Hard Sell

Sales people bug me.  Literally they bug me constantly.  Every single day I get at LEAST one, usually several, calls from automated systems trying to sell me this or that thing that I don’t need or can’t afford.

What’s really bad is when those automated calls happen in the predawn hours.  I can’t just ignore the phone because there’s a chance at those hours that it could be important.

So, I end up dragging myself out of a comfortable sleep only to hear a robot voice tell me that I’ve been pre-selected for a special discount offer on a therapeutic massage if only I’ll run right out and sign up for a ten year membership (payable in advance) to Joe’s Gym or somesuch.

Fortunately however I’ve got a plan that should sharply reduce the number of such calls that I get.

Slingshot Return

Remember the ship that was trapped in an elliptical orbit because it ran out of fuel?  Because I had at that time no way to get a ship out to it or to refuel it (remember, this was back before docking was added to the game) I decided to try a longshot method of getting them back to Kerbin.

I had some surprising results.

Solar Escape

I was in one of *those* moods this morning so just for the heck of it I tried something in orbiter that I’d never heard of anyone doing before.  (I’m sure it’s been done, I’ve just never seen anything about such events.)

I decided to try a gravity assist slingshot maneuver.  The object I chose to slingshot around was the sun.

I set this up in Orbiter 2006p1 because that version actually runs on my laptop and that’s where I was when I thought of this craziness.

date of mission start

I used the scenario that starts with the default DeltaGlider docked at the International Space Station with a full load of fuel.  I decided that for this mission, the ship would have twice it’s normal fuel capacity.  Not knowing any quick way to achieve this I used the scenario editor to refuel my ship one time when it’s initial supply ran out.

orbit at mission start

The first screenshot above, taken about a minute after undocking from the ISS, shows the date that this mission started.  The second screenshot shows my orbital parameters as of mission start.  Note that “Vel” on Orbit MFD is the ship’s orbital velocity expressed in meters per second.  This will be important to know later.

After doing a bit of navigation planning that I am sure none of the navigation tools were intended to do, I turned the ship prograde and began a main engine burn to escape Earth orbit.  Once I had achieved something over escape velocity I shut down the engines and coasted for a few days (using 100,000x time acceleration to speed things up a tad.)

Once I was far enough out from Earth for it to no longer be the primary gravitational influence I switched Orbit MFD to reference the sun instead of Earth and copied that information to the HUD so that I could turn the ship retrograde in reference to the sun.

Once in position I began another main engine burn.  The object of this one was to lower the periapsis (lowest point) of my orbit around the sun.  I burned through all of my remaining fuel and then used the scenario editor to refill my tanks and continue the burn.  (Note, I only allowed myself to do this once and then only because I wanted this trip to have twice the normal fuel supply and this was the quickest way to do that.)

I shut down the engines with about 17 kilograms of fuel remaining.  My periapsis was right where I wanted it, 600 kilometers above the surface of the sun.

At this point I went into cruise mode.  I used time acceleration to speed things along as I closed in on the sun on the craziest orbit I’ve ever heard of.  Along the way I used the remaining fuel to make more and more frequent course corrections to keep my periapsis as close to 600 kilometers as I could.

As I approached periapsis, my orbital velocity climbed.  This is to be expected.  As your ship approaches periapsis around any object is the time when it’s going to have the highest velocity.

At one point, I think it was roughly a week before periapsis, my velocity was well over 170 kilometers per second and climbing fast.

As you can imagine, when I reached periapsis things were happening really fast even without time acceleration.  Almost before I knew it I had reached periapsis and was flung outward, having gained an insane amount of momentum from the sun.  I have to admit that I sat there for a few minutes watching the “Alt” (altitude) readout on Orbit MFD climb.

It only took a few seconds for it to be high enough to be expressed in Astronomical Units (an A.U. is the mean radius of the Earth’s orbit around the sun.  approximately 93 million miles.). 

At that point I thought to set time acceleration to 0.1x and take another screenshot.  This one shows the date, Saturday May 29th, 2001 08:30:38 GMT

Below is the Orbit MFD display at that time.  My distance from the sun at that time was so far that the altitude was displayed as 0.392 parsecs!  To say the very least, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

final orbit data

Remember I said that this MFD shows velocity in meters per second?  Take a look at that picture again.  I’m going so fast that it’s shown as 0.168 AU per second.

How’s that for breaking speed records?

My First Trip To Jupiter

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of space travel.  As a kid I watched all of the Apollo missions from Apollo 7 forward.  On July 20th, 1969 I stayed up late to watch the first manned lunar landing and a while later, the first EVA on the moon.

I have always found Flight simulators, space travel simulations and games to be fascinating.  Especially when they model real physics.

So it’s no surprise that I have occasionally spent time with simulations like Orbiter 2010.  Recently I was playing around with it and I remembered that in my old copy of orbiter 2006 I had an add-on that included the Discovery of “2001: A Space Odyssey” fame.  Given that, I just had to attempt the trip to Jupiter.

I piloted Discovery out of Earth orbit on 1-15-2002 at 12:15gmt

Because of the distance involved, I spent most of the trip at 100,000x time acceleration.  Even doing that, it still took over three hours in real time.

I made some kind of monstrous error in my launch trajectory.  The trip should not have taken more than about two years or so.

USS Discovery in Jupiter orbit after an eight year trip.

I finally arrived in Jupiter space sometime in mid 2007.  It took no less than at least 30 course corrections (it could easily be more, I lost count) to decelerate and actually get into an orbit around Jupiter.

That orbit was huge. At first it was a little over an A.U. (an A.U. is an “Astronomical Unit”, approximately 93 million miles) in diameter.  I finally managed to get my closest approach near enough to Jupiter for it to be the dominant gravitational source by about the middle of December 2009.

After spending several months doing more maneuvers to circularize the orbit at a reasonable altitude I finally achieved a 200,000km high circular orbit circling Jupiter every 22hours 21min on 4-25-2010 11:18gmt

Travel time was just over eight years and three months.  Mostly because I made some massive mistakes in navigation.

I’m going to have to try this trip again sometime.  I *KNOW* I can improve the time.

Another thought to consider.  It was only in the movie that Jupiter was the destination.  In the novel, the trip only used Jupiter in a slingshot maneuver to send the ship on to Saturn, nearly twice as far away.


It seems that Nutjob Hills has yet another would-be superhero (As if EpicMan wasn’t enough).  This spandex wearing masked do-gooder is at least a bit different though.  He’s been flying about town displaying an amazing talent for showing up just exactly when a problem hits.

When you have a computer problem there is a real chance that before you can even identify what it is that GeekMan will show up, his cape resembling a gigantic pocket protector flapping in the breeze, tell you what’s wrong and offer to fix it for you or tell you how to fix it.

Of all the things that I’ve heard of him doing I have to say that most of them are small time enough, fixing things that average folks don’t know or have the time to learn about.  However there’s been a few things that I have to doubt.

Like recent claims that he helped a 98 year old woman install windows 7 ultimate on a Commodore 64.  I mean seriously, I’ve been around computers long enough to remember what a C64 is and roughly what it’s capable of and Windows seven isn’t even in the same reality as that machine.

I can’t wait for his real game to be revealed.  He’s up to something I’m certain and it’s only a matter of time before he’s caught and we find out who’s behind the horn rimmed glasses with tape on the bridge.

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