After several weeks delay, today witnessed the successful launch of a Mark program capsule. The second attempt at launching a Kerbal skyward went off significantly better than the earlier attempt several weeks ago.
The crews in the Vehicle Assembly Building had hung a large sign which read “Better than last time!”, and all the technicians we spoke to said that they were taking that slogan to heart. They assured us that the parachute release issue that had caused the problems with the Mark One flight had been corrected, checked, and double-checked. Everything was certified and the Mark Two was moved to the pad.
The pad crew also took extra pains to verify the work done in the VAB, and everything checked out. Standing in the evening light before the launch, the Mark Two looked almost identical to the Mark One, only a small “II” written lightly in pencil below the hatch to differentiate the two. The weather reports were good, and all systems seemed to almost anticipate the upcoming launch.
The morning dawned bright and clear. Jebediah Kerman (no relation), after breakfast and a quick mission status report, began donning his space suit and prepared himself for the rigors of the day ahead. Undoubtedly his thoughts turned to the events of the Mark One flight that almost ended in disaster, and to the craft waiting for him out at the launch pad. The day of the Mark Two flight had arrived.
The clock approached zero, and the countdown added to the tension in Mission Control. The shadow of the Mark One failure was hard to put out of mind while listening to an almost identical countdown.
“3… 2… 1… Zero… Lift-off!” echoed the public address system.
“Lift-off and the clock is started,” replied Jebediah. “The fuel is go, cabin pressure holding, oxygen is go.” A wave of relief washed over those in Mission Control, but professionalism reasserted itself and they went back to the work at hand.
Swiftly the vehicle few upwards on a column of flame and smoke. The craft moved much quicker than the Mark One, which had it’s speed and altitude severely limited by the drag of the main chute. The Mark Two boldly raced into the sky. Less than ten seconds later the RT-5 “Flea” Solid Rocket Booster burned out, having expended all of it’s fuel into propelling the vehicle into the air.
“Okay, it’s a lot smoother now. A lot smoother.” came the voice from the Mk1 Capsule. Jebediah then began the coasting phase of the flight, where it rose all the way to an astonishing 8,142m, a new Kerbin altitude record and significantly exceeding the mission goal of at least 5,000m. The capsule also reached speeds of nearly 1,500km/h during it’s ascent, faster than any Kerbal has gone before on purpose.
Upon reaching it’s apex at over eight kilometers in the air, the capsule surrendered to gravity and began it’s descent back to Kerbin. It was at this time Jebediah activated the external science packages. The Mystery Goo Containment Units indicated that the Goo jiggled and wobbled as the craft flew.
Owing to the aerodynamic features of the Mark Two, the vehicle naturally nosed over and aimed itself towards the ground as it began to fall back to Kerbin. Before the craft picked up too much speed, Jebediah triggered the impact mitigation system, releasing the Mk16 parachute.
“Main chute is green. Main chute is coming unreefed and it looks good.” came the call from the capsule, and the technicians in Mission Control let out a brief cheer before returning to their consoles, for the mission was not yet over. Over the next minute, the capsule drifted downwards until it came to rest not unreasonably far from where the Mark One landed, though this time with the knowledge of a mission well executed and Goo containers full of science for the lab boys to analyze.
Though the entire mission only lasted one minute and fifty-nine seconds, the pride of the entire Kerbal Space Center took flight today and now begins to dream of even more ambitious plans. When asked, Wernher von Kerman declined to comment on any specific plans, only saying, “I might have some ideas on how to proceed.”