Engineering meeting

Early July 1954, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

Gene, Werner, Bill, Bob, Jebediah, Valentina and a number of engineers and rocket scientists are all in a big staff meeting.

Gene: Look people, we’ve had quite a few mistakes lately – some meant that missions were abject failures and one put Jebediah at risk of becoming a pool of green jelly!

Jebediah: It was fun though, until the G-meter hit the top of the meter and stayed there, then it becomes a bit of a…

Gene: Jeb!

Being chastised by Gene once again for his enthusiasm causes Jebediah to look sheepishly at the floor, while Valentina looks at him with a mix of envy and what appears to be a serious case of the giggles.

Gene: Anyway people, we can’t afford these kind of mistakes – we need to find out what exactly went wrong in these instances, so we don’t repeat it. Especially for the next launch!

Werner: Well, Bill have been looking into the Lunar-3 probe with Bobs help, but as for Jebediah’s attempted orbit, it would appear that someone had mistakenly placed a regular fuel tank on the third stage with the AJ-10, instead of the requisite pressurized one. It was ostensibly to save weight, but we’re updating our check-lists to make sure that we get the right kind of tanks for the right kind of engines from now on.

Gene: OK, fine. I don’t understand why we didn’t have those procedures already in place? I mean we’ve gotten it right so far?

With Gene’s comment every engineer in the room becomes very busy, studying the high ceiling, looking for “something”.

Gene: OK, Bill, please explain to me why the impactor of Lunar-3 blew up 15 km above the moon – and why a few hours later, the Lunar-3 probe itself blew up or no good reason.

Bill: Well, the impactor must have hit something, but we’re not sure what. It could have been one of the Illyrien probes, since they’re so tiny anyway we might have missed it. Or some other debris around the Moon – it was kind of low when it happened.

Gene: But if they’re so small, surely our impactor should have exploded completely?

Bob: Well, it’s the velocities, it’s basically like a bullet hitting a bigger bullet straight on – it’ll all go smush and nothing will be left.

Gene: OK, we’ll have to send another, but the probe was much higher, and was actively manoeuvring – we would surely have seen any debris here?

Bill: Well, yeah. Uhm, we’ve concluded that it was probably the guy controlling the probe that blew it up.

Gene: WHAT?

Bill: No no, it was totally by accident. You see he was having the probe send back telemetry, and he accidentally pushed the button right next to the one he was aiming at, and accidentally hit the one labelled “Range Safety”.

Gene: “Range Safety”, what does that mean?

Bill: Well, apparently one of the engineers found a government mandate that we have to be able to destroy a probe so it doesn’t fall down on a Kerbinian, or in case the Illyriens try to snatch one – so we, uhm, kinda have a bomb built into all our probes, and apparently the “Range Safety” is what triggers it.

As Gene is staring blankly at Bill while getting the explanation, other engineers slowly take on an equally puzzled look, as they realize what is going on.

Werner: But, that makes no sense – we have to be really really careful not to make things blow up in the first place, why would we deliberately do it? It has taken us years to get a probe back down to Earth without it blowing up – this makes no sense!

Gene: Can we at least put a lid on top of the explode-button, so no one hits it by accident again?

Bill: Well, not really, because that government paper says it must be available to press at a moments notice – we have, however, placed several notes next to it, saying never, ever, to push it.

As Gene sits down staring emptily at the wall, his will slowly seeping from his body, the rest of the participants start leaving the conference room – having concluded that with everything apparently solved, they might as well get back to work.

As people leave, the low voice of Valentina can be heard asking Bill if they also have that explodium-thing in the manned capsules…


Play notes:

Kraken seemed to hit the impactor, and a freeze in the game made me hit “Range safety” instead of “analyse telemetry”, before stupidly putting a third stage non-pressurized fuel tank on that was supposed to be pressurized causing a near-fatal Jeb-incident…


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