Gustav Åkerfelt
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Welcome to mission control.

Since I fully expect that once Stations gets here I won’t be playing without it, I’m doing a last run of vanilla Leaving Earth. Here is how that turned out:
Setting up for a Very Hard solo basic game, here are the missions drawn.

(Mars Lander 7pts, Man on Mars 24pts, Phobos Sample Return 12pts, Venus Station 27pts, Mercury Sample Return 19pts, Man In Space 2pts, Lunar Lander 6pts, Lunar Station 15pts and Space Station 6pts.)

Not great, but not impossible by any means. Looks like I have missions to 5 different planets, and 2 pretty easy missions that both still require me to get and keep an astronaut in space.
Taking a quick count, there is 118pts visible, meaning that I need to aim for a score of 60+ pts. Of course if it turns out I can´t land on all planets this will drop, but we will take that as a bonus if it happens and we will not be counting on it during mission planning. (Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and all that.)
The 2 hands down hardest missions are the manned missions to Mars and Venus. If I were to leave them both out, and complete everything else, that would be enough. This means my only manned mission would be to put a man on the moon, and in doing so I would also complete the 2 lesser manned missions. The rest I can do with probes.
Getting the sample from Mercury takes a really long time to do with Ion engines, so I’d better start that one more or less ASAP. That or do it midgame and invest a hefty deal in going in with actual rockets.
I will also try to quickly get probes out to Venus and Mars and hopefully find that I can’t land on them. The moon will be a more end-game thing, as it is comparably easy to get to and I will need a bunch of tech to get there and back in a single mission.

I’ll be presenting this rapport in 2 forms. First in a shorter version with heavily summarized commentary. Second, a year – by – year more technical version with more banter.

The SHORT version :

Early game. 1956 - 1961.

Techs bought: Saturn rocket, Ion thruster, Juno Rocket and Rendezvous.
Score: 0 / 118

I stock up on the basics, try to get early Ion-probes out, and try to start the Mercury Sample Return mission. I’m thinking I can do it slowly and cheaply if I start early enough. I can test tech while the probe is on its way. I am set back pretty badly when my first Saturn detonates on the pad, blowing up some 40mil of components. A calculated risk I took, and now have to compensate for. Not the best start, but I manage to get replacement parts into safely into orbit. Tech is still pretty sketchy, but time to start going places.

Early Mid-Game. 1962 – 1966.

Techs bought: Landing, Surveying, Soyuz Rocket and Life-Support.
Score: 7 / 111

I send of Ion-Probes both for the long haul to Mercury, and to Mars and Phobos. I learn that radiation is at 2, scrubbing my hopes for any “big” mission to Venus or Mars, but find alien tech on Phobos. I complete my Mars lander mission, and manage to load up enough samples from Phobos to get me the remaining techs free and functioning once I get them home. I also start testing out life-support in an unmanned capsule.

Late Mid-Game. 1967 – 1971.

Tech acquired from Phobos samples: Atlas Rocket, Re-entry.
Astronauts hired: Buzz Aldrin.
Score: 19 / 99

The samples from Phobos gets to earth, earning me some free tech. My probe on mercury collects its sample and heads back towards earth. I hire and astronaut put him in orbit. I send out a probe towards Venus hoping it will prove the Venus mission impossible and remove it.

Endgame. 1972 – 1976.

Score: 67 – 51

Venus turns out to harbor life. Buzz Aldrin goes to the moon and back, fulfilling no less than 4 different missions while doing so. I almost mess up the timing on the game-critical returning sample from Mercury, but intercept it on the way home with more rockets, and manage to push them home just as the game ends. Champagne and promotions for everyone.

The LONG version:

1956 - Let’s start with the basics. I buy Saturn Rocket tech, and 1 Saturn rocket. Heavy lifting will always be needed.

1957 – As I am aiming to get project Mercury up and running, I buy the Ion Thruster and Juno Rocket techs. I also buy 5 Juno’s. My plan is to use the Juno’s to land on Mercury and lift a sample back up into orbit. I also tend to use Juno’s for testing various different techs as they are cheap. (Rendezvous, landing.)

1958 – Getting the final parts needed for our first launch. I buy 2 Ion Thrusters, 2 Probes, and with the leftover money 1 more Juno.

1959 – Time to get our space program roaring. I will launch my Saturn directly into Earth Orbit (EO) carrying both my Probes, both Ion’s (and 1 Juno because I have the space for it). Now, this is a bit of a risk, but sometimes you just need to roll that hard six. I’m thinking if this goes well, I will be in a good position to get a lot of exploration done really early. If we hit a minor failure, that’s not even a problem to be honest. We will just pay it off, and launch again next year. If we actually were to hit a Major fail on our first launch, then we are a bit screwed, but it’s not like I can buy and test EVERY tech before I actually use it.
I draw the outcome, and it’s a major fail.
Well, that sets us back some.
No use crying over it, I pay off the result, and buy a new Saturn, 2 more probes and 1 more Juno.

1960 – I buy 2 more Ion thrusters, and prepare to launch the same set-up again. We are not going to hit 2 major fails in a row. I mean, right? What are the odds?
In retrospect I might have been steaming a bit here, since at this point I did not have the money to pay off a potential success, and making you Saturn safe is usually a high priority for me, but there you go.
It’s a good burn for the Saturn, and since I can’t pay it off, it goes back into the stack.
I test fire the Ion’s in orbit, both good, still no money to pay off results.
With money left, I start testing Juno’s on earth. The first one is a major fail, so I pay that off.

1961 – I buy the Rendezvous tech. Since I have a Juno in orbit to take the damage if I fail, I start docking and undocking back and forth to look for fails. None come up, and after some pretty extensive testing I am satisfied that I am going to trust this tech for now.
I test the Ion’s in orbit again, paying off the first success, and not having the cash to pay off the second.
I buy 1 more probe and 3 more Juno’s.

1962 – Looks like the Ion thrusters are somewhat reliable, so time to get the rest if the equipment they need up in orbit. I buy a Saturn, load it with a probe and 4 Juno’s and lift off. Good burn on the Saturn, I pay it off.
In orbit, I combine and split up my crafts.
Probe 1 consists of 1 probe, 1 ion and 3 Juno’s. I burn it toward the Inner Planets Transfer (IPT). The burn is good, it will take me 3 years to get there. It’s a heavy load for a single Ion to push out to mercury, but we have plenty of time. I think.
Probe 2 consists of 2 probes and 1 Ion. This probe burns directly to Mars Orbit. The burn is good, this will also take me 3 years. Once there we should hopefully be able to complete the Mars Lander mission and the Phobos Sample Return.
This leaves 2 Juno’s in orbit that I will use for landing tests later.

1963 – I buy the Landing and Survey Techs. Since I have some money left over, I test Juno’s on earth.
First one, Minor fail, I pay it off. With only 1 card and no money left, I test another, and it’s also a minor fail. Oh well, they will be repaired at the end of the year, and now I know. I’ll just pay it off later.

1964 – Since I will soon need to land my probe on Mars, I start testing landing with my Juno’s in Earth orbit.
First one, major fail, I pay it off. Second one, also a major fail, I pay that off too. So now there is only 1 card left, and with 2 fails fixed, I can only hope the 3: d one is good.
I buy the Soyuz tech, because that usually comes in handy for optimizing those end-game launches, and I want to be able to test it out before then.
I use the remaining money to test the Juno’s again, drawing and paying off the minor fail. Juno rockets are now safe.

1965 – Probe 1 arrives at IPT. I survey Ceres, and find nothing extra there. I survey radiation, and it’s a disaster. Radiation level 2. This pretty much burns my hopes of doing a manned mission to Mars or Venus if my Mercury mission fails.
The probe burns towards Mercury Fly-by. The burn is good, I decide not to pay it off. The trip will take 5 years. Really hope I haven’t messed up the math on the flight time here. That 7-manouvre to get back is looking a bit scary. Well, not to worry, I’ll crunch the numbers a bit later. Not like I can do much about it anymore now anyways. =)
Probe 2 arrives in Mars Orbit. I survey Mars to find valuable metals there. The survey of Phobos shows it’s hollow and full of juicy alien tech! Since I have to get a sample back anyways, that’s very good news.
I split of one of the probes, and attempt to land it or Mars. The landing is good, and with that not only is the Landing Tech safe, I also complete the Mars Lander mission.
The remaining probe heads for Phobos. It’s a good 1 year burn. I have decided I trust my Ion’s for now, and won’t be paying for them anymore.
I buy the life support tech, 1 Soyuz rocket, 3 supplies and 1 eagle capsule. I’m thinking that this will let me start testing out the components for the manned missions ahead of actually sending up any astronauts.

1966 – Probe 2 lands on Phobos, takes 3 samples, burns for Mars orbit. Burn is good, trip takes 1 Year.
I launch a Soyuz carrying the Eagle capsule. Launch is good, I pay it off.
Buy 1 Saturn rocket.
At the end of the year I draw for life support, it’s a major fail, I don’t have the money to pay it off.

1967 – Probe 2 arrives as Mars orbit. I separate the probe and 1 Phobos sample and leave them in orbit. The ion thruster and 2 samples burn for EO. Burn is good, trip will take 3 years. I could have taken more samples with me, but decided better get the remaining techs as fast as possible, especially since the techs I already have seem to work somewhat well.
I buy 1 Saturn Rocket, 2 Vostok capsules and 1 supply.
I launch the Saturn to EO carrying 1 Vostok and 3 supplies. The launch is good, and as this is the last card Saturn rockets are now safe.
I dock all components in orbit.
At the end of the year I test life support. Both are good, I can’t pay them off. Basically wasting the 5mil I had saved for the Major fail I was hoping to draw.

1968 – I buy 1 Saturn Rocket and hire Buzz Aldrin. Again I save 5mil for the life support checks later.
Life Support checks go 1:st Major fail, I Pay it off, 2:nd all good.

1969 – I buy a Saturn, a Soyuz and a Vostok.
Life support checks are both good, and I’m starting to feel confident that it works.

1970 – Probe 1 finally reaches Mercury Fly-by. I survey Mercury to find valuable metals here too. 50mil. Too bad that I probably won’t have time to use that money, if I make it back in time at all.
Probe burns to Mercury Orbit. Burn is good, trip takes 2 years.
Probe 2 reaches EO. I detach the samples from Phobos and land them, completing Phobos Sample Return.
For my bonus, I take Re-Entry and Atlas Rocket techs, fully working.
I then buy 1 probe, 1 Atlas and 1 Soyuz Rocket.
I launch the Soyuz to EO carrying the probe. Launch is good, I pay it off.
I dock the probe with the Ion Thruster and they burn for IPT, ultimately heading for Venus. Burn is good.

1971 – I start by buying one more Soyuz Rocket.
Now it’s time to start sending people into space.
This rocket consists of 2 Soyuz, 1 Atlas, 2 Juno’s, and a Vostok capsule carrying Buzz Aldrin.
First Soyuz burns into Low Orbit, burn is good and tech is now safe. Sub-Orbital flight has no hazardous effect.
Second Soyuz burns for EO, and I dock all components in orbit.
Since everything went well, I Buy 2 more Soyuz Rockets and 1 supply.
At the end of the year life support functions well, and Buzz consumes 1 supply.

1972 – I complete Space Station Mission.
Probe 1 arrives at Mercury.
I detach the probe, burn 2 Juno’s to land, pick up a sample, leave the probe behind, burn the last Juno to lift the sample to orbit, dock it with the Ion Thruster waiting there. The ship then burns for IPT, trip will take 3 years.
Probe 2 arrives at IPT, and burns for Venus Fly-by. Trip takes 1 year.
I buy 2 Atlas Rockets.
Then I launch a Saturn to low orbit, carrying another Saturn and a Soyuz who burn to orbit carrying a Soyuz and 2 Atlas rockets. I dock and detach components to make a lunar craft.
The ship headed to the moon consists of Buzz in an Eagle Capsule, 2 supplies, 1 Soyuz, 3 Atlas and 2 Juno rockets. I burn the Soyuz to get to Moon Orbit. I now realize I don’t even know if I can land on the moon, and survey it with some rising concerns. The moon is full of valuable metals. Fair enough, as long as I can land I’m happy.
I leave a supply and 1 Atlas in orbit, and burn 1 Atlas to land Buzz, the Eagle, 1 supply, 1 Atlas and 2 Juno’s.
Lunar lander mission completed.
I buy a Saturn rocket, because, well, lol’s I suppose.
Life support works, Buzz consumes 1 supply on the moon.

1973 – Lunar Station mission complete.
Probe 2 arrives at Venus fly-by and surveys. Hoping for crushing gravity, but it turns out that Venus supports life and is chock full of supplies. Burn the probe to Venus orbit, because why not.
Buzz Aldrin collects 10 samples from the moon, and burns the Atlas and the Juno’s to lift them to orbit. I leave 6 samples and 1 supply in orbit, and use the Atlas there to burn to EO with the rest. Buzz and the samples land on Earth, completing the Man in Space mission in the process.
I realize that the Mercury probe, being the only mission left out there is in fact not going to make it home in time. We are going to be 1 year late. The burn from IPT to EO is going to take 2 years as things are now, so I need to hastily send more rockets up to help out with that.
I buy a Soyuz, 3 Atlas and 2 Juno rockets.
I launch “Retriever 1”. Saturn carries a Soyuz and an Atlas to low orbit, who in turn burn to carry 2 more Atlas rockets to EO. In order to time it right, they wait a year to burn to IPT.

1974 – Retriever 1 burns an Atlas to carry another Atlas Rocket to IPT. Trip will take 1 year.
Probe 2 arrives at Venus orbit. I let it hang out there.

1975 – Probe 1 from Mercury arrives at IPT and so does Retriever 1. They dock, and I burn the Atlas for EO. Trip takes 1 year.

1976 – The sample from Mercury arrives at EO and lands. I complete the Mercury Sample Return mission, and with that earn enough points to win. 67 to 51. The missions Man on Mars and Venus Station are left uncompleted, but all things considered I’m very pleased.

Final Thoughts!

There it is. My final game before Stations! And a win to boot. Apart from the massive explosive early Saturn-incident, the game went well. I should have done the math for my Mercury mission earlier, but I honestly think I would have opted for the same solution rather than waiting and launching it with more(expensive and poorly tested) rockets on the way out. Great game as always, had me anywhere from sweating to laughing to grumbling into my notepad for several hours. Just the way i like it.

Thank you very much for reading, fly safe.
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Andreas Hellström
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Great report! Just one minor error: You bought two Vostoks in 1967 and one more in 1969, but didn't get the required Re-entry tech until 1971.

But anyway, nice read and made me eager to play the game myself when I get home!
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Gustav Åkerfelt
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Well hot damn! Well spotted good Sir!

Oh well, guess i'll have to re-play it then, can't go out on a loss.
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