As today is Friday the 13th, it is the perfect time to tell you a story of the time that everything possible went wrong in Kerbal Space Program. This all happened yesterday.
I had a number of contracts that required a trip to the surface of the Mun. 5 Kerbal tourists wanted to visit it, a company wanted an engine tested in orbit, another on an escape trajectory from it, and a third company wanted their separator tested on the surface. If I could combine all these contracts then it would be a fantastic earner.
There were also some contracts to rescue other Kerbals from the surface or in orbit of the Mun. Not Kerbals in my space program that I had abandoned, but from other, less reputable companies. Companies that aren’t as successful and awesome as the program I oversee.
Having built the lander in the assembly hangar, I went to crew it and found that I had a number of other rescued pilots (they defect to your program after rescuing. They know a winning team when they get rescued from the infinite void when they see one). These pilots and scientists were not as experienced as my initial 4 test staff. I decided at that point to take everyone except Jebediah Kerman, my most experienced pilot and all round hero and nice guy. Valentina would be lead pilot on this simple mission. Also, leaving Jeb behind would leave me room in the ship to rendezvous with the stranded pilot in orbit and complete another contract.
All started off well. We took off without a hitch, and easily made it into low Kerbin orbit. We planned the transfer maneuver to the Mun, and completed it easily as well. The transfer into Munar orbit went smoothly and we were ready to land. Plenty of fuel left, I naively thought.
Upon landing, I discovered that we now only had about 400m/s of delta v left. Delta v is a simple way to measure fuel, it’s the change in speed you can achieve on that stage. It was all the fuel we had to leave the surface of the Mun, achieve orbit, and get home to Kerbin. 400 m/s was definitely not enough.
I now had a Mark Watney situation. In fact, I had 11 Mark Watney’s now.
“No problem.” I thought. “I still have Jeb here, I’ll send him in a ship to rescue everyone.”
So it was back to the Vehicle Assembly Building to create a ship that could land on the Mun, rescue everyone, and bring them home. Jeb, who I had wanted to not be the hero again, would be the hero, again.
Again, the launch went without a hitch. Jeb made it to the Mun with no issues. Landing near the other ship was tricky, but he made it down. I then used some of the remaining fuel in the soon to be abandoned ship to move it a little closer to Jeb’s. Just to make their spacewalk a little quicker.
The 5 crewmen EVA’d and transferred to Jeb’s ship quickly and easily, and then we hit problem number 2.
Tourists cannot leave their ship. They do not do EVA’s.
I now had 2 ships on the Mun, and, as we don’t leave our people behind, no one was going anywhere.
“FUCKING FUCKING FUCK SHIT ARSE!” I casually said to myself, scratching the stubble on my chin in contemplation of this new turn of events. All my astronauts were now on the Mun.
Two solutions now presented themselves.
Solution the first. Build a rover to transfer fuel to the first ship, either from the second ship, or from whatever was left in the skycrane that would get the rover to the surface of the Mun.
The second solution, which was equally valid, build a rover to transfer the tourists from the first ship to the second ship.
I decided to transfer fuel to the stranded craft, quickly built a rover and skycrane and flew them off to the Mun. Would the craft fly alright? How much of an imbalance would be caused by the wheels of the rover being on one side? Ultimately these concerns came to nought. The skycrane landed nearby successfully, and I triggered the rover to detach. All that was left was to drive up to one of the fuel tanks, fill up, drive to the stranded vessel, refuel it, and repeat as necessary. I could even refuel Jeb’s ship while I was here.
Sadly, I would soon discover that I had used the wrong probe core in my rover and so the button to move the wheels forward also caused the rover to pitch up. I was doing uncontrollable wheelies everywhere, and one of my wheels had been shredded when I detached the fairing that protected the rover during ascent from Kerbin. Ultimately, the rover drove a little too hard into its skycrane, and exploded.
So much for rescue attempt number 2. But hey, third time’s the charm, right? Right?
I took a step back to think about this some more. I went down to the kitchen and grabbed a babybel and a can of diet pepsi from the fridge.
My Kerbals needed me now more than ever. Soon they would lose hope and resort to cannibalism, I guess. Even though it had only been some 5 days at this point.
Ok. I’ll build a rover to transfer them to Jeb’s ship, which still has more than enough fuel. I’ll leave the stranded ship as the start of a Munar base, which would eventually have refuelling capabilities.
I went back upstairs, went to the VAB, and built another rover. I used the correct probe core this time.
Shakily, the rover made it to orbit. The trip to the Mun was uneventful, and landing went smoothly.
I detached the rover from the skycrane, and drove it out from underneath. I let the solar panels unfold so it wouldn’t run out of power.
The rover drove over to the stranded vessel, and we transferred everyone to the rover. On the way to Jeb’s ship, disaster struck. Somehow, the rover flipped onto its roof and wouldn’t recover.
“FUCKING SHI… Oh, I’ll just reload to right after I docked with the first ship.”
Again, I transferred the tourists to the rover, and again, but considerably more carefully, I drove to Jeb’s ship and successfully docked.
I quickly transferred everyone over, undocked the rover and saved the shit out of my game.
The end was in sight. The ordeal almost over. After another quick save to be sure, I fired up the engines and flew Jeb’s ship off the surface of the Mun. At 15km, we circularized into a stable orbit. And again, I saved.
But Fate was not finished with the Kerbals just yet.
‘Fate’ here defined as ‘the fickle nature of Phil’.
“Oh look.” I said to myself. “There’s contract to rescue another Kerbal from the surface of the Mun. I’m sure that I have enough fuel to go and get her, and even if I don’t I can just reload to this point and come back later.”
You may recall that there was actually a far easier contract to fulfill sitting in orbit for me, also awaiting rescue. But no. We went for Roda Kerman instead.
We altered our inclination, we passed overhead and came down right next to her. She climbed aboard, and then we looked.
“Ah well. I’ll just reload and come back for her next time.” I reached out and tapped a button.
“Wait a second. That wasn’t the quick load button.”
I glanced up at the screen. “Quicksaving…” appeared at the top.
“Fuck this. I’ll come back tomorrow.”
It is now 21 hours later. They are still on the Mun. Every single Kerbal in my space program is currently sitting stranded on the Mun.
And that is why I shouldn’t work for NASA.