Apollo Again

People on the Kerbal Space Program forums were doing Apollo 11 44th anniversary moon landings...but I held off until today because I wanted to wait for KSP version 0.21. The new file format breaks previous saves. The previous Apollo-style mission I did left its descent stage on the Mün as a memorial to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and I wanted to have one in my new 0.21 save file as well.

I built an Apollo-Saturn V "workalike" from stock parts. It wasn't meant to LOOK a lot like a Saturn V, since there's only so much you can do with stock parts...I was more interested in the functionality. I did use some clipping to construct the lunar module. Too bad the launch tower is gone...it would make the liftoff look more Apollo-ish.

Below is the liftoff of the Pseudo Saturn V on its five mighty "F-1" Mainsail engines. The new SAS system of version 0.21 held the rocket steady without the Mainsails trying to shake it apart.

There is no asparagus or any other vegetable kind of staging here...just straight-up three serial stages like the original.

Below, the "S-IC" first stage has expended its fuel and is separated. The five "J-2" Skipper engines of the "S-II" second stage fire up to continue pushing the stack toward orbit.

Having passed the most dangerous phase of the launch, the Launch Escape System (the Escape Tower) is jettisoned.

The second stage possibly had enough fuel to put the rest of the rocket into orbit, but that's not how an Apollo-Saturn V does it, so I jettisoned the second stage and fired up the "S-IVB" third stage to complete the push to Kerbin orbit on its single "J-2" Skippper engine.

Once in space, the ship makes a few orbits while all systems are checked out for the trip to the moon. In my case, I let it orbit a while so the Mün would be in a better position in its orbit for nice lighting.

Below is the trajectory I plotted. Just like the Apollo 11 trajectory, this one will place the spacecraft into a retrograde orbit around the moon at about 100 km. Note that I tweaked the path so that it was a "free-return" trajectory...which means that if no burn is made to stop the spacecraft in munar orbit, it will automatically swing around the Mün in a figure-8 path, and then return to Kerbin entering its atmosphere at an altitude of 24 km to assure the capsule can return home in case of engine failure.

The J-2 Skipper restarts to send the Apollo on its way to the Mün. This is the "Trans-Münar Injection" maneuver.

Once the ship is on course for the Mün, next comes the "Transposition And Docking" maneuver. Below, the S-IVB, lunar module (henceforward the "LM" or "Eagle"), and the Command/Service Module ("CSM" or "Columbia") are still in their original order.

The TD-18 double-sided stack separator between the LM and the CSM is fired to separate the craft. The CSM pulls forward on RCS power. In the actual Apollo, the fairing around the LM separated into four pieces and flew off to the sides. In my case, that annoying piece of debris is in the way...so I terminated its flight to remove it.

The CSM halts, then turns around 180 degrees using its RCS. Then the CSM moves back toward the LM to dock.

The LM is separated from the third stage, and the CSM pulls it away using RCS.

The CSM and LM traveled to the moon oriented at right angles to the sunlight, and rotating slowly (slower than shown below). This "barbecue mode" was used to ensure even heating of the spacecraft by the sunlight. The SM's high gain antenna has also been deployed.

The S-IVB stage of Apollo 11 was fired again by remote control, placing the stage into solar orbit. (The stages of later Apollo missions were maneuvered to hit the Moon to provide seismic signals for the seismometers left behind by earlier Apollo missions). I aimed the third stage aside a little, then boosted it out into orbit around Kerbol.

Around the backside of the Mün, the Poodle engine of the Service Propulsion System was fired to slow the spacecraft into orbit around the Mün...the "Münar Orbit Insertion" maneuver.

Once in münar orbit, Jebediah and Bill transfer over to the Eagle to check out its systems and prepare to for landing. Apollo astronauts transferred between the CM and LM via a tunnel...but my kerbals had to transfer via EVA.

Below, the Eagle separates from Columbia to start its trip down to the Mün.

First a small plane-change maneuver (the target landing site is a little north of the equator), and then a deorbit burn to get the Eagle headed down to the surface. The trajectory image shows the path of the Eagle into the target area (still a bit long), which I would call the "Sea of Tranquility" were it not covered with craters. I'm aiming for the location on the Mün with the same coordinates as Apollo 11's landing site on our Moon.

Below, the Eagle descends vertically for the final descent phase before touchdown. The descent stage of my LM used and LV-909 engine and had four fuel/oxidizer tanks in the same kind of cruciform arrangement used in the real Apollo LM. The gaps between the tanks are walled off with 1x1 structural plates to give the descent stage to overall octagonal shape of the Apollo LM descent stage. My LM landed with a bit less than 1/3 of its fuel left. I landed it in the middle of one of the new craters added in version 0.21.

Below, Jebediah gets out and climbs down the ladder. The scene has crappy backlighting just like the real thing. Also for traditional reasons, Jeb will muff his line as he steps onto the münar surface.

Bill comes down to join Jeb on the surface. They plant a rather smart looking flag in spiffy red, white, and blue colors that the art department people assured them would look fabulous on the Mün, even though it doesn't represent any country on Kerbin.

I spotted the memorial as I was coming in for the landing. It was 2 km from my landing site, out between the crater I landed in and another crater. Jeb flew over using his rocket pack and looked it over. The second image shows a map view of where the Eagle landed.

After they were done playing around on the surface, Bill and Jeb got back on board the LM and prepared the Eagle ascent stage for liftoff. My LM ascent stage uses an LV-909 engine that is mostly clipped into the empty center of a large ASAS module that sits under the two-kerbal lander can. The two fuel/oxidizer tanks for the ascent stage are located either side of the cabin (just as on the real LM), with four RCS tanks on there for good measure. The "windows" one either side of the hatch are made from solar panels. The "high gain" and "radar" antennas are made from cubic struts, OKTO2 probe bodies, and unextended omni antennas. There is an assortment of other omni antennas mounted around the exterior of the crew cabin in traditional locations. In the final frames of the liftoff sequence, you can see the Armstrong memorial on the surface. The second image below shows a view of the underside of my ascent stage, if you are interested. I turned over fairly quickly after liftoff because that's the best thing to do an an airless body.

Left behind on the Mün is the descent stage and flag (which happily did not fall over int he ascent stage's engine blast). I will leave them there as my own memorial to Neil and Buzz in version 0.21.

Once in orbit, I used the Eagle to perform the rendezvous maneuvers to return to the Columbia. Below, we see the backlit Eagle approaching the backlit Columbia, with Kerbin very close to Kerbol in the background.

Below is the "Lunar Orbit Rendezvous" that is the hallmark of an "Apollo-style" mission. I used the Columbia as the active ship in the docking. Once docked, Bill and Jeb EVA'd back over to Columbia.

The Eagle ascent stage was then jettisoned and left in münar orbit. I will crash it into the Mün later (this was the fate of the Apollo 11 Eagle as well, because our Moon has mascons that perturb orbits around our Moon, and craft will eventually end up impacting the surface).

Around the backside of the Mün, Columbia's engine is again fired to send the ship on a return trajectory to kerbin (this is the "Trans-Kerbin Injection" burn). The trajectory was chosen to put the ship on course to pass within Kerbin's atmosphere at an altitude of 22 km so that it would land on Kerbin.

Back to Kerbin in barbecue mode. I was going to end up coming down on land, so I did a late course change to give a water landing, since that's what Apollo's do.

Below, the Command Module has separated from the Service Module. You can see where I clipped the four RCS tanks inside the empty center of the decoupler.

Reentry fire! Fairly impressive because of the münar-return trajectory...and because I made it a steep entry when I changed to a ocean landing target.

Three good main parachutes makes for a happy crew. Splashdown in the ocean was perfect.

There you go! A successful Apollo re-creation in KSP version 0.21. Now I need to see if all of the mods I like have been updated yet for version 0.21.