More Moon

July 31st, 1961; Baikonur Kosmodrone.

“Greetings everyone, and welcome to a short briefing on a bit of a mission that we’ve done before, and went right according to the book, even with the new launcher”, Gene began the press conference.

“As you know, we we launched the Lunar Lander-3 mission a few days ago, and while we didn’t actually make a big thing out of the launch, we did save a few pictures for everyone”.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As the assembled reporters observe the slide show, Gene continued: “As you can see it has the same core as the Kosmos-3 launcher, however an experiment was done to see if it made sense to use liquid fuelled boosters – though we do not plan on doing that again, as the design was inherently inferior to the Kosmos-3 design”.

“The landing on the moon went perfect, and the lander arrived in the contracted region, even finding a nice slope to land on to really test that the new lander design was rock-solid. As you can see from the next image that we got back only an hour ago, it landed well, and Valentina and her crew went about setting everything up, with the new lander having instruments developed since last time we were on the Moon”.

screenshot382
The crew planting the KSA flag, inspecting the engines and initiating the scientific experiments.

“The experiments will last almost 3 days, after which the our kerbonauts will return”, Gene ended the press briefing.

 

Later in Genes office.

Gene: “I have a complaint from Mauzy on the mission experiments Wernher”.

Wernher: “Oh, what is that? Did everything not work perfectly?”.

Gene: “Apparently not, the drilling experiment at the ladder apparently needs air to work, and they had no way to reach the laser experiment mounted to offset the weight as there were no ladder on the rear side”.

Wernher: “Could they not just jump? The gravity is lower up there!”.

Gene: “Not that high while also doing delicate experiments. Luckily they were able to transmit the data through the built-in short range antennae, so there were no loss – but the air-needing experiment won’t be needed in the future”.

Wernher: “Al right, maybe I’ll find something else to stick onto it, and a small ladder as well”.

Advertisements

Working at Venus

May 15th, 1961, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

 

“Welcome everyone to a brief press conference about our current activities around Venus, for which I will start by putting up a nice picture for you, that Bob took yesterday when he were on a short spacewalk to take scientific readings, when the Venutian Discoverer passed low above Venus”, Gene began the conference, while pressing a button to show the picture.

screenshot372
The Venutian Discoverer passing close to Venus.

“Yesterday, our Venus-5 probe also got into a good parking orbit above Venus, and we’ll be adjusting it down to its final scanning orbit over the coming weeks. The inclination was almost spot on this time, being the third surveying satellite we have in orbit – but the intercept was rather close to the Venutian Discoverer’s arrival which is why the probe was merely put into a parking orbit for now”.

“Since the pass yesterday, our scientific and engineering staff have also double checked the gravity assist that the ship has received from Venus, and confirmed that it was indeed more than were needed, as our initial calculations showed”.

“This means that tomorrow, the ship will fire what is likely its last major correction burn, lowering the orbital time and adjusting around 1 degree in misalignment to ensure the arrival of the crew back on Earth 264 days from today”.

“The central tank has yielded invaluable data on evaporation so far, and we are expecting to have some theories confirmed on the way back, with the last of the fuel as the remaining fuel continues to evaporate”.

“Now, are there any questions?”, Gene ends the conference, picking the first of the inquisitive reporters.

“Jack Kerman, The Kerbinian Engineer”, the reporter begins, “what are the remaining fuel levels, are they in line with expectations and what is the evaporation rate?”.

“Well now”, Gene begins, “the central tank has around 15 % of its fuel left, which is below the expected amount – but on the other hand, we have gotten the return adjustment burn done in a single go, and are not going to have another mid-course correction as originally expected – so all in all I’d say we’re about as expected which was 20 % minus evaporation at this point”.

“As for your question about evaporation, that is a closely guarded state secret for now, although I can tell you that we appear to have been able to confirm that moving closer to the sun exacerbates the phenomenon, next question”.

“Gilly Kerman, The Kerbin Star. How is the crew doing? Any stress or other issues?”.

“There are of course minor things all along, but even Jebediah who is the most restless of the three have found that taking short walks outside does wonders for his mood, combined with plenty of exercise and a healthy diet. We are currently examining the long term effects in space on KSS as well, and are of course also looking at Valentinas upcoming Lunar mission and have further plans for a long term mission as well in order to have examined the complexities on both all male, all female and mixed crews for optimal crew composition in the future”, Gene answered the question with a slight smile – knowing that Gilly’s follow-up question would have been about women in space, and whether they would not be better fit psychologically.

Water waste

May 3rd, 1961; Baikonur Kosmodrone, Gene’s office.

Gene: “Alright Wernher, the Illyriens again made a big announcement that seems like a really good idea that we’re not doing. Why didn’t you guys think of that?”.

Wernher: “Well, there are several reasons, but it’s a waste really – even for Hydrolox engines to do it”.

Gene: “Wait, what? That makes no sense Wernher”.

Wernher: “It makes perfect sense Gene. They’re carrying much more into orbit than they need – they’ll be throwing away a bunch of oxygen into space when they split the water”.

Gene: “Why? I know it takes a lot of energy to split it that way, but they seem to have plenty of power there, but isn’t burning it just the reverse?”.

Wernher: “Not exactly Gene, if they do that, they have very inefficient rockets. To get the efficiencies we have in our Hydrolox rockets, the mix needs to be fuel rich and have an overabundance of Hydrogen – which means throwing away a bunch of the oxygen from the process, except the small parts that may be used to fill up the life support systems that is – but that’s only a small part of what needs to be thrown away”.

Gene: “Ah, I see, and in any case, I guess with our hopes of good nuclear engines it would make even less sense. We need to have a look at their power systems though do we not?”.

Wernher: “I don’t see why, it’s clearly an error of units. KSS have superior power generation with its current old panels as far as we can tell – and the science department tells me that they’re looking at some bigger and better panels in the not too distant future that will allow us to upgrade KSS significantly on that topic”.

Gene: “Ah yes, the vaunted upgrades of KSS – you still feel we should be doing a more general overhaul?”.

Wernher: “Yes, a number of parts are showing their age and with the way we built it we should be able to upgrade it one section at the time. If we begin with the power section and replace that, we can then do the other sections one at a time. While we could keep the central section, we may want to replace even that with some of the designs that are in the pipeline over the next couple of years”.

Gene: “So basically a completely new station and infrastructure as I hear you describe it?”.

Wernher: “In time, yes. Early on we may need some docking adapters between old and new sections, but we have much improved docking ports on the drawing board, that would simplify the daily operations of the station immensely. Coupled with improved solar panels, habitation, storage, recycling and more lab sections we are looking at a lot of potential. Even the lab computer section is ancient compared to our newer designs”.

Gene: “Alright, I’ll try and put continuous upgrades into the budget. You take a look at optimizing the launches. they’re cheap, but maybe we can make the powers that be happy by making them more efficient, they like that word”.

Wernher: “I already have planned improvements for the supply vessel. The crew capsule can likely be improved if we start using our flimsy landing cans for atmospheric reentry as well as the Illyriens have always chanced – but I never liked that idea much Gene and you know it”.

Gene: “Yes, I know, aerodynamic stability and all that – still, look into it, will you?”.

Wernher: “I will Gene”.

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”.

One trip around

April 24th, 1961; KSS – Low Earth orbit.

As evening approaches on KSS, the crew of the station – well, most of the crew – is preparing a special evening for the rest.

In the common area of the station, Commander Cericca and Lieutenant Calney have been spending their afternoon preparing, with the engineers Sanlinne and Tommon pitching in as they have time – all the while Maala and Landon makes sure to keep the three scientists of the 3rd crew occupied in the labs.

As dinnertime approaches, Maala and Landon insists that they should all eat together for once – and starts moving the rest of them towards the common area.

As Mauzy, Hendun and Kenzor enters the common area they encounter a sheet blocking their way – removing it, they are greeted with the rest of the crew in front of them (and Maala and Landon behind them) yelling “SURPRISE!” at the top of their lungs.

As the confused scientists stares perplexed at the assembled crew and the rather impressive dinner put together, Landon and Maala pushed them forward while giving them a helpful hint about them having been in space for a year now.

As the crew eats dinner – including a special space-cake sent from mission control – the commanders and engineers tease the scientists about being so engrossed in their work, that they didn’t even notice the special crates on the supply mission the week before.

As the evening progresses, the crew also takes some pictures to include with their weekly report from the station – which also includes special thanks to the ground staff for preparing and sending everything, as well as the KSA master chef for the space-cake.

Reporting routine

February 5th, 1961; Gene’s office, Baikonur Kosmodrone.

“Alright people, time for another engineering meeting, although this time sans Bill, Bob and Jebediah – although Jeb rarely has much input here. Two out of the last three launches have had issues, minor and somewhat major. First things first Wernher, what happened with the Neptune trajectory?”, Gene began the meeting.

“Aye, it looks like a slight misalignment in the planes that the guidance people compensated for by doing the ejection burn slightly early, which in turn made them compensate and make it longer, thus overshooting Neptune. I think we need tighter margins on our launches themselves to actually correct this problem, sadly.”, Wernher explained, before interjecting a last comment, “at least it looks to be arriving around the same time as the Pluto probe”.

“Not exactly what I’d like to hear Wernher, let’s schedule another for the next window and see if we can’t improve things. How are we on payloads and rockets, now that we’ve established an actual standardized type and payload for these deep-space missions?”.

“On that front we’re doing better – we have the next Pluto and Neptune launchers in production, and are making a spare that we will try to slingshot fully out of our solar system, if the other launches goes well. We may even put another couple of spares into production once the finances allows it, simply because they’re as useful as they are – we may even update them at some point with new instrumentation if it looks promising”.

“Well, at least we’re ahead there, now Valentina the Venus 5 course adjustment went as scheduled?”.

“Yes Gene, it went perfect, telemetry even shows that we’re expecting it to be less than one degree off from a perfect equatorial orbit, and fuel levels looks good for getting the orbit we need – so all in all just by the book”, Valentine replied, smiling. After all, she were pretty much reporting the only thing that went without a hitch.

“Alright, last one back to you Wernher – what went wrong with the latest KSS resupply mission”.

Wernher looked at a couple of papers before replying “Well, first off, it was able to complete its mission, but it seems like the cone-tank was only filled on one of the boosters – the whole thing have fuel to spare, so it was mostly scary when we had to detach a still-lit booster to prevent it from tipping the rocket over. We have added this as item 417c on out checklists”, Wernher ended his explanation.

“Alright everyone have Monday off, it’s bee too long a weekend anyway with all this catching up on issues”, Gene ended the meeting, on the late Sunday afternoon.

Visiting other planets

January 16th, 1961; Kerbinian Capital.

“Welcome everyone to the Kerbinian Ministry of Information and Truth. Today we have a rather grand announcement to make, and before I hand you over to Gene Kerman – who have flown in from Baikonur early this morning – I just want to express my admiration of the achievements of the Kerbinian Space Agency. Now, here’s a picture of the launch, unfortunately at night, while Gene comes on stage”.

With that Ali Kerman, the Minister of IT leaves the stage, and Gene Kerman comes up instead and walks to the microphone.

screenshot352
The large rocket launching during the night.

“Thank you Minister, and my apologies to everyone if I look and sound a bit tired – I have been up all night for the launch and start of the mission, as well as the launch of our latest Venus-5 probe to improve our knowledge of Venus further”.

“Now, what mission? Well before I explain that, let me just mention that it was launched upon our newest and most powerful series-produced launcher to date – the Kosmos-3 – capable of lifting a full 220 tonnes to low orbit”.

“The launch went quite fine, as you can see on the pictures taken by Jebediah when he did an external inspection of the Venutian Discoverer after getting into orbit”.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“As you can see, the more than 200 tonne ship looks quite advanced – but more than looking it, it is quite advanced. It has life support and recyclers to support the crew for more than a year in space – taking all our lessons learned on KSS into account, and even including back-up for all the critical life support equipment”.

“Now, the name of the ship and time in space capacity probably gives away the mission – and I may as well confirm it before you start speculating. Yes, Jebediah, Bill and Bob are currently on their way to Venus – not to stay, but to make a manned fly-by and return to Earth. They will return to us in a little over a year”.

“But that is not all, as you may have noticed, there are 5 large tanks, and only a single engine – that is the debut of a new way of propelling spacecraft that we have worked on for a while – the Venutian Discoverer is propelled by our mark 2 nuclear engine – and I have some pictures of the Earth ejection burn taken by a number of disposable camera probes launched”.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“The outer tanks are made to be detached once they’re empty – leaving the central tank, which is better insulated and cooled for the long trip, as the only one with propellant in it. While the mission is designed as a free return trajectory, the ship do have enough fuel that it could in theory make orbit around Mars if that was where it was going”.

“For that reason, the outer tanks weren’t emptied entirely, and will be used along with the central tank to further refine our knowledge of working with the most volatile cryogenic fuels during space travel”.

“Now, I will leave the answering of questions to the Minister, as I am rather tired, and we have a launch tonight of our newest Lunar scanner that I have to be awake for again – you are of course all welcome at the launch facilities at every launch, even one as mundane as a lunar probe later today”.

“With that, I will be taking my leave, with a picture of the Venutian Discoverer taken by Bill, when he went on an EVA to examine the nuclear engine after the initial burn”.

screenshot362
The Venutian Discoverer, having left Earth orbit and on its way to Venus.

As the Minister comes on stage again, he smiles as he starts speaking into the microphone.

“Yes, Kerbinia is as always the pioneers in space travel – just as we were when landing on the Moon and countless other times. Now did I see some questions?”.