November 2nd, 1956; Baikonur Kosmodrone.
“Alright”, Gene began the meeting, “we need to figure out what went wrong, and how exactly we’re not only fighting reckless piloting of low-cost hardware, but apparently also both our own lawyers* and Illyrien sabotage – if our Ministry of IT is correct”.
Valentina was quick to defend her crew: “You can’t blame my crew Gene, they launched right on the money early October. If anything it’s because Bill and Bob tried to be clever and do the contract orbits at the same time”.
“But the orbits they asked for were overlapping”, Bob immediately argued, “it was a perfectly valid thing to do – it made sense in theory, and Bill even agreed that we could actually do it in practice – you can’t blame us for the lawyers not knowing basic mathematics”, he continued, with Bill nodding in agreement.
“This isn’t about blame guys, it’s about shining a light on something that went wrong, and making sure that everyone knows, so it won’t happen again. Just nobody ever trust that the lawyers will listen to reason again, ok?”, Gene closed the argument before moving on to other matters.
“What exactly went on with the Venus-2 probe Wernher?”, Gene ventured.
“We honestly don’t understand it Gene”, Wernher began before elaborating: “it was an exact copy of our earlier Venus probe, but somehow we just couldn’t get a signal to it this time. We’re trying to calculate if we were just lucky with the first one and the alignment of the planets or if something else is wrong – but as of yesterday, we have officially declared it a lost cause.” Wernher concluded.
“And the Mars-1 Jebediah? You had a report from the Ministry of Intelligence and Truth about that one”, Gene asked.
“Yes, I do.”, Jebediah began, suddenly realising that he was supposed to explain everything. “As you all know, when we lost contact with the Venus-2, we checked in on Mars-1, just in case. Unlike the Venus probe, we could still communicate with the Mars one – but the orbit was way off”** Jebediah continued.
“For some reason, the orbit looked to have been reduced markedly from the radar telemetry post-insertion burn, and it can’t just happen. Fuel is a bit low, so the Ministry of IT suspects Illyrien sabotage – that they have simply hi-jacked the probe and send a brake-command in order to sabotage us getting to Mars before them.”, Jebediah finished as a conclusion, mostly accepting the reasons.
“Alright, at least Bear-1 is running on schedule, right Wernher?”, Gene asked.
“Yes indeed, quite as it should.”, Wernher replied as the meeting slowly came to an end.
*: -365k funds and -150 rep, because apparently two overlapping orbits in the same contract can not be done at the same time.
**: Probe went from being on course for Mars to having an apoapsis roughly halfway between Earth and Mars orbits – Orbital Decay mod have ruined orbits before, and is suspected – thus is removed from play by the end of 1956.