy of 1 big LFO stage with SRBs as needed if the LFO stage can't quite SSTO by itself.  Simple and brutally effective :)  Also, I agree with all the worst-case planning you obviously put into Odyssey.  If you want the mission to come home as planned, it's better to spend some extra money up front rather than attempt to keep margins tight.

However, I see Odyssey has 2 "shield generators".  What are these?  I'm assuming they're a Kerbalism them but I can't help but thing that you need some photon torpedoes to go with them. :D 

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Chapter 3: Arrival and farewell presents

There was great excitement at the KSC: the Atlas 4 mobile lab had completed it's 22km autonomous roving on Duna and synced up with Hab 1 base. In theory, the crew would not need the base, the roving labs had proven their worth during the expeditions on the Mun and it was believed that most defects and design flaws had been corrected by iteration 4. The meltdown of the reactor on rover 3 was unfortunate, and version 2 exploded, but there was great confidence in the Duna version.


When going over the numbers Bill noticed something odd. "Why are the nitrogen reserves not registering?" he asked himself, and shortly thereafter several others. It didn't take long to figure out that the habitats had been enabled for almost 2 years now and as a result, the atmosphere had leaked out. Pressure regulators had worked fanatically to compensate for minor leaks and as a result, all nitrogen was depleted. "bring more nitrogen" wrote Bill down as he headed to mission control with this news.

Down at mission control, people were too busy to listen, though the rocket was unimpressive, every launch is one that needs full attention. A proton rocket (number 15 actually) launched Bill's special surprise to Duna. It was a late addition to the mission profile because the technology was still very experimental. Yet if it worked, it would greatly enhance the team's mission parameters. Code name "Sparkle 4c" was on the pad.


The launch followed a standard profile, the advantage of a proven launch vehicle. Telemetry after fairing separation remained a secret.


Meanwhile, the R18 recon satellite arrived at Duna, set up it's trademarked ScanSat sensors and began with its high-resolution radar map of the Duna surface. The rover it carried would be separated soon and scout a different part of Duna that would be too far for the landing party. It also carried a new relay antenna and an orbital telescope that shot an awesome picture of Ike casting its shadow on the red giant.


Finally the last of the Progress supply ships left for Duna, after spending almost a month in orbit the delta-v numbers finally added up. It's the backup plan for the backup plan.


The countdown was ticking down fast. It was almost time to leave for the kerbonauts to leave on this great journey. "Mission briefing will be at 08:00 at the flag pole," Jeb said to Valentina, "be sure to be on time" she replied with a smile.

Edited by MacLuky
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6 hours ago, Geschosskopf said:

However, I see Odyssey has 2 "shield generators".  What are these?  I'm assuming they're a Kerbalism them but I can't help but thing that you need some photon torpedoes to go with them. :D 


Thanks, it will prove to be challenging, but so far they are still alive ;-)

Kerbalism comes with an "active shield" against radiation poisoning. I've maxed out the lead but the Salyut program around Mun got my kerbals pretty sick at 200 days. The shield is needed for longer durations or they won't survive. Look for a 2.5m white can, height of a Rockomax 16.

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6 hours ago, MacLuky said:

it was believed that most defects and design flaws had been corrected by iteration 4. The meltdown of the reactor on rover 3 was unfortunate, and version 2 exploded, but there was great confidence in the Duna version.

Let's hope so :)  Got any pics of the previous versions during "departures from intended parameters"? :D  Are the craters on Mun still hot?


6 hours ago, MacLuky said:

It also carried a new relay antenna and an orbital telescope that shot an awesome picture of Ike casting its shadow on the red giant.

That is an awesome pic.


1 hour ago, MacLuky said:

Kerbalism comes with an "active shield" against radiation poisoning. I've maxed out the lead but the Salyut program around Mun got my kerbals pretty sick at 200 days. The shield is needed for longer durations or they won't survive. Look for a 2.5m white can, height of a Rockomax 16.

Ah, OK.  I suppose they need beaucoup EC/sec  Do you know how they're supposed to work if this was real life?  I'm thinking their intended to stop cosmic rays, but how do you do that?

Still, you should probably have photon torpedoes, too, just in case :) 



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Well since the core of the problem are highly charged particles, you could change their trajectories by applying a strong enough electrical field. It sucks electricity yes, but not as much as in real-life. I guess you would also need a superconductor to build a field strong enough. My Maxwell equations are a bit rusty but I recall it has been proven in theory that you could bend the path of particles traveling at those speeds before they would hit the crewed section, basically creating a bubble free of radiation.

Kerbalism does introduce coronal mass ejections which tenfold the radiation. Basically, they are screwed if that happens more than once. I've had a team on the Mun barely make it out alive (including the crew that just landed for rotation, one of more my more expensive mishaps.)

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Chapter 4: The chosen ones

At 08:00 the field near the flagpole was unusually crowded. Bill, Bob and Jeb stood clear and addressed the assembled kerbinauts to officially send off the crew of the Odyssey. 


"Let me start by wishing Godspeed and great fortitude to commander Valentina and her crew". The choice for Valentina to lead this mission was obvious. Kerbal Space Command had been very impressed with her piloting skills on the Hermes 4 which landed on fumes only, as well as her clear and fast action after the coronal mass ejection last year, where the crew made it back to Kerbin with 85% of radiation poisoning.


"Science officer Harrick Kerman, may you discover many new things and unlock the secrets of the universe." Harrick had spent the most days in space of the entire crew. He was part of the original 100 days Mercury program and had spent 300 days in Salyut station 2 to research radiation poisoning. His work had accumulated in an active shield that would bend the cosmic rays and highly charged particles while sucking up lots of electricity. As long as the fusion generators would keep running, the crew would be safe.


"Naul Kerman, we hope we don't need your special skill set, but if we do, we know we can count on you." Naul was the tinkerer, inventor, life saver. Back on the Mun when the reactor of Atlas 3 failed she managed to her team close to the decommissioned Atlas 2, fire her back up and merge the two craft, saving the lives of her crew. She was also known to build relay satellites out of scrap parts during the Minmus mission and repaired a dozen systems on Mercury Station.

Last on the team was Tomoly Kerman. The kerbal that worked closest with Bill on the design of the Odyssey. If something would break, he would be able to fix this. His experience with space farming would prove very valuable to make sure the team had something to eat on the way back to Kerbin. An aged Kerbal, originally rescued from Minmus orbit after an unfortunate accident with an early prototype and happy member of the Kerbal Space Agency ever after.

This was not their first mission together, almost a year ago, they flew on the Hermes 7 mission and became the first Kerbals to leave the Kerbin SOI only to return as fast as possible. It also marked the final flight of the Amarok C3 capsule, since it would be replaced by the new 5 seat Dragon that entered operation shortly after.

Jeb felt sorry he couldn't join, but that new contract with OPT spaceplane parts came in and they would need his skills to test new plane concepts, while Bill and Bob were fiddling with Nertea's Far Future technologies. They had just unlocked the secrets of a Z-Pinch drive and were designing prototypes. And also: red planets? are you crazy? at least the blue of Kerbin and the yellow of the Sun make green.

Werhner and Gene looked at each other and Werhner started: "I can't get the launchpad ready in time for them to launch". "I know" replied Gene, "and I've got a backup plan."

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3 hours ago, MacLuky said:

Well since the core of the problem are highly charged particles.....

I guess so.  I was originally thinking cosmic rays were gamma radiation on steroids, as in high-energy photons.  But if they're charged particles, I guess some sort of magnetic field could deflect them.  Although I'd worry about the fillings in my teeth and the shrapnel in my bones wanting to go the same way :) 


2 hours ago, MacLuky said:

"Let me start by wishing Godspeed and great fortitude to commander Valentina and her crew"

I second that!  I drink to their success!


2 hours ago, MacLuky said:

've got a backup plan."

Which I can't wait to see.

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Chapter 5: The bucket of bolts

"Planes are just rockets with a TWR of less than 1", Wehrner explained to Gene. "Well, by iteration 3 Bill usually gets it right" was the reply. 


The Falcon 3 actually had a TWR or 1.21 but it was not taking advantage of the airbreathing engines that its predecessors had. Bill and Jeb were in the cockpit when she scoured the runway on her way to LKO.


The external boosters pushed the craft way into the upper atmosphere. Valentina didn't like it in the cargo hold. Getting shaken and having no visual clue, she switched on the rasterprop monitor. "You could have shallowed it a bit Jeb" she muttered.


Fuel is looking good, and she is on a direct intercept course to the Odyssey. "You're actually getting pretty good at this rendez-vous thing," Bill said. "Remember it used to take us tons of orbits."


Before completing the final adjustments they launched the first of a Sentinals satellite. A network of these would be guarding Kerbin for incoming meteorites. Plus it paid for the ride of course.


"Wow, there she is", finishing final approach and flipping the pitch so the team can get their first view too.


"uhm, KSC we have got a problem", Jeb frowned. "I don't think I can dock without hitting those supply tanks." "One step ahead of you," smiled Bill, "why did you think we carried that additional docking tunnel".


Bill spent the next three hours in an EVA suit setting up the docking extender. The deployable SSTU supplied version didn't like mounting, so he had to improvise.

"Guys, you're making a mess of the schedule." Gene started to sound nervous, and he hardly ever is.


"Going for dock"


The next few hours they were bringing additional systems up to speed, and run some additional science experiments, and enabling the habitats. "Sorry to interrupt guys," cranked Gene's voice over the comms. "We've done some additional calculations and the launch window is in less than 15 minutes. Can you wrap it up over there?"


 Jeb decoupled and hit the RCS hard. "Let's get this show on the road then."

Edited by MacLuky
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Chapter 6: The Magic Carpet Ride

Tomoly brought the reactor online while Naul started retracting the gravity ring. There would be more than enough G's during departure.


Val entered the control module and triple checked "Yo staging" as she was taught by a Scottish professor rocketry during her online course. "Let's test fire these engines first," said Tomoly, "Bobcat Industries has been gone for a long time, so the warranty on  these things is long gone."


"Clean burn Odyssey," KSC came in over the comms. "We'll be able to calculate your manoeuver node duration from this data." 3022.7 m/s 5 minutes and 53 seconds of burn was the result. Given the altitude, Val didn't bother for multiple passes. At year 2, day 403, 4:27 the Odyssey lit up her engines and pulled to full throttle.


When the Odyssey reached a full G of acceleration suddenly Steppenwolf's Magic Carpet Ride started playing over all internal comm systems. "What the heck?" said Val. It took Naul almost a full minute to find the audio controls and turn the volume down. Tomoly and Harrick just laughed and continued their work while enjoying the music.


Back at KSC people were in full panic and stared in disbelief, except for Bill who sat smiling in the back, enjoying his farewell prank.


They were midway the burn and had just reached escape velocity when Tomoly noticed the pressure gauge on the life support system. "Uhm KSC, we are reading strange numbers on our nitrogen reserves, can you copy?" The mild panic that Bill's prank had caused at KSC was replaced with a calm professionalism when the teams double checked the readings in the Kerbalism life support monitor panel.

"Confirmed Odyssey, we are seeing the same thing here." Naul frowned her eyebrow, "at this rate we are out of Nitrogen in 7 days." Val took the comms, "KSC, do we need to abort?" "Negative commander, complete the burn, we can still bring you back if we must."


And while Valentina completed the orbital ejection manoeuvre, where Naul and Tomoly seeking for pressure leaks. "I can't see it," Tomoly said, "the numbers align exactly with the calculations".


 Suddenly Jeb's voice cracked over the ship-to-ship commnet. "I've been listening in guys," he said. "disable the habitats one by one, and start with the SSTU descent capsule in the front. There is a reason we replaced them after Apollo 4.

Naul nodded. Apollo 4 consumed ridiculous amounts of electricity which had gone unnoticed until they had hit the dark side of the moon and climate control was gone within minutes. Something about the SSTU capsules made the pressure regulator go haywire and assume that volume in that thing was the size of an airplane.

"Let's hope that is our only shenanigan," Val said. Harrick started doing the calculations of the effects caused by reduced habitation space and started humming the song Bill had pranked them with.

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6 hours ago, MacLuky said:

Naul nodded. Apollo 4 consumed ridiculous amounts of electricity which had gone unnoticed until they had hit the dark side of the moon and climate control was gone within minutes. Something about the SSTU capsules made the pressure regulator go haywire and assume that volume in that thing was the size of an airplane.

Hmmm, maybe a little ModuleManager surgery is in order?

Anyway, bon voyage!  Good luck with the mission!

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Indeed, here is the Kerbalism-SSTU patch I created afterwards:

// Give proper size for ShipCore-B

		volume = 4.09
		surface = 9.54

		volume = 9.20
		surface = 14.7

		volume = 5.14
		surface = 12.48

		volume = 7.14
		surface = 16.48

// Give some resources to the progress

  ContainerVolume = 1050

    //name = Configure
    title = Supply Container
    slots = 2

      name = Supplies
      desc = Store a balanced supply of <b>Food</b> and <b>Water</b>.

        name = Food
        amount = 0.7224224
        maxAmount = 0.7224224
        @amount *= #$../../../ContainerVolume$
        @maxAmount *= #$../../../ContainerVolume$

        name = Water
        amount = 0.2775776
        maxAmount = 0.2775776
        @amount *= #$../../../ContainerVolume$
        @maxAmount *= #$../../../ContainerVolume$

        name = Oxygen
        amount = 809.22
        maxAmount = 809.22
        @amount *= #$../../../ContainerVolume$
        @maxAmount *= #$../../../ContainerVolume$

        name = Nitrogen
        amount = 659.4
        maxAmount = 659.4
        @amount *= #$../../../ContainerVolume$
        @maxAmount *= #$../../../ContainerVolume$

But this only affects new vessels. The Odyssey will just have to cope with it, which will be fun.

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Chapter 7: Return of the Falcon and the great silence

With the Odyssey safely underway and KSC passing underneath them, Jeb and Bill began their long fall back home.


They quickly ran out of fuel, but the Falcon's gliding abilities are truly amazing. I slides over the mountains and dives to the runway with the grace of a true falcon.


"Touchdown! may your journey be equally smooth Valentina" said Jeb when he pulled in the brakes.


But back at the Odyssey, the next problem had popped up. "Tomoly can you check why the latest crew report is not being transmitted?" Val looked puzzled at her comm interface. "What had happened to the bars" she wondered. It didn't take long for Tomoly to come back with the diagnosis. "Those idiots at the VAB forgot to mount the comm antenna array!"

That would be a problem. In the original design, a large relay array was placed at the bottom of the hab section, providing the Odyssey with comm and relay capabilities and act as a relay for the ranger probes that were roving the surface of Duna. Prior to launch, the antenna mast had been decoupled since it didn't fit the fairing and apparently nobody thought about it. 

The probecores build-in antennas had covered comms while in the Kerbin SOI but since they passed the orbit of Minmus they had lost control. "Do you think people at KSC have noticed?" Tomoly asked. It will be nearly 150 days until we get in range of the R10 Moho probe that will swing by after its gravity assist, we might be able to use that as a relay. "Unacceptable," said Valentina, we need a better option.

"Let me check the spare parts", said Naul. "I think I brought additional antennas to build a small probe." "While you are at it, can you also look for batteries?" said Tomoly. The relay mast housed also the bulk of the Odyssey's battery capacity. "Which means," said Harrick with a slight tremor in his voice, "that emergency power will only last an hour at best, rather than a day."


Naul managed to retrieve a small relay antenna and mount it on the hull of the Odyssey which brought them back in contact with KSC. Together with the ground team, they set up an additional antenna and used all spare battery capacity to boost the emergency storage.

And with communications restored the team went to sleep and wondered what the next surprise would be.


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Chapter 8: The Great Abyss

Gene Kerman almost dropped his coffee on the floor. "Where is the Odyssey?" he asked. Flight control and navigation veered to his screen.


It was supposed to be a simple routine check. Every morning they go to the tracking station and verify the orbits of all craft. The Odyssey was scheduled for a video conference later today since there was a bit of repair to be performed and the first 100 days had past, so this seemed like a good moment. But the track was gone from the monitors. "Check again," said Gene. But the Odyssey was not in the vessel list, nor on the monitors. Comms were dead and so was the telemetry. "Sound red alert," said Gene with a high pitched voice. "It's the Kraken".


Over the next hours, mission control went over the log files. Dived into the persist file but it was like the Odyssey and its crew had been ripped from this universe and traveled to a parallel one, the one the local scientists revered to as "the backup file".

There were traces of the craft in the so-called KSC Alarm Clock backups. A series of complex files that contained detailed information about the composition and position of the craft. Perhaps by merging lines from the backup files into the persist files, the Odyssey could be pulled back from that alternate dimension. The scientists were skeptic, but dived into the files nevertheless.

Meanwhile, Tomoly and Neal were performing routine maintenance tasks.


Several of the smaller solar panels had given up and were discarded or repaired by Tomoly, whilst Neal was focussing on the lights. "Don't you think the stars look different today?" she said. "It's like we're in a different place all together". "I told you those snacks were past their due date Neal," Harrick replied with a laugh. Valentina kept looking at the Nav display, something smelled fishy and she didn't mean the snacks.


"Here goes nothing," said the lead scientist back at the KSC when they booted up the merged file. "Technically that is incorrect," muttered Werhner, "It should be here goes something."


"Whooha, what just happened!" Val looked at her screen. "We are moving again! in fact, we have moved quite a bit." Half an hour later KSC came back over the comms. "Odyssey, do you read? please reply". As it turned out, the orbit on which the Odyssey had returned was slightly different then from the one they departed. They gained roughly 50 days but needed an expensive correction burn to make it happen.


Val didn't even wait for KSC to confirm the burn. The longer they would wait, the worse the situation would be. She lit up the engine and brought the Apoapsis down to an intercept with Duna. "Intercept in 131 days, we just shaved 50 days off our journey!" Harrick was already planning new excursions. "This means we can check out the polar regions!" and he floated off to his little office space to do some homework.


Tomoly was spending the next few days with the Tech team at the KSC doing a thorough analysis of the Odyssey and all systems, but other than the loss of the high gain antenna the ship seemed ok. Nevertheless, they decided a full sweep and EVA would be prudent.


Neal suspected that the quantum particles of the MPSS engines had ripped the space continuum apart, but that seemed highly unlikely. Anyway, the inflatable shields seemed ok, which would be needed since the loss of delta-v for the manoeuvre had made aerobraking no longer an option.


"We lost the high gain antenna commander, but the relay is still up and running." And with that, the Odyssey had a clean bill of health again and the crew started doing calculations on their arrival trajectory and prayed that Kraken would not strike again. Back at KSC Gene increased the number of backup files created by KSC Alarm Clock and developed a neurotic tick for pressing F5.




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Chapter 9: The kiss of the Dunatian

The clock was showing 229 days in the mission when the team of the Odyssey reconvened in hitchhiker section of the craft to discuss the trajectory of the aerobrake. Valentina proposed an 18 km periapsis based on the data collected by ranger probe 14, 17 and 18. The first two had entered on similar trajectories and landed perfectly. Number 18 skimmed the atmosphere and needed a powered deceleration. Harrick relied on calculations made by the trajectories mod which aimed at 21 km, KSC's MechJeb was suggesting 25 km. 
"You do realize," said Naul, "that none of these take the heat shield into account."


And indeed the Odyssey found themselves in a catch 22 scenario. For reliable calculations, the drag model would have to take the heat shield into account. Due to limitations of their implementation, the team would need to inflate the shield first, but then the engines would no longer be able to fire. So in order to make the course correction, they needed the engines, in order to calculate the burn, they would need to disable them by folding a huge shield over them which could not be retracted.

"Get me a manoeuvre node to lower the periapsis to 28 km." decided Valentina. We will then deploy the shield and see what the outcome will be. A small 3 m/s burn was all it took to lower the periapsis from over 200 km to 28,350 m. It was either enough to bring them in a perfect orbit, fling them on an orbit out of the Duna system or condemn them to a multi-year mission on the surface of Duna in the unlikely case they would survive a fiery and deadly descent.


"Burn complete commander." Harrick quickly jumped in his EVA suit to reset the solar particle experiment and help Naul with the deployment of the shield to the rear of the craft. They would use Duna's gravity from now on to be sucked into its atmosphere and bleed of the interplanetary speed from the craft, but once the shield deployed, they would no longer be able to use the engines.


"Alright, the shield is deployed, let's rerun the calculations" Harrick and the nav teams back at KSC were in for a surprise. Sure, the ship had now proper drag data, but both the MechJeb and trajectories calculations went completely haywire. The boys back at KSC kept doing their calculations with a 70 km atmosphere and the other tools predicted trajectories looked like confetti and predicted utter doom. "Crap, so basically this means, we will know if this works when we get there," Naul said. Tomoly started to look uneasy. He had not felt well since Valentia asked him to draft a report on TWR in relation to low altitude on Duna and how much fuel they needed to dump to get it above 1.

There was little else to do, then prepare the Odyssey for its kiss with the Dunatian. The team started locking down cargo, folding radiators, gravity ring and solar panels. "T-10 minutes," Val said, just before her capsule went dark and the emergency power kicked in. "What the @#!@#," Tomoly checked the power reserves. "We lost most of our spare batteries in during our encounter with the Kraken, and I didn't notice that the fusion reactor switched off."  "So the good news is, that our solar panels are that effective even at this distance from the sun," Naul joked. Life support came online just before they hit the atmosphere.


"Bad news is that have to leave a radiator expanded, or the reactor will shut down while we are on the dark side of the planet." Tomoly continued. "So if the shield works, we live, if the radiator gets destroyed." "Then we will figure something out," Valentina. "Brace yourself for atmospheric entry at 1500 m/s"


"40 km up, the shield is holding, the radiator is still there. Eccentricity is at 1.21" Everybody was strapped in and staring at the consoles.


"30 km, the pressure is rising, G-forces are dropping, we are almost there, eccentricity is at 1.06" Val sounded calm and confident as always.


"28 km and we have capture! altitude is rising" with great relief the crew saw al measurements getting back in the green zone as that is their favorite color. The mood was even better when they saw the sunrise and their dependence on the fusion radiator was over. "Guys, we are back here in 6 days. Let's make sure the second pass is a bit less stressful and lets radio back to KSC that we are still alive." Val was relieved.


"Naul and I will check the spares for more batteries, and fetch a bit science of course," smiled Harrick. It would take a couple of more passes for the orbit to get low enough for them start raising the periapsis.


71 km up the Mechjeb computer came back to life and spat out a prediction that they would actually get captured on this trajectory. "Well thank you very much," Tomoly exclaimed sarcastically while switching the monitor off. "We are better off with our own guesswork." And indeed 3 passes later the team ejected the heat shield and lit up the engines to raise the periapsis just outside Duna's atmosphere. The team analyzed a bit more science and started plotting the correct orbit for the landing.


Edited by MacLuky
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