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The Next Frontier

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  Note: All dates have been converted to their approximate Earth equivalents for reader convebnience.

Welcome To The Captain's Blog!

Posted by: Jeb

July 20th, 2522

Mood: Chipper

Okay, before we go any further I'd like to make it clear that the name of this thing was not my idea. If my taste in puns was that bad, my list of accomplishments in the field of kerballed spaceflight would be much shorter and end with "first astronaut to be murdered in space".

Anyhow. My name is Jebediah Kerman and I'll be regularly updating Kerbalkind on the progress of our first ever interstellar voyage through these blog entries. Why blog entries, I hear you ask? (Because Lord knows I did when the suits told me about it.) Well, turns out that designing, testing and building an Alkerbierre Drive and a Quantum Entanglement Communications System costs a lot of money and we had to lay off our entire Public Relations office, so for once our perenially inadequate budget is working in our favour...
I kid, I kid! Supposedly this is supposed to be more personal, intimate and Kerbal than pre-digested press releases and staged video interviews. I guess I'll have to let you all be the judge of whether it works.

Anyway, I'm writing this from the Starfarer 1 in a standard 100km equatorial parking orbit, currently passing over the Great Tranquil Sea. We're waiting for favourable orbital conditions for the transfer to Jool, which we'll be using for a gravity-assist to take us well clear of the system before we fire up the hyperdrive...

Damn. I've been in this business nigh-on thirty years, watched the space programme grow from my first sub-orbital flight strapped to a glorified firecracker to flags and footprints on every solid body in the system and permanent settlements on two of them, and I still can't quite believe we've got an honest-to-Kerweh faster-than-light drive on this ship. And yes, I know it's not technically FTL because it bends or compresses space-time or something -don't ask me how that works- but anything that gets us to our nearest stellar neighbour in eight months where light takes as many years is close enough in my book.
Oh, yeah, that reminds me. Technical questions about how the Alkerbierre Drive actually works should be directed to Mission Specialist Scott Kerbley -see the "About the Crew" page for his email address- because I really don't know much more than what I read in Science Quarterly; my degree's in aerospace engineering, not quantum physics. Questions about that Quantum Entanglement Communications System I mentioned earlier should be directed to Kurt MacKerjel, our other mission specialist. I doubt he'll be able to tell you a whole lot though, because it's on loan from the Air Force -as is Kurt, incidentally- and most of the details are classified.

And since it's already been leaked to the media I might just as well confirm that yes, Kurt is also our Weapons Systems Officer because no, we are not going out into a completely unknown and unknowable situation without some means of self-defence. I know lots of people are unhappy about it; hell, I'm not exactly thrilled with the prospect either, and I hope and pray we don't need the shotgun and the game rifles in the surface excursion gear, much less the ship-to-ship mass driver or the point-defence lasers. But better to have 'em and not need 'em than the other way round, I say, and I'm the one flying this thing.

And no, the lander will not fit down the barrel. I already tried.

Anyway, I'm going to have to wrap this up now, because we're running an RCS test as soon as the last supply container's locked down. I think Stratus Inc's logistics people are running a livestream; time permitting I'll put the address up here. Adios for now!

Comments:

Sat Jul 20 02:41

 

 

And no, the lander will not fit down the barrel. I already tried.

Don't ever change, Jeb!

-Wehrner

Sat Jul 20 02:46

Damn it Jeb ! What part of "neither confirm nor deny" wasn't I clear to you about?

-Hanfrod at KSC

Sat Jul 20 02:47

How 'bout the part where we're still keeping that up after the new guy rammed an ammo canister with a forklift and scattered 150mm railgun slugs all over VAB 4 while you were stood there spouting soundbites for the TV news crew? "Zero-G bocce tournament in Jool orbit" was a good one-liner but a lousy cover story. Now get your sorry keister in here and help me with the accident report, I've got about five government agencies wanting an explanation for the mess in there.

-Gene

Events at KSC

Posted by: Jeb

July 21st, 2522

Mood: Nostalgic

Finally got to see the news clip. (RCS test went fine, by the way, after we shifted some stores around to correctly position the centre of gravity.) Man, we haven't burned down a Vehicle Assembly Building in a while. Kinda brings back the good old days!

Since a couple of people have been asking, the stuff that got spilled? Chlorine trifluoride, which we use for recycling the cores of the LV-Ns and never, ever under any circumstances load onboard a rocket. That was not an optical illusion, the bucket of sand someone emptied over the spill really did catch on fire. It's about the most powerful oxidising agent known to science.
We did look into the stuff as a propellant once, just after we got federalised into the KSA. I think the details are still classified, but suffice it to say that the stuff was responsible for some of the Propellant Research Complex's more memorable explosions before we gave up on it as too damn dangerous.

And no, I don't know what it was doing in VAB 4 either, but I don't envy whoever put it there when Gene gets his hands on them. I don't think I generated that much paperwork after the RT-5 Incident!

Comments:

July 21st, 22:47

Not quite, but it was a close-run thing. I'm still mad at you.

- Gene

July 21st, 22:50

The owner of that yacht was looking for a good tax write-off anyway, we found Bob in the end, the trailer really wasn't all that badly damaged and I bought you another car with my own money. Will you let it go already?

- Jeb

July 21st, 22:54

Remind me again why I'm flying with this maniac? Anyway, the chlorine trifloride figures actually have been declassified and are available at the KSA document archives. I won't bore lay readers with the math, but we could have easily got single stage to Munar orbit out of that witch's brew if we'd found anyone willing to fly it. Yes, amazingly enough, there are depths of suicidal idiocy that even Jeb refuses to plumb. At least when he's sober.

- Bill

July 21st, 23:01

To elaborate a little on Jeb's account, we spent three months experimenting with chlorine trifluoride -against my better judgement, I might add!- after a rumour reached our ears that Rockamax was testing it for a Probodyne Prize attempt on Duna. (I never did find out if they were or not, but I sincerely doubt it.) It never progressed past the static test stage... No, actually it's more accurate to say it never progressed past the "flying very fast in a hundred different directions at once the second we turned it on" stage, and it was a good day when we got as far as pressing the start button before something went boom: Just storing the stuff presented no end of logistical challenges, because it reacts violently on contact with just about everything up to and including glass. Steel and copper turned out to work best, because it reacts to form a thin protective layer on top of the metal, much like aluminium when it comes into contact with the atmosphere. You still have to pour extremely carefully though, because if that layer doesn't have time to form properly or gets knocked off... Well. Ever seen a steel drum burn like magnesium? I have, and I never want to again.

The final straw was actually the most successful test, which achieved about a quarter-second of actual thrust before it blew up... which was enough to tear the prototype motor from its cradle and launch it right out of the testing area and into an adjoining field. Then it blew up, to the great detriment of a nearby barn and a couple acres of previously arable land. (Did I mention chlorine trifluoride's horribly toxic as well as explosive?) The insurance company put their foot down afterwards, and they hadn't then the lab assistants and most of the saner engineers were all set to come out on strike if we didn't get rid of the stuff, so that was the end of that. And a good thing too!

- Wehrner

On the Selection Process

Posted by: Jeb

July 25th, 01:18

Mood: unspecified

So, a major newspaper who shall remain nameless published a column this morning criticising the lack of female representation on the Starfarer mission. I'm going to reproduce my response in the comments section here:

"Holly: I'm not going to disagree with you that it's a damn shame, but I want to be clear on something. The Kerbal Space Agency does not, never as and as long as I have any say in the matter it never will have 'diversity quotas'. I want us to recruit, asssign and promote on merit and merit alone.
"What we do instead, because I'm sad to report that some of our senior people are too ornery to change their minds but too good at their jobs to simply pension off, is remove any personally identifying information from resumes on arrival. Age, gender, ethnicity and even the candidate's name is only revealed after the selection committee decides to hire them. It's almost certainly possible to circumvent this system, but we haven't caught anyone trying yet, and if we ever do they'll be clearing out their desk the same day.
"I've been told, by the way, that one of the shortlisted candidates for Mission Specialist was a woman known to Scott Kerbley, the successful candidate. I won't name her here, but I do have a message for her. Candidate 276, if you're reading this then let it be known that you are an excellent astronaut and I think you'll go far in the spaceflight business, whether it's with the KSA or the private sector. The one and only reason you were not selected is that you have fewer hours in space than Scott and aren't yet command-certified. Experience is paramount on this kind of mission, and we have almost no margin for error."

I hope that clears up any misconceptions.

Comments

July 25th, 01:52

Mr Kerman, you flatter me! And no hard feelings, even I have to admit Scott's the better pilot.

- Candidate 276

July 25th, 01:56

You dodged a bullet, lady. Jeb's got enough cheesy pickup lines to last the whole two-year mission!

- Bill

July 25th: 02:10

And yet I've still had more sex than you...

- Jeb

July 25th, 02:16

*sigh* We didn't even make it out of Kerbin orbit this time. Is that a new record?

- Bob

"So, what's it like being an astronaut?" And Other Frequently-Asked Questions

Posted by: Jeb

July 28th, 18:37

Mood: Amused

So the five of us up here and a bunch of other KSA flight crew were having this big conference call a day or two earlier, and we ended up comparing lists of questions members of the public have asked us. Some of them were amusing -"What happens if the astronauts fall off the space station when they're outside?" was my favourite- many of them were inane and some of them were unfit to reproduce in an all-ages environment like this blog.

Though for the benefit of that one guy Geofley met in a bar a couple of years ago, doing that with a vacuum cleaner and doing it with a hole drilled into the hull would not be remotely similar except for the "serious and lasting injury" part. (I hope I don't have to draw you all a picture.)

But nevertheless, it inspired me to open up a sort of Q&A session. Post your questions in the comments section and tomorrow afternoon I'll have a shot at answering some of them.

Geneny Kerman

Posted by: Kurt

July 29th, 01:02

Mood: unspecified

I guess you'll all have heard by now that Gene collapsed at the Space Centre a couple of hours ago. We don't have many more details than the media at this point, but it's serious.

Jeb, Bill and Bob are on the surface right now, and so's Scott; he didn't think any of them ought to be flying a spaceship on their own right now, and I can't blame him.

I know your thoughts and prayers are with Gene, his family and friends right now, but I'd like to ask well-wishers to refrain from attending the hospital in person right now. We appreciate the sentiment, but it's making it difficult for the medical staff to do their jobs.

If there's any further news, good or bad, I'll pass it on as soon as I hear it.

Comments

July 29th, 18:46

He's gonna be okay. Docs saoid it wasn'y as bad as it looked at first but if he hadn'y come in when he did it coulda been mouch worse.

Tired. can't see to type right. gonna craSH NOW, VALL YOU IN THE MORNING.

- JEB

Farewell To Gene, And Responses To The Q&A

Posted by: Jeb

July 31st, 00:06

Mood: Misty-eyed

Got some sad news, folks, though not nearly as sad as the news I thought I'd be breaking this time the day before yesterday. After that little health scare, Gene Kerman has made the decision to take his well-deserved retirement.

No words of mine can even begin to describe his contribution to the Kerbin Interplanetary Society, the Kerbin Space Agency and the whole field of spaceflight. Bob and I flew the rockets, Bill told us where the hell we were, Wehrner designed 'em... And Gene made sure everything was paid for. He organised the meetings and fundraisers, negotiated the sponsorship deals and made sure we didn't blow the rent-money on rocket fuel. Maybe it wasn't glamorous, but if it wasn't for him we would literally never have got off the ground.
As Operations Director at Mission Control, he never once lost a Kerbal on his watch; he never panicked, he never lost hope and he always found a way to bring us home safely. As Chief Executive of the KIS, he was a brilliant negotiator and an outstanding manager. The interoperability agreement with Rockamax, the merger with C7 and Probodobodyne, the huge operational freedom granted to us after we were federalised into the Kerbin Space Agency? All his doing.

Enjoy your retirement, old friend, because Kerweh knows you've earned it. The space program won't be the same without you.

Anyhow, I guess I ought to take care of the questions everyone asked. First up is someone calling themselves "Scotius":

 

 

Dear Jeb. What is inside the compartment labeled as "Not Food"?

Oh, now you're taking me back! For the doubtless depressingly high percentage of readers too young to remember, our correspondent is referring to this infamous publicity shot of me and a couple of rookies sitting in the first production Hitchhiker Crew Module:



Those labels were a practical joke by someone working in the VAB -we never did find out who- and were stuck down so thoroughly with Superglue that they were still there when the Vanguard station was decommissioned. I think that module ended up as part of Munbase Two.

Anyway. To answer your question, so far as I can remember from when I was on Vanguard, that cupboard normally held crockery and eating utensils. Though we did occasionally stuff some of the more unpleasant ration packs in there as a form of protest!

Next up is a twofer from "Kirk Kerman":

 

 

Dear Jeb, I would like your, shall we say expert, opinion on something. I'm sure all of us are familiar with the theoretical "Orion Project". Tell us, and settle a bet; how effective a form of propulsion system would it actually be? And, personal curiosity here, why a single habitat ring rather than two contra-rotating ones?

We'll do these in order. As far as Project Orion goes, there isn't really a straight answer to that. in theory it had an absolutely astounding thrust-to-weight ratio and could have made the trip to the Mun in a matter of hours, but there was one big problem; getting the parts into orbit. The pusher plate alone would have massed as much as a complete and fully fuelled Pioneer-C launch system, and we couldn't spread that mass out over a few dozen conventional launches because it has to be completely seamless in order to withstand the blast. There's a proposal for manufacturing it in orbit that is the single most awesome piece of aerospace engineering I've ever heard of; it entails pumping a few thousand tons of liquid steel into orbit, letting it colaesce into a sphere naturally and then using two specially-designed spacecraft as a giant hammer and anvil. Unfortunately, the necessary infrastructure is generations away, and now that we have VASIMR engines at the ground-testing stage the whole concept is likely to remain an interesting might-have-been.

As far as your second question goes, there's a couple of reasons. The first and simplest is that the Starfarer 1 is a refitted Dres Prospector-class factory ship, which was the largest craft available to buy secondhand when the mission was green-lit; as I've alluded to elsewhere in the blog, the Alkerbierre Drive was staggeringly expensive to develop and the budget didn't stretch to anything newer. It's probably for the best, though. Nearly all modern long-haul ships use the newer system these days because it eliminates the need to de-spin the ship in order to change course, but the older technology has the advantage of being a lot simpler mechanically; no need to worry about the rings getting out of sync, forcing you to hit the emergency stop and limp to your destination in zero-G so you don't snap her in half. It doesn't happen often these days, but we don't want to take the risk on a mission where there's no repair facilities waiting for us at our destination.

Reader "KSK" has one about the warp drive:

 

 

Dear Jeb, although I guess this one's for Scott really. The Alkerbierre Drive sounds like it uses a lot of energy. Is there any truth to the rumour that it's powered by the crew treadmill in the physhab module? If not, how is it actually powered?

Scott hasn't stopped laughing yet, so I'd better tackle this one. The crew treadmill in the physhab module being wired into the power grid was a serious proposal at one point, because we're not going to have much solar energy to collect en route and every way we can economise on electrical power will help, but it was eventually ruled out as involving too much complication for too litle gain. As for the Alkerbierre Drive, its primary power source is technically a military secret, but a number of eminent scientists and a lot of science fiction fans already guessed correctly. I'm not going to tell you which ones though!

And I'm about to hit the character limit, so I'll tackle some more in a day or so.

Comments

July 31st, 17:57

Minor correction. That module was actually integrated into Munbase Three, and is still in use as a break-room for the astronomy team. Not only are the labels still there, the compartment labelled "Board Games" actually has board games in it!

- Dodgee the Munar Janitor

July 31st, 18:04

Jeb, if you keep playing fast and loose with classified information on this thing I'm going to tell Kurt to start censoring it. Last warning!

- Hanfrod at KSC

July 31st, 18:06

Jeb already ran it by me and I okayed it. Lighten up.

- Kurt

July 31st, 18:09

I swore to keep this a secret until my retirement, but I guess medical leave with a view to same is close enough, so here goes.

I put the labels there.

- Gene

Our Destination

August 1st, 00:00

Posted by: Bill

Mood: unspecified

Jeb's going to be off the air for a bit thanks to an EVA accident; nothing serious, just a sprained wrist. In the meantime, I'll be taking up his duties as primary blogger.

I'd like to talk a little about the system we're hoping to reach, Zyrix. Depending which astronomer you ask it's either an unusually large red giant or an unusually small red supergiant, with two gas giants and at least four planets in the same size range as Kerbin or Duna. It's only the third closest star to us after Cherint Prime and Proxima Cherint respectively, but it has one important distinction; we have evidence for intelligent life there. Tenuous evidence, but evidence nonetheless.

You've all heard the rumours about "The Bleep", I'm sure. The papers blew it some way out of proportion; it's impossible to even be certain it was an intentional transmission, much less clean it up into anything we could decypher. But it's a lead, the first lead the Search for Extra-Kerbin Life's radio-telescopes have ever found. And having listened to the clearest version we can get with current technology, I'm satisfied in my own mind that it's no pulsar or other natural emission.

You want my hypothesis? Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I reckon someone out there is looking at the same issue we are: We can broadcast all we like, but nothing we have -nothing that's reckoned to be even theoretically possible with conventional radio, in fact- can travel more than a few dozen light-hours before it degrades into a garbled mess. Even prime numbers or something might not work. But a long burst of a single repeating tone, or a modulation like we use in distress radiobeacons? Those can be identified at much, much greater distances than anything else, even simple stuff like letter-codes. It can't convey any message more complex than "Hey, over here!", but if it reaches a civilisation with the same technology we've got plumbed into this ship, that's all you really need.

Like I said, maybe it's wishful thinking. But the only way to know for sure is to go there and find out. And that's what we're going to do...

Forgive me if this sounds like a terrible cliche, but this is the moment I have been waiting for since I was a ten year-old boy staring up at the stars. Thirty years of flying rockets, from a prototype we literally built out of scrap in a tin shed behind a junkyard to a ten million kero spaceplane, have been building towards this moment. Thirty years of wrangling with government committees, spending weeks at a time in a tin can the size of a handicap stall and worst of all, putting up with Jeb's driving. And it's all going to be totally worth it.

I won't even care that much if we don't find life out there, much less another civilisation. What matters is that we dared to dream of this day, and we made it happen. Not just the five of us. Not even just the dozens of engineers and scientists, both at the KSA and many universities and private companies alike, who've worked to build this ship and its technology. You, the ordinary Kerbal on the street, you cared enough to send us out there to take a look for ourselves. And for that, I can never thank you enough.

Comments

August 1st, 00:02

You're welcome, buddy. Good luck.

- Nisa320

August 1st, 00:04

That was beautiful, man. But I'm still gonna kick your ass!

- Jeb, dictated to Kurt.

It's Go Time!

Posted by: Bill

August 4th, 19:42

Mood: Indescribable

We commence the transfer burn to Jool at the top of the hour. Approximately three months later, we'll make a brief stopover at Laythe to pick up fuel and then use Jool for a gravity-assist in the direction of Zyrix. Once we clear its SOI, we're firing up the hyperdrive.

I'm about to ruin my image as a perenially stoic, level-headed kind of guy now, but I don't care.

Yeeeeeehaaaaaaaaw!

Oh, by the way. "Mallock Kerman"? I like your theory a lot.

Comments

August 5th, 11:10

Huh. Speech-recognition software really has advanced by leaps and bounds. Must remember that when I get around to dictating my memoirs.

- Gene

August 5th, 21:50

Don't do it, Gene. That's a slippery slope all the way down to long cigarette holders and a wardrobe full of black turtlenecks!

(Can you tell we already watched most of the good movies in the onboard library?)

- Bob

Under Weigh

Posted by: Jeb

August 9th, 00:42

Mood: Restless

You know, a much younger and stupider Jeb Kerman would have been truly shocked to discover that his future self was bored during a flight to another world. But it's true. The actual "getting from place to place" part of interplanetary travel is honestly kind of dull, long periods of waiting punctuated by short bursts of complicated math. It's got better in some ways as technology advances but worse in others. Take Pioneer 3, for example; on the one hand, I had a reasonable amount of stuff to do what with the need to take position data at regular intervals with nothing but a sextant, a pad of paper and an onboard computer that was roughly on a par with a modern graphing calculator.
On the other, I had a grand total of 20kg of space for personal effects, and I had to fit everything in there. Books to read, shaving kit and toiletries, clean underwear... If Mission Control hadn't taken pity on me and plugged an FM radio into the comm system so I could listen to it on the backup transceiver I might have gone nuts.

Here on the Starfarer 1, I still have all of 20kg for personal effects. One-twentieth of it is taken up by a laptop as powerful as the refrigerator-sized mainframe we used for trajectory calcs during the early Moho launches, which was admittedly years out of date at the time and sold to us for its scrap value, and an external hard drive with so much assorted entertainment media that the books alone would have needed their own mission to get to the Mun with me. No, really: I have about 57GB of them. A typical book takes up about 1MB of disk space in most common ebook formats and weighs... Well, I don't have a set of scales or a Kerbin-equivalent gravity well handy so for the sake of argument, call it 250g in paperback. I'll leave the math as an exercise for the reader.

But conversely, we've considerably increased the level of automation. Position fixes are taken with an array of onboard cameras, and as for computer support? Like I said, I'm typing this blog entry on something more powerful than what we had to work with in the early days. It's more fuel-efficient and a hell of a lot safer to let the automated systems handle everything under normal circumstances, but it does tend to leave us crewmembers feeling more like ballast than an important part of the mission. And it's still not very exciting day-to-day until you reach your destination.

Wanna experience a taste of it for yourself? Buy a copy of Buzz Kerman's Race Into Space (I'd give you the usual spiel about how other space-program simulators are avbailable if I could think of any), install the "Mechanical Buzz" mod and set up a mission to one of the outer planets. Without turning on time-compression. Oh, and you can't leave the house or access the Internet until you reach your destination unless you're reenacting a mission from the last five years, in which case you can have a 25kb/s dial-up connection for the duration of your trip. Say, did anyone mod in QECs yet now they've been declassified? Must check the forums later.

Anyway, if you still think I have the awesomest job in the world after doing all that, I suggest either checking out the "Careers" link at the bottom of the page or seeking professional help.

All the same, I have to admit the food's got better since I started out in this business. And the view out the window? Man, that never gets old...

Anyhow, a correspondent by the handle of "Needley Kerman" brings up a pretty good question.

"To the entire crew:

I have a question about relationships within the mission. Who are all of you more/less friendly with? Also, do the recent upgrades to the KSC change anything about the mission?"

Hah. Well, Bill and Bob and I have been doing this long enough that we're almost at the point of finishing each other's sentences. We weren't always on such friendly terms -Bill and I in particular hated each other with a passion at first- but I guess you kind of get used to the two faces who've been around more or less consistently for three decades, so we get invited to each other's family barbecues and go out drinking together occasionally even if we don't see all that much of each other when we're planetside. (I don't see much of anybody when I'm planetside these days, truth be told, not since I finally saved up enough for a real boat.)
The new guys are... well, we're still getting to know one another, and I hope the three of us aren't too cliqueish. Scott's a nice guy, almost permanently cheerful and one of the very few guys I've ever known who can get Bill to laugh in company, which almost entirely makes up for his inexplicable fondness for shepherdball* and his complete inability to make coffee** that anyone but an engineer can drink without heart palpitations. I also suspect he may dabble in Mad Science in his free time, but hey, who am I to judge?

Kurt was a little standoffish at first, but he fit in pretty well; you might think a military guy seconded to a civilian crew would have a bad case of culture shock, but in reality the Air Force work a lot like we do: Everyone knows who's in charge and what our jobs are, but rank and ceremony stays on the ground. I do wish he wouldn't wear those augmented-reality glasses of his when he's in the crew lounge, though, I can never shake the feeling he's not really listening.

Or maybe that's because I've developed a tendency to ramble in my old age. Whose idea was this blog thing again? Is anyone even still reading this?

No Comments

Expletive Deleted

Posted by: Jeb

August 9th, 21:43

Mood: Wrathful

I don't know who turned off comments on that last blog entry without telling me, but if I find out I will personally see to it that he or she is fired. Into orbit, while duct-taped to a booster stage.

I was saving that whiskey, too... And forget what I said about Scott being a nice guy!

Comments

Whoever provided the relevant mouse-clicks, the decision was ratified by the entire Press Office. You really should quit calling them "REMFs" behind their backs, dude.

- Anonymous

August 9th, 21:53

You're a mean drunk, Jeb, you know that?

*sigh* Alright, alright, I'm sorry I laughed at you. Now let me back in, I need to pee.

Scott, posted by mobile

August 9th, 22:00

Laythe

November 21st, 11:23

Posted by: Jeb

Mood: Excited

Sorry about the long silence, folks. There hasn't been a great deal to blog about until now, although you'll be pleased to know that I accepted Scott's apology before his air supply gave out, and my mid-life crisis has been put on hold for the duration of the mission... Unless we find a planet of pink-skinned space babes with [details redacted for the benefit of human readers who'd probably rather not know that much about Kerbal anatomy] or something. Hey, you never know your luck, right?

As I type, we're about three hours from entering orbit around Laythe, where we'll be taking on extra reaction mass kindly donated by the Laythe Colonisation Cooperative. (Disclosure: I'm a non-voting honourary member of their board of trustees.) The orbital fuel depot and the ground station are currently unmanned, but the first colony flight is pencilled in for August 4th three years from now. Homesteading rights on land are three hundred keros a square metre plus passage while stocks last, and houseboat berths available for the low, low rate of two hundred keros! (Houseboat sold separately, of course.)

Yeah, yeah, I know. No product placement. It is pretty exciting, though; the first off-Kerbin colony to be totally organised and financed by the prospective colonists!

You know, in its way, that's almost more exciting than the thought of travelling to another star system. See, for the last couple of decades, space travel has been largely the preserve of either government agencies like us or corporations like Rockamax and Davon Logistics. We've achieved a hell of a lot, don't get me wrong, both directly and as a result of spin-off technologies ranging from satellite communications to personal computers to non-stick cookware. But much of it's been top-down, filtered through grants committees and risk assessments and red tape until the process of putting Kerbals on another planet got to be about as exciting as securing planning permission for a suburban housing development. I don't mind the cost-benefit evaluation process so much -if I learned nothing else from the Interplanetary Society days, I learned the virtue of getting maximum effect out of limited resources!- but something of the joy and wonder of spaceflight was lost when we moved on from being a group of like-minded amateurs getting together to do something that had never been done before, for no better reason than because they could and they wanted to.

And that's precisely what a couple of hundred ordinary men and women from all walks of life are doing now. They're pooling their money and their knowhow and they're making plans to achieve a first in Kerbal history, namely building a fully self-sufficient colony on another body. Because they can, and because they want to.

Sometimes, when I'm visiting other nations and tribes looking to send one of their own into space, their people ask me what it might take to build a space program of their own. I always say they're half-way there just by being willing to ask the question. You don't need to roll your own rockets and launch 'em from your own facilities; I won't stand in your way if you wanna try, but there's no shame in buying off the shelf. What matters is having the ambition, the persistence and the courage to dream of doing something awesome when you get there.

Comments

You're developing a sentimental streak in your old age, Jeb. You're right, though, the Laythe Colony folks remind me a lot of us old hands when we were still having our planning meetings in a bar and using a rented warehouse for a VAB. Very little cash, not much of a clue what the hell they're doing, but big dreams and lots of moxie.

Heh heh heh. Guess I finally get to pull off a first in kerballed spaceflight all of my own: First beach bar on Laythe! I've got this great little spot picked out near Geofley's Cove. There's a beer on the house with your name on it any time you boys can come visit!

- Gene

November 21st, 23:53

Now that's a real rocket man's retirement! Can't wait to come visit you there, old buddy.

- Jeb

November 21st 23:58

You know, I should be mad at you for shilling your side projects on company time. But you know what? I don't care. That was friggin' beautiful.

- Hanfrod at KSC