Kerbal Space Program Chronicle, part five—the journey home

We come flying home to our comfortable blue dot, slowly growing bigger in the windows. It's a sight for tired Kerbal eyes. I turn the ship and burn to circularize, and once again we're back in the Kerbin gravity neighborhood.

Now, for one last trick: we're going to land back on the launchpad—or very close to it. I circle the planet and plot a maneuver node, adjusting the orbit line to point directly at the PCG Space Center. The high-rollers and politicians are going to be beside themselves when they see the heroic three parachute gently down outside their office windows.

As the atmosphere starts to kick up and flames lick around the ship, though, I see the estimated arrival line keep slipping further and further away from the space center. I'm confused. What's going on?

A flight engineer coughs nervously and glances down at my clipboard. I look down at my checklist: Line up burn? Check. Reduce orbital velocity? Check. Factor in increased atmospheric drag? Crap.

In a vacuum, our orbit would take us straight to the PCG Space Center grounds. With the thick cushion of air slowing down the ship, though, our new landing has moved across the continental peninsula and directly onto the opposite coastline. With nothing left to do but strap in and come down safely, though, I separate the final stage and watch as the capsule heads for a splashdown.