5) Lets go to Mars dude!

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Flight 8 – Duna Landing

Having consulted their beloved public, the Kerbals decided to make Duna (KSP’s Mars analogue) their next target. They would use know-how gained from this expedition to build a space-station around Kerbin to help with future interplanetary trips.

 

The ship used for this mission is a bit more advanced than the ones used to explore Kerbin and its moons. It consists of an orbital booster stage, an interplanetary stage (I-stage), and a lander capable of re-docking with the I-stage once its mission to Duna’s surface is complete. The I-stage can then return the Kerbals back home.

Thats a big rocket! 520 tons at launch
Thats a big rocket! 520 tons at launch

Once in orbit, the booster stage is detached and the I-stage begins it’s burn to Duna.

Duna I-stage

Once the burn was complete, the map showed I would need 203 days just to arrive around Duna. The boys in the I-stage’s large capsule settled down for many, many days of watching movies, playing risk and drinking slurm. I did feel a bit sorry for Jebediah spending the time on his own in the lander capsule but he’s a resilient chap and I’m sure he was happy enough as he was about to become the first Kerbal to land on another planet.

Ike (right of the picture) is Duna's large moon, almost as big as the planet itself
Ike (right of the picture) is Duna’s large moon, almost as big as the planet itself

Eventually however, the lads find themselves in an orbit around Duna. Jeb detaches from the I-stage and begins a burn to put himself on a course for Duna’s surface. He aims to intercept the surface at a shallow angle to maximise the amount of time spent in the atmosphere so it can slow him down.

Courageous Jebediah is not at all concerned about detaching from the ship that is his only chance of returning home
Courageous Jebediah is not at all concerned about detaching from the ship that is his only chance of returning home

All goes well and the lander’s parachutes carry it to the surface, requiring only  a small burn of it’s rockets for a soft touchdown. On the way down he is sure he sees violent sandstorms but is confident that it was just his imagination and nothing to be concerned over. In any case, the landing site appears clear.

Duna parachute

Jeb finds he can't jump particularly high on Duna. Still higher than he can back on Kerbin though.
Jeb finds he can’t jump particularly high on Duna. Still higher than he can back on Kerbin though.
Duna canyon
Jeb also makes a note of a huge canyon nearby. A bit far for him to go on foot but he scribbles notes down in case future missions can investigate further

Before long however the sky starts to darken. This concerns Jeb as it is still daytime. After checking and double-checking that he has not somehow donned his sunglasses inside his helmet, he notices the wind start to pick up. And up. Aaaaaand up. Jeb hurriedly jumps back onto his ladders and into the safety of his capsule as the sandstorm descends on him.

Sandstorm
Shiiiiiiiiiii……
Duna take-off
Jebediah decided to take off immediately. Because he wanted to get some pictures of the storm from above. For science. Not because he was scared. Absolutely not.

After reaching orbit, Jeb makes the tricky rendez-vous with the I-stage. With most of it’s fuel gone the lander is extremely light and very easy to control in a vacuum. However, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to transfer what fuel remained in the lander to the I-stage because the fuel tanks needed to be jettisoned to expose the docking port. For future designs I’ll have to think of a way to dock with the lander fuel tanks so as not to waste fuel.

Duna soon to dock

 

Docking is an awkward process, luckily made much easier by what remains of the lander being small and easy to manoeuvre. Easssssy does it...
Docking is an awkward process, luckily made much easier by what remains of the lander being small and easy to manoeuvre. Easssssy does it…
Got it!
Got it!
The I-stage returns home, complete with Jeb's lander
The I-stage returns home, complete with Jeb’s lander capsule.

As they return to near-Kerbin space, the lads can’t contain their excitement. To the horror of the health and safety team back on Kerbin, Jeb and Bob decide to go on EVA while hurtling towards Kerbin at 3000m/s in order to high-five. However, as Bob correctly pointed out, the objecters were way down there and they couldn’t really stop them.

Having being cooped up on his own for well over a year, Jeb is extremely excited by this social interaction. Bob of course is more reserved.
Having being cooped up on his own for well over a year, Jeb is extremely excited by this social interaction. Bob of course is more reserved.

At this point there’s still quite a bit of fuel left in the I-stage. Flush from their sucessful trip to Duna, the boys decide to return home with a bit of flair. They attempt to land as close to the Kerbal Space Centre as possible (some poor sod has to go and pick up their landers from all over Kerbin after all). This is no mean feat (for me at least) as the atmosphere of Kerbin is not taken into account by the navigation system in the game, meaning you have to guesstimate how much you have to overshoot you’re target to allow for the atmosphere slowing you down.

However…

That's not bad for a first attempt if I do say so myself
That’s not bad for a first attempt if I do say so myself

All Kerbalkind celebrated the four brave Kerbalnaughts who made it to Duna (especially Jeb, much to the annoyance of the other three).

Much was learnt about interplanetary manoeuvres, docking in orbit and putting whopping big and heavy stuff into space.

The bigwhigs and eggheads get together to decide how to put this knowledge to use in building their space station.

 

 

 

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