Kerbal Space Program chronicle — part two: the first Kerbal in space

As the engines burn, I see the blue line representing my orbit climb out of the oceans of Kerbin and rise to meet the 100 kilometer mark. Kill the engines and separate the stages, we're in orbit! Wildo is the pride of a nation! He starts to sing a warbly, Kerbal cover version of “Space Oddity” until I threaten to vent the crew hatch and asphyxiate him.

Wildo circles the planet a few times, taking pictures and mooning the entire northern hemisphere. After a few rounds he's made his point and proved that Kerbals can survive space travel, so it's time to bring him back.

Engaging the RCS thrusters, I stabilize the rotating spacecraft and point it toward the yellow X on the navball, facing the engine against my orbit. As the rocket burns, Wildo's velocity slowly drops until he is falling back toward the planet like a regular old steel can. As the atmosphere approaches, I rotate the craft to point the command module down and engage my last separation stage. The fuel tank and engine pop free and move a safe distance away.

Left with only the command module, I rotate the fat, heat-resistant bottom to face the atmosphere. Wildo says his prayers and braces for reentry.

Flames lick up around the command pod, lighting up the night sky. Wildo's ship is going so fast that individual oxygen molecules can't get out of the way, and a thick pillow of them start to pile up. The oxygen gets so violently compressed that it bursts into flame. Within a few moments the craft has slowed down enough for the fire to die away, and we're through the worst of it.