Staff Meeting, July 10th, 1954, Baikonur Kosmodrone.
As Gene entered the meeting, both Bill, Bob and Werner were sitting together with a bunch of papers – immediately making him wary of what was going on. Jebediah and Valentina’s unusual silence didn’t help the matter either.
Gene: OK guys, what do we have on today’s meeting?
Werner: Well, I’ve been talking a bit with Bill and Bob about our upcoming LRP launch…
The first sentence brought Gene uncomfortable memories of the first manned flights, where Bill and Bob had also been “talking” with Werner.
Werner: … And we want to change it.
Gene: To what? A different lunar orbit?
Werner: No, the mission and the payload.
Gene: I…. OK, I’m starting to accept these things way too easily. Just please tell me this isn’t some wild, far fetched idea?
Werner: Well, it is a long shot Gene, but it’s a glorious one.
Bob: We’ve got at least a 90 % chance to make it work.
Werner: More like 70, tops.
With Werner having the lowest estimate, Bill and Bob simply shrugs with a “yeah, if we’re lucky”-motion.
Gene: You do know that I don’t like numbers getting lower and lower, right Werner? OK, lay it all out.
Bob: Well, I were doing a bunch of orbital dynamics calculations for fun…
With mention of Bob’s idea of fun, Jebediah and Valentina snicker together as they always do.
Bob: … And we’ve got a Venus launch window coming up a week after the scheduled launch.
Gene: But we don’t have anything capable of getting to Venus, it’s beyond our capabilities – we haven’t even landed on the Moon yet!
Bill: Well, I’ve been prototyping a payload that’s only 1,5 tonnes heavier than the final LRP stage. It’s pretty much ready, just needs to go into orbit. I even brought a picture, see.
Gene: That’s all well and fine, but we don’t have a launch vessel that can do that.
Werner: Well, the LRP launcher should be able to take the extra payload and actually still have a fuel margin, although a very small one.
Gene: Wait, what are you saying?
Valentina: Jeez Gene, get with the program. We just put it on the planned LRP-5 launch. It’ll even look almost like a regular LRP, so the Illyriens probably won’t even notice. Heck, the bureaucrats probably won’t either, and no one pays attention to the result of the 5th Lunar probe.
Gene: So we can do this?
Werner: Just a fly-by, nothing fancy. But it’ll be one for the record books, and likely a bunch of interesting readings too.
Gene: I know I’m going to regret this, but have at it.
Jebediah: Wait, how does this affect the manned launches?
Werner: Don’t worry Jeb, those are on a different track at Baikonur, there won’t be any effect unless we run out of money.
Gene: Speaking of money, let’s move on. Next item is…..
As the meeting progresses, neither Bill nor Bob can keep their mind on matters at hand – even Werner has a slightly blank look to his eyes, as he contemplates everything they’re about to set out to do…