Kerbal Space Follies

Deceleration burn

Kerbal Space Program is a game that, at its best, conveys the grandeur and majesty of space exploration. I suggest you put on an appropriate soundtrack and imagine the long, slow descent to the surface of the moon, in a craft surrounded by millions of miles of vacuum. Having traveled for days, shedding propellant and stages along your journey, until finally, your final stage hovers, whispering to a halt on jets of burning breath from your ancestral homeland–

one wheel touches–

then two–



There really is no recovering from this. You can’t push the rocket back upright. The only way to play Kerbal Space Program and retain your sanity is to have an obsessive quicksave habit, and the wisdom to know when to challenge yourself by letting a random, unfair failure become a part of your story. Failures, for instance, like forgetting to add solar panels to one side of a ship, turning it halfway around for an orbital maneuver, and getting stuck without power for roughly half a year.

Our science landers now come with solar panels on all sides.

Baby lemme upgrade

Something happened during this landing burn, but I don’t remember exactly what. Clearly, part of the ship is no longer attached, and things have taken a bit of a turn.

To be clear, it's not meant to land sideways

To be clear, this ship, like the lander we discussed previously, is not supposed to point this way. At least, not for long.

You see this happen an awful lot in KSP

What was that about quicksaves?

Landed on Phobos?

The six nuclear engine pods shown here are significantly more efficient (at least in vacuum) than the standard engines we’ve used so far, offering something like ~4000 m/s delta-v in a compact package. However, their lower thrust force means this stage isn’t capable of landing on massive planetary bodies. We land on a moon first to collect scientific samples, process them in the lab module (center, with three windows), then set off for a heavier planetary body.

Duna’s (Mars') atmosphere is quite low, and quite thin, but quite definitely there. We use retrorocket burns and parachutes to land safely.

Landing burn

With the nuclear stage exhausted, we drop its radioactive carcass to the ground, where it explodes, making sure nothing interesting or even remotely hospitable to life remains near our landing site.

Final descent

There is no return vehicle. We assume that future technological developments will allow Ms. Jedbur to return from her Dunan post.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the KSP Interstellar mod, and where several hundred hours of my life went in early 2014.

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