I kind of wish I had been doing this since the beginning, since documenting the history of my “space program” seems like a fun idea. After all, part of the fun of Kerbal Space Program, as it now exists, is setting and accomplishing goals with almost no guidance. I know it will at least be entertaining to me to look back and see what I did, and since I have this blog just sitting here…
After messing around trying to force together a Mun-base for a while with some success, I decided to go back exploration, and make my first attempt at Duna (the Mars-analog, if you don’t follow the game).
Initially, I worked on a few Ion-powered probes, and I actually did reach Duna using one. However, that was frustratingly slow, and I never did get the engine-electrical mix right. So, I decided to go for a full-blown, interplanetary cruiser capable of completing a few missions in the Duna system. My first attempt – the IPC Nerys.
Since this was the first thing I ever constructed in space that was supposed to be space-worthy (instead of just sitting there in orbit), it turned into a real learning experience. I used my old Jadzia Station as an assembly point, and it didn’t take long to realize that it was totally inadequate to the task. So I cannibalized it, transferred the crew to the Nerys, brought up Jebediah Kerman, and got set to go.
In my head, this design seemed like a great idea. Plenty of fuel, a pair of landers that could land on Duna and return to the ship (or on Ike in a pinch), an Ike lander (Duna’s moon), two racks with 8 tiny orbital probes each, and a capsule to return to Kerbin once I got back.
As it came together in orbit, it was clear that there were two major flaws. The first was those damned mainsail engines – far too inefficient. The second, fatal flaw was those radial docking struts. I couldn’t put the ship under any kind of power without ripping the mission modules clean off the side.
Well, I had three Kerbanauts, a whole mess of fuel, and a bunch of landers all ready to go in one place. So I designed a new mothership, sent it up, and reassembled the final vessel – the IPC Sopotkin.
This configuration proved to be far more stable. It still wasn’t ideal, but it would do the job, and hopefully help me learn more so the next ship would be even better. In addition to a more linear design, this one had nuclear engines. It didn’t have the thrust of the Nerys, but it was far more efficient. Who needs to accelerate that quickly when you are interplanetary-bound anyway, right?
Things seemed to be going well – I managed to escape Kerbin’s orbit and launch my first (totally non-functioning in the game right now) communication satellite, and was just getting lined up for my transfer burn when one of my engines fell off. Just fell off – there was no impact or anything. Maybe I didn’t use enough struts – that’s still an issue – or maybe I attached it to the wrong kind of tank. Who knows. At that point, I figured I had gone too far to turn back, so I shut off another engine for balance and pressed on. It wasn’t too long until the other one fell off as well, leaving me with two.
I managed to arrive at Duna safely. For the most part the missions in the Duna system went well – I was able to land on both Duna (the intrepid Jebediah Kerman, of course) and Ike (Bob Kerman got the honors) and plant the flags, as well as put a couple of those communication and science probes in orbit. The only real snag was a design flaw – I accidentally designed the landers so that they couldn’t re-dock with the mother ship. I didn’t want to tow them back anyway, so I just transferred the crew via EVA and moved on.
I was almost home free – after escaping Duna orbit, and lining up my return burn to Kerbin, I noticed that both of my remaining engines fell off. Same conditions as before – they just dropped off.
I was now dead in the water with two national heroes and a third guy trapped in space. I would need to mount a rescue.
So the IPC John Cabot Reade was rushed into service. The launch went so well that I decided not to wait for a more tailored fuel tank to dock – I just shut down the remaining mailsail engine and took off. It ended up being a far superior craft – there were only a couple of minor flaws, but nothing that impacted performance. Plus it just looked way cooler.
Three years later, I arrived at the Sopotkin – or what I thought was the Sopotkin. It turns out that if you abandon a fuel tank that happens to have automated controls – it will show up as a ship with the same name on it (even if it is out of gas). Instead of the Sopotkin, I found an empty fuel tank. As tough as that rendezvous was, I was fairly irritated.
Lacking the fuel to try and make another rendezvous, the mission was abandoned, and I went back to the drawing board. The crew of the Sopotkin still live – the are just going to have to wait a few more years before I can get to them.