Kerbal Space Program chronicle, part four — the Kerbal has landed

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Ian Birnbaum at

Kerbal Space Program is an open-world universe simulator that specializes in modeling orbits, atmosphere, gravity and rocket physics. With nothing but your wits and an array of space vehicle parts, your task is to explore. In this chronicle, I will be recording the first missions of the PCGSA, PC Gamer's ambitious new space program.

If you want to get caught up, here are part one, part two, and part three.

The upcoming mission to the Mün requires a lot of planning. The lander is first. I add a series of radially mounted engines to a pair of fuel tanks, then bolt on a lander can big enough for two. The engines don’t have a lot of thrust, but they’l be enough. I add four landing legs and a ladder, some lights, solar panels, batteries and scientific sensors. It’s squat and ugly, but it will do the job.

The transport rocket is also pretty bare-bones: a three-Kerbal capsule with parachutes, large fuel tank and an engine. No frills, no funny business. I stack the lander behind the transport rocket for better aerodynamics and stability. When we dock with the Coconut Monkey Space Station to refuel, we can rearrange things for the flight to the Mün.

The downside: this thing is heavy. I consider designing a new lifter, but then I opt to reuse the lifter that got CMSS into orbit. It might be overkill, but not so much that it will matter. I double-check the staging and assign a crew. Bob, Sonford, and Newfry Kerman step up to the challenge, ready to get written into the history books.

The time has come and the ship, named Kerbal 11, sits ready. We pause while a Kerbal with spectacular hair and a strong chin takes the microphone. “This is not merely a race,” he says. “Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever Kerbalkind must undertake, free men must fully share.” I light the engines and Kerbal 11 rockets skyward into history.

A few minutes later, as I set up for the secondary burn to circularize orbit, I get the first hint that something’s not quite right. I have fuel left over. A LOT of fuel. I circularize and wow, I have a ton of fuel leftover. Mission control goes into a huddle. Do we dare change the mission on the fly and head directly for the Mün?