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Subject: Let's Play Race Into Space: 1957-1961 rss

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James Fung
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With the impending release of Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager, I decided to do a Let's Play of Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space (BARIS). To be exact, I'm playing v1.1 of the open source Race Into Space based on BARIS. This will be against a human opponent, not the incredibly well-funded computer opponent. We'll use Historical technology model and Historical astronaut options.

Spring 1957

Our first goal is to get an orbital satellite, and we have barely enough money to do even that. After starting the Explorer (the most basic satellite) and Atlas (the smallest rocket, which can only lift Explorer or a Mercury capsule) programs, we have only 28 megabucks (MB, the currency in the game) for the rest of 1957. That's not enough to do full research and development (R&D) on both. I spend half the money on R&D.



Current safety levels (higher is better):

Unmanned:
- Explorer 61%
Rockets:
- Atlas: 29%

Fall 1957



A random event says that R&D will be weaker this season. Even though it's a bad use of funding, it's a good use of time: we spend the rest of our budget on R&D. Current safety levels:

Unmanned:
- Explorer 72%
Rockets:
- Atlas: 44%

Missions have to be scheduled one season in advance. Atlas doesn't look good, but we schedule an orbital satellite launch anyway. We might roll five 6's... I mean, our engineers could work wonders and get it ready in time, right?

Spring 1958



The extra 4 MB means we start this year with 66 MB, just 6 more than last year. Two thirds of that increase came from the event, freakin' congressional tightwads! I'm trying to beat the Russians here!



We max out R&D in Explorer and Atlas, but Atlas is still at 64%. I decide to delay the launch of Explorer until next season (in game terms, we scrub the mission for this season and schedule the same mission for this fall). Finally, we purchase the Mercury program (the smallest, lightest capsule and can hold only 1 astronaut) and begin R&D. Current safety levels:

Unmanned:
- Explorer 84%
Rockets:
- Atlas: 64%
Capsules:
- Mercury: 22%



The Soviets did go ahead with their launch, but something happened to it.

Fall 1958

We pour more money into R&D. Current safety levels:

Unmanned:
- Explorer 95% (max)
Rockets:
- Atlas: 87% (max)
Capsules:
- Mercury: 40%

Yes, that's as good as Atlas gets with just R&D. To get it any higher, we have to test it in actual missions. We give the green light for a November launch (we can rush the mission to be more certain of beating the Soviets to the punch, but it costs safety and money). We also schedule another Explorer mission for spring, just in case something happens to this one.

Looks like the Soviets go for a November launch too. Who will be the first into space?




USA! USA! This gives us a comfortable lead in the space race.

Spring 1959



Finally, a good event. In game terms, the next mission step the Mercury module fails actually passes instead.

Because of our prestige lead, congress increases our budget to 94 MB this year. The first order of business is to scrub the scheduled Explorer mission because there's no more prestige in it. It would cost money and only slightly improve safety in two small programs. Rather, we need to press forward on our manned space program by recruiting astronauts for Mercury.



We give precedence to candidates with high piloting skill, as that is the stat used the most. We also purchase EVA suits in preparation for an eventual spacewalk. Current safety levels:

Unmanned:
- Explorer 96% (max)
Rockets:
- Atlas: 88% (max)
Capsules:
- Mercury: 54%
Misc:
- EVA suits: 50%

Mercury isn't quite there yet, but we have our failure mode backup, so we pull Grissom and Schirra from basic training and start them training for the first Mercury mission, a manned suborbital this fall. And it's a good thing that we do since the Russians have finally fixed whatever their problem was:



Fall 1959



Another great event. It means to spend R&D money like crazy. Even after purchasing the Atlas rocket for this season's launch, we still have 43 MB, so we start the Gemini program (a 2-man capsule capable of travelling to the moon and performing docking operations).

As we have a decent lead over the Soviets, I don't see much reason to take chances. It would cost a lot of money to develop Titan rockets right now, so instead we'll aim to develop boosters and put Gemini up and grab the first 2-person craft. While Gemini racks up duration endurance missions, we'll develop Titan to send Gemini and Ranger to the Moon.

Unmanned:
- Explorer 96% (max)
Rockets:
- Atlas: 88% (max)
Capsules:
- Mercury: 81%
- Gemini: 27%
Misc:
- EVA suits: 78%



Mercury is almost at max R&D safety, and we schedule Mercury I for a November launch. We also pull Walker and Wood out of basic training for the manned orbital EVA mission planned for the spring. If this season's mission doesn't go as planned, we can always downgrade the spring mission down to a suborbital. And Mercury I does indeed use the failure mode.



Gus Grissom, first man in space.

Spring 1960

The budget for this year is 100 MB. That'a nice chunk of change, very likely more than the Russians have due to their low prestige, but not much more than last year. We start the booster strap-on project because we'll need them to get Gemini into space. Looking at our unallocated funds, I also purchase the Kicker-A project, which we'll use to get Gemini and Ranger to the Moon.

Unmanned:
- Explorer 96% (max)
Rockets:
- Atlas: 89% (max)
- Boosters: 49%
Capsules:
- Mercury: 83% (max)
- Gemini: 43%
Misc:
- Kicker-A: 30%
- EVA suits: 89%

The manned Earth orbital EVA mission goes ahead as scheduled with a backup scheduled for next season.



Oh no, something went wrong with Atlas.

So here's how missions work: each mission is composed of a series of steps. For example, a manned Earth suborbital has only 3 steps: Launch, Re-entry, and Recovery. Each of these checks are made against a particular system's safety number. Here, we see that the Launch step was made against Atlas, since it's the component responsible for launching the mission into space. The component fails the check, something happens. BARIS is rather notorious for mission- and astronaut-killing failures.



Walker is alive, thankfully, but he's disappointed he didn't get to space. Meanwhile...



The race is on to see who is the first superpower to get a man to orbit the Earth.

Fall 1960



All right, women get their chance to show they have the right stuff. Meanwhile, the CIA says they have information for us:



That's both R-7 and Proton rockets better than where Atlas is right now. I'm calling baloney on that. CIA intelligence is wrong a good deal in this game.

Also, the rest of the Mercury Seven astronauts graduate from basic training, though most of them will go straight to Gemini. Now's a good time look at who makes good partners. Kincheloe has the lowest morale, so he gets sent to Gemini with Cooper, who's told to keep him in good spirits.

Unmanned:
- Explorer 96% (max)
Rockets:
- Atlas: 89% (max)
- Boosters: 67%
Capsules:
- Mercury: 83% (max)
- Gemini: 64%
Misc:
- Kicker-A: 45%
- EVA suits: 91% (max)

The manned orbital EVA goes ahead as scheduled. I'm not rushing any manned missions just for a little more prestige. Gemini and the boosters will not be ready for the primetime next season, so spring's backup mission will be flown with Mercury-Atlas as well.

The Soviets schedule a manned orbital mission for November as well, but ours launches first.



Mercury has some problems during de-orbit.



But Grissom fires the alternate. Gus Grissom, first man to orbit the Earth, first man to walk in space.



And the Russians continue to have problems.

Spring 1961



Another positive R&D event. I don't know why this bonus fades after only six months though. We have a commanding lead in prestige, and our budget is now 133 MB.

Mercury has done as much as it can, so this season's mission is scrubbed, and we organize our astronauts into Gemini teams. Here is a list of all the good pairings:

Cooper-Grissom
Cooper-Kincheloe
Cooper-Walker
Grissom-Walker
Schirra-Slayton
Schirra-Wood
Slayton-Wood

Each astronaut either works well or doesn't work well with every other astronaut. These are often mutual (if Cooper likes working with Grissom, Grisson usually likes working with Cooper), but sometimes they're not. Each astronaut has a morale, and it slips over time. Being put in the same team with astronauts they're compatible with slows that decline, and going on missions usually boasts it. If an astronaut's morale gets too low, they could announce their retirement.

Our best Gemini team is Walker-Grissom (yes, Grissom, first in everything, is not the commanding officer because Walker is a better pilot). They are tapped to fly the manned orbital EVA duration mission in the fall with Cooper-Kincheloe as backup. Slayton-Wood will fly the following spring's mission without backup. Schirra has high morale and can wait a while for his chance. For some reason, Race Into Space has no penalty for trying for a duration level E (13-16 days) mission now that we have a duration B (3-5 days) under our belt, so that's what we're doing in the fall; if we fail some duration checks, the mission just ends early.

Our big purchase for this year is the Titan rocket (the first rocket large enough to launch objects out of Earth's orbit and to the Moon and beyond).

Unmanned:
- Explorer 96% (max)
Rockets:
- Atlas: 90% (max)
- Titan: 47%
- Boosters: 85% (max)
Capsules:
- Mercury: 84% (max)
- Gemini: 72%
Misc:
- Kicker-A: 66%
- EVA suits: 92% (max)

Since there's no Gemini mission this season, I tried to skimp on R&D, but that bit me on the behind.



Fall 1961



I don't have to do anything to satisfy this event; they work it into test launches or something. And 5 MB is 5 MB.

Kicker-A won't be needed until we get Titan working and want launch Gemini and Ranger to the Moon, so it's okay to let up the gas a bit on R&D. Another manned orbital duration E mission with EVA is scheduled for next season.

Unmanned:
- Explorer 96% (max)
Rockets:
- Atlas: 90% (max)
- Titan: 59%
- Boosters: 85% (max)
Capsules:
- Mercury: 84% (max)
- Gemini: 86% (max)
Misc:
- Kicker-A: 74%
- EVA suits: 92% (max)



The problem is using both Atlas and boosters means they both have to work to get Gemini off the ground, and that's currently at 76% safety. We roll 2 above that. Meanwhile, the Russians finally get a cosmonaut to orbit the Earth.



Prestige

Here's a snapshot of the space race right now. We have had a little bad luck, but the Russians have had a lot. They were severely hampered by a series of failed manned missions, so their budget must be atrocious. If we were playing against the computer, they would probably be beating us.

In this situation, we could not take chances and methodically knock down milestones on the way to the Moon. Or we could also do something crazy like develop the XMS-2 reusable minishuttle or the Jupiter 4-person module.



You can now find Part 2 [thread=13026524]here[/thread].
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James Fung
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Errata: Ranger can get itself to the Moon, it doesn't need a kicker. So there isn't as much of a reason to develop Kicker-A. Kicker-A can be used to send Gemini to the Moon for lunar passes and orbitals and, if we really want to, for a lunar-orbital rendezvous (LOR) lunar landing joint mission.
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Joe Wasserman
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I don't think he would like that.
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Are you going to have further sessions? I liked reading this.
 
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Greg Maynard
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This was a fun read. Keep them coming.

Well done with Mercury III Orbital-EX. Every time I try cramming that much into a Mercury mission something goes wrong, usually cancelling the duration part if it isn't worse. Mercury is just too unreliable.

You say you are using a human opponent for the Soviets. Are you playing both sides or is there another player? Do we get to hear his story?
 
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James Fung
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Yes, I plan to continue when I find time. In a previous aborted attempt, I found that showing both the US and Soviet side took almost twice as much time to take notes, write up, save and edit pictures, etc. So I'm presenting just the US side. I also wanted to show the suspense of wondering what the heck the Soviets are up to. But, to answer your question, I am also playing the Soviet side. Their budget is abysmal right now.

I checked the penalties before flying the Orbital-EX(B) (translation: manned Earth orbital with EVA and duration level B) and there were none, which is why I didn't downgrade to an orbital EVA. I'm still trying to figure out when milestone penalties apply and when they're removed. I don't know if this is one of the changes since BARIS was made into the open-source Race Into Space.
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Greg Maynard
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You've inspired me to start playing another game of my own, same settings.

Great Russia! We are doing much better than the dirty capitalists.
I usually schedule a satellite straight away as the rocket is usually up to about 50% and it only has to pass one roll. This worked great for the Soviets with a first satellite but USA crashed and burned. Russai then had heaps of cash but no rocket production for a year! Lots of R&D. Managed the first suborbital but now the USA on a shoestring budget have caught up and the first manned orbital could be anyone's.

I looked at the penalty for duration and it is a bit weird. When you have n't done anything manned orbital eva is -7 and B duration is -17. Once I have a suborbital under my belt it seems to drop to -1?!
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James Fung
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Stile86 wrote:
I looked at the penalty for duration and it is a bit weird. When you have n't done anything manned orbital eva is -7 and B duration is -17. Once I have a suborbital under my belt it seems to drop to -1?!

Yep, I don't understand it either. If you figure it out, let me know.
 
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