Chance moons

April 27th, 1961; Baikonur Kosmodrone, Gene’s office.

Gene: “OK Wernher, this news last week from Illyrien about Jupiter’s moons, why didn’t we think of that?”

Wernher: “Well, it’s not really possible for us. I guess they must have placed their probe in an equatorial orbit, whereas ours is in a polar orbit in order to get readings of as much of Jupiter as possible. The chance of a random intercept is simply non-existing, as our probe is moving perpendicular to the plane of orbit of the moons”.

Gene: “Alright, I got word from above that we need to have a look at those moons as well though”:

Wernher: “Right, we have spare long range probes, so we can launch one during the next window and make an equatorial intercept – I can’t guarantee that we get immediate intercepts though, it’s kinda difficult out there”.

Gene: “Well, telling them something is on the way should give us some breathing room. Besides, the Martian landers should give us plenty of practice when it comes to intercepts I hear”.

Wernher: “Oh yes, we also need to finish and test the automated landing scripts, although it should be easier than the Lunar one, given that the RCS thrusters themselves should provide enough power to land safely – the larger concern is almost the things falling off the Martian moons by themselves again”.

Gene: “Right, by the way, the other probes we have heading for the remaining planets, how about those?”

Wernher: “Well, the Saturn and Uranus probes are already heading for polar orbits, again to give us more scientific readings – but if the people in power wants them in equatorial orbit it can technically be done. We just need to be certain, as the labs will probably be through all our current readings by then and data may be important unless we want all the scientists having nothing to do – you know what happens when Bob get bored!”

Gene: “Oh yes, we do not want a repeat of that, prioritize scientific readings then. What about the Neptune and Pluto probes though?”

Wernher: “We may get to retire before they reach their destinations – the upcoming launch windows don’t cut more than 5 years from those two – even an optimal launch would likely be at least 12 years for Neptune, and 15 for Pluto – and those don’t come around every day, as they require multiple gravity assists”.

Gene: “Sounds difficult?”

Wernher: “Very, and there’s no chance of stopping for orbit like we can with our current trajectories. We can launch in 15-30 years and maybe beat our current probes by 10 years or so – but is it worth it for just a quick peek?”

Gene: “I guess not, let’s focus on Mars for now, the people upstairs also want us focusing on that”.

Wernher: “Someone should tell them that if they prioritize everything, they prioritize nothing, but we are already on that one – although it looks to make the Venutian Discoverer look like a luxury liner as the boys in the workshop tells me so far”.

Gene: “Yes, I heard. Anyway, I have another appointment, coming up, so we’ll have to look at the Lunar Colony proposal another day Wernher – although I don’t see the point – we already have the station in orbit?”

Wernher: “Aye Gene, but they actually mean on the surface”.


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