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There and Back Again: An Orbinauts first flight beyond Earth Orbit

Posted 04-15-2013 at 01:45 AM by BruceJohnJennerLawso
Updated 04-15-2013 at 01:53 AM by BruceJohnJennerLawso

Hello out there,

Been thinking about trying out this new "blog" thingy, and I figured that someone might find the story of my first two flights rather interesting. So gather round for a tale of stupidity, luck, and a very memorable flight.

So anyways, to the best of my recollection, I discovered Orbiter in about February-March 2012. I found the link to this amazing program while fuming over my inability to get the ancient Microsoft Space Simulator running on my computer. While checking out the wikipedia page on spacesim, I happened to notice something called "Orbiter" under the see also section...

So anyways, for the first month or so, I fiddled around with the program, installing an unholy number of add-ons, glitching the program till it cried, attempting to "Boldly go where noone has gone before"...

Eventually I got fed up with the sillyness, since I knew I could master the program just like I had with the old MS Spacesim & its amazing manual. One nice afternoon in March or April I sat down & worked through Martins basic quickstart instructions with the scenario of the same name. (just for the record, I used a pdf copy of the manual on a android phone to keep up. We really need some sort of way of reading documentation while in orbiter)

So anyways, I flew the DG into orbit just like the Doctor said, & it was great. I tried to reenter to KSC, but missed by a fair bit & ran out of fuel during atmospheric flight. On my second attempt, I did a circuit of the world in the same way, but managed to make it back to the KSC runway, my first ever successful flight!

But that's peanuts to be honest. The little circuit around the world is nice, but Orbiter is meant for going beyond Earth Orbit, and the natural target was the moon.

Strangely enough, after doing the first two flights, enough of the stuff I learned on MS spacesim came back to me that I was able to figure out doing a lunar trip without reading any tutorials on the subject. I knew that if my orbit was high enough, and if I was in the right place at the right time, I would inevitably encounter the moon, at which point I would just reapply the same logic that was used in Earth Orbit; all second nature to most Orbinauts, but everyone's a newbie once...

So anyways, I refuelled that good old GL-01 on the KSC runway, got all set & blasted off into the wild blue yonder, just like on the previous two trips I had taken. Once in Earth orbit, I wasted unbelievable amounts of fuel trying to align my orbit with the moon, blindly following the changeplaneMFD, as my understanding of the subject was somewhat hazy at the time. I eventually got things straightened out, & figured out my first TLI burn, which was probably the highlight of the entire trip, relatively speaking.

Fast forward a day or three, and I discovered like most other freshly minted space travellers who think TransX is a term for someone who hangs around in sketchy nightclubs, that my little ship was about to hit the moon head on. Thankfully, the encounter was still a fair ways off, so I simply oriented my ship thataway (outwards) & burned for a while, getting that periapsis out of the dirt, and back into clear space. The Orbital insertion burn happened fairly uneventfully on the near side of the moon, and Bam, I was in lunar orbit.

At this point, I really should have just celebrated the moment, mumbled something about Christmas eve, Genesis, something or other, and gotten the hell out of there after an orbit or two. But... I was too excited about landing on it, so I regrettably chose the dumber option. For whatever reason, I figured that if I lowered my periapsis below the surface & rode the trajectory down, somehow things would end up all right. Of course, as most of you probably have guessed, I ended up smashing into the ground, cartwheeling all over the place, etc. I also tried one of my abortive landing attempts with the stock MMU vessel docked, and couldn't figure out why on Earth he kept flying off into space every time I went to undock .

So anyways, a few tries later into this travesty, I eventually rolled to a stop, & was able to stop & take things in. I finally ground to a halt some where on the west face of the moon seen from Earth, a little south & west of the Grimaldi crater, If memory serves me correctly. For some reason, the UMMU vessel in the scenario editor finally caught my eye, and I got the chance to take that "Giant Leap for Mankind". Having discovered UCGO, I set up a whole bunch of base modules on the site, left a UMMU, & got ready to start my trip back to Earth. But, I couldn't figure out why the lady on the ATC radio loop kept saying

"STATIC Too Far From Airlock!!!"
"STATIC Too Far From Airlock!!!"

every time I pressed E. Of course, at that point my understanding of Orbiter programming was limited to pointing and saying "But it looks like an Airlock!". So finally I just deleted him, and proclaimed the EVA finished, with my UMMU supposedly back inside .

(If this sounds stupid to you, bear in mind I also considered strapping him on with UCD for the ride home. Lets just be thankful no one was really hurt)

So after taxiing all the way to another base on main engines alone (), I refuelled, left another UMMU behind, & lifted off for my glorious return to Earth.

The ascent & insertion part went fairly well, and I had a reasonable amount of fuel left in order to start my trip home. That is, I would have if I knew how to get home...

Like many other Orbinauts, my first trip to the moon also left me scratching my head when it came to getting back to Earth, a 21st century reenactment of the famous ending to "From the Earth to the Moon". As usual though, the crew left on board didnt find the ending to the book quite satisfactory, so a manual solution to the problem was sought. Vaguely remembering some videos on Apollo talking about the return burn happening on the far side, I used the Map MFD to find where I passed over the lunar farside, then burned until my Orbit ejected. Of course, this was about as useful as a screen door on a submarine, since my orbit was retrograde (west to east), causing the ejection burn to take me farther away from home, instead of closer.

After learning this irritating news, I once again went throttle-happy and simply started burning the engines while pointed at Earth. My first attempt missed Earth by a lot, but after setting up an intercept trajectory on the second try, I was able to shut down & enjoy the ride. At this point, I took one of the only surviving photos of the trip, but maybe my favourite screenshot of all time. I might just title it "Home"

It makes you think just how big the universe really is, & how small we are even just in terms of the solar system, when you first fly home from the moon. It still amazes me even now.

So anyways, I did manage to intercept Earth on that second try, reentered at something like 87 Gees, (Oh I had so much to learn ) and splashed down into the Atlantic, just off of the coast of Brazil.

Over time, I flew more trips in Orbiter, a few more to the moon, and my first one to Mercury in a Bullet spacecraft. I eventually built Resolute Spaceport on the site of that first high speed crash (cant dignify it with the name landing)

Unfortunately I deleted it at some point in the last few months


So anyways, that was the start of my travels in Orbiter. I hope you enjoyed this little yarn, and I look forward to sharing more of my voyages with you on the Forums. Stay tuned for more, and

Hail the Probe!!!

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  1. Old Comment
    Scav's Avatar

    I love the little picture interjections. Thanks -- I suppose my counter-mission has been achieved (make at least one person smile per day).
    Posted 04-16-2013 at 07:00 AM by Scav Scav is offline
  2. Old Comment
    BruceJohnJennerLawso's Avatar
    Originally Posted by Scav View Comment

    I love the little picture interjections. Thanks -- I suppose my counter-mission has been achieved (make at least one person smile per day).
    , yeah Im sure almost everyone could find something funny in it eh?

    Posted 04-16-2013 at 11:30 PM by BruceJohnJennerLawso BruceJohnJennerLawso is offline
  3. Old Comment
    MaverickSawyer's Avatar
    Yeah, just leaned about that issue with departing from the moon myself... Thankfully, I was in a polar orbit, so it wasn't TOO bad!
    Posted 04-17-2013 at 02:32 AM by MaverickSawyer MaverickSawyer is offline
  4. Old Comment
    BruceJohnJennerLawso's Avatar
    Originally Posted by MaverickSawyer View Comment
    Yeah, just leaned about that issue with departing from the moon myself... Thankfully, I was in a polar orbit, so it wasn't TOO bad!
    Yeah, when you fly your first couple of flights in Orbiter, you tend to be obsessively reliant on MFDs for everything. It takes a little while longer before you can get used to flying by the seat of your pants.

    Posted 04-22-2013 at 07:37 PM by BruceJohnJennerLawso BruceJohnJennerLawso is offline

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