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You've Got To Be Kidding [Closed/GO]

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]
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Apsica
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Posts: 6
Founded: Jun 27, 2021
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

You've Got To Be Kidding [Closed/GO]

Postby Apsica » Tue Jul 27, 2021 10:53 pm

Pioneer VII,
Low Olympus Orbit


"Alright, Atten," Casper radioed home as he ran through the final checks. "The last few weeks have been a pleasure. We're now switching to essential communications only."

"The pleasure's been all ours, Pioneer Seven. See you on the ground." Casper smiled and changed the mode on their radio.

The commander took a moment to stare from his viewport, knowing that without changes to the upcoming flight schedule it could be years before he saw this again. The planet occupied almost the entirety of his view, slowly spinning below his craft. People and all their works, their infrastructure and monuments, were invisible; swallowed by the immense scale which could never be perceived from the ground. All those things seemed petty here, where only great mountains and oceans, and the stars beyond, remained. He breathed deeply, absorbing the image.

Back to his responsibilities, Casper turned away from the glass. He turned to his right, to his pilot, Eve. She was dutifully powering through her list of checks, muttering to herself as she pointed a finger at each of the lights and dials to be certain none were missed. Thinking better of interrupting her, he turned to face behind them to the seat of the Flight Engineer, Peter.

"How are we looking, Pete?" Casper asked, almost nonchalantly. Peter looked up at him with somewhat less calmness.

"M-mostly nominal, commander."

"Mostly?" Casper raised an eyebrow. "We don't work on mostly out here." Especially with this payload.

"There's, uh, a slight irregularity in the pressure of the internal hydrogen fuel tank."

Eve paused her checks, finger still placed on one of the green lights in front of her, and turned to silently face the Flight Engineer as well. "So, what, we have a leak?" Casper asked. "Micro-asteroid or something? Are we missing much fuel?"

"Nothing substantial, uh, pressure is just... slightly lower than expected."

Eve turned to face Casper. "If it is a leak, and it's venting externally, the hull could be compromised. We can't re-enter atmosphere with that."

"I-it might not be a leak," Peter jumped in, "or it could be a leak that's venting internally. Or, uh, something wrong with the pressure gauge, or the display, or..." he shrugged.

"How long to diagnose it and get us back in ship-shape?" Casper asked. "Couple of hours? I can sell that."

"Uh." Peter sighed. "Diagnose it in a couple of hours, maybe, if it's one of my first guesses. Depending on what it is, fix could be a couple more hours, a couple of days if it's something bad." At that, Casper winced.

"Alright. Alright." He paused for a moment, balancing his options. "Record the current measurement, check again in five. If it's changing, maybe we have a leak. Otherwise... it's just a minor irregularity. Eve, finish checks. I'll see how mid-deck is doing." The pilot stared at him for a moment, before pursing her lips and returning to her task. Casper fiddled with the radio and brought his microphone closer to his face. "We all settled in down there? Looking like we're starting reentry burn in five minutes."

Below the flight deck of the crew capsule, the middeck housed the other three members of the Pioneer VII mission. Payload Specialist Lotte Danners, responsible for the inflatable capsule experiment they'd shuttled up. Mission Specialist Carl Moresink who worked with Peter on the Theia Telescope repairs. Finally, the reason this multi-purpose flight was on such a tight schedule, Sebastian Brunenberg. A Senator for the Dominion of Roliena, part of UASA's "rocket lobbying" program to impress legislators into supporting budget increases. Brunenberg had been courteous and interested through the whole mission, but they needed to stick the landing to be sure they'd got a new advocate worth his weight in rocket fuel.

"All strapped in and ready, commander." Danners responded affirmatively. "Yes, we should be all set down here." The Senator chimed in. "And may I just add, commander, that it's been an honour to be able to accompany you and the crew on this mission, and see the kind of work you do up here." Casper smiled. Perhaps those flight schedules could be improved after all. "Thank you, sir. We've been very glad to have you on board. Alright, you guys sit tight, you'll get a countdown before we start the burn."

Casper switched the radio back, and performed a few repeat checks to burn time before turning back to Peter. "Verdict, Pete?"

The Flight Engineer eyed his display carefully. "... no change."

Casper nodded. "Alright, then. How's our attitude?"

"Lined up for Teneden." Eve responded, not taking eyes off of her display.

"RCS."

"Engaged."

"Turbopumps."

"Check."

"Throttle."

"Check."

"Count."

Casper pressed a button, and watched as the number counted backwards from ten. When it hit zero, the shuttle shuddered and he was forcefully pushed back into his seat as the engines fired. Quite rapidly, the craft decelerated out of steady orbit and into a reentry path.

User avatar
Apsica
Civil Servant
 
Posts: 6
Founded: Jun 27, 2021
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Apsica » Fri Jul 30, 2021 12:50 pm

Wilson Control Center,
Atten


Patsy Reno, the Prime Minister of the Dominions, walked into the Director's Office which looked over the main control room, a wide glass window dominating one wall. Accompanying her, a full gaggle of courtiers; Minister of Science and Innovation Anton Brache, Minister of the Council Office Marissa van Bunt, Chief of Staff Owen Kirby, and Personal Assistant Walter Gaines, along with a flock of security agents. Reno gave a characteristically personable smile, and shook the hands of the Director and the two boffins flanking him. "Alright, gentlemen. Let's get right to it."

"Of course, Madame Prime Minister." Director Ross indicated to the chairs surrounding the meeting table before taking a seat. Glancing to the man on either side, Ross cleared his throat before breaking down the details of the situation. "At 18:04 local time, Pioneer Seven had fully corrected their angle for main reentry burn. They began the burn five minutes late, 18:09." Reno nodded along as the Director pointed out timed labels on a chart of the shuttle's descent on the table between them. "Following the main reentry burn, there is about twenty five minutes before the craft enters the upper atmosphere, here, at 18:35." Reno continued nodding. This much she'd been told already.

"Now, blackout of communication with Pioneer Seven begins here, 18:37."

"Blackout? Why?" Reno queried, glancing back up at Director Ross.

"That was expected," one of the Director's flanks contributed. "Ionizing atmospheric gases usually block radio communication for about twelve minutes during reentry."

Minister Brache nodded approvingly. "Of course." Reno replied. "Please continue."

"So, we have no direct communication with Pioneer Seven from this point onwards. However, we are able to track the shuttle's trajectory using long range radar. About nine minutes into the ionization blackout, at 18:46, our tracking indicates the first irregularities." To be honest, Reno was unsure why the background briefing had been necessary before getting to these irregularities. "Pioneer's trajectory quite suddenly jolts several degrees north of expected for a landing in Teneden, and this turning angle gradually increases over the next ten minutes. At the same time, the shuttle seems to stop performing decelerating maneuvers."

Reno nodded a few times, looking at the dot on the chart where the trajectory line suddenly changed. "So," she looked back up, "what does that mean?"

"It could mean a few things, but given the lack of any major course corrections other than the nose being pulled up to slow the craft... we have to assume the frame was damaged in such a way as to compromise the shuttle's aerodynamic capacity."

Reno stared at him for a moment, before responding. "...the frame was damaged? So, what, they hit an albatross on the way down? A wing blew up?"

"Something along those lines." The other of the Director's colleagues offered up, concedingly.

"So," Ross cleared his throat again and redirected attention to the precious chart. "The shuttle is going in the wrong direction, much too fast. As it sinks through the atmosphere the thicker air slows it with friction, but radar starts tracking several detached objects at 18:53. Presumably some damaged parts of the shuttle broke off. The, the issue is, here. At 18:55, we still haven't regained signal connection to Pioneer, and as the shuttle approaches... rough terrain features, creating radar clutter, and the shuttle continues to break into a cloud of objects, our, uh, estimate, of where the core of the shuttle is, becomes increasingly... estimatory."

The trajectory line breaks into an expanding cone on the chart, an ever-growing area within which the core of the shuttle might be located.

"So, you don't know where it landed?"

"Well, if you follow the indication, by the estimates of the shuttle's velocity, terrain heights, and what we have from radar, we can be quite confident that, uh, the core of the shuttle landed somewhere within this area."

On the chart, a circle with a radius measured in hundreds of kilometers. Perhaps worse, the label that ran right across that circle. Loomes National Forest.

Prime Minister Reno looked up from the chart. "You have to be kidding."


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