Explorer Program

Explorer 1

The Explorer Program started as an attempt to make a reusable interplanetery spacecraft:

Explorer launched on Year 3, Day 267.

The mission patch for Explorer 1.

Explorer was a testbed for many new technologies – especially the LVN nuclear thrust engines, which are a critical component for all future Explorer spacecraft in addition to the Pathfinder Missions.

Orlas – Crew scientist on Explorer 1.
Explorer’s 3 LVN engines fire, carrying the spacecraft to Eve.
Explorer carried a small probe to land on Eve.
Mitster, inspecting the exterior of Explorer (and enjoying the view of Eve!) The LARC (Landing and Return Craft) can be seen behind him.

The greatest success for the Explorer was landing Kerbals on Gilly, Eve’s small moon! Mitster, Orlas, and Chrisnic made history that day!

Mitster, Orlas, and Chrisnic after touching down on Kerbin in the Command Module component of the LARC.

When Explorer was designed, it was hopeful that there would be enough deltaV to allow the spacecraft to return to Kerbin orbit. Unfortunately, there was only enough for the return voyage. Thankfully, this is why the LARC (Landing and Return Craft) was designed – both as a vehicle to land on Gilly, and return the crew to the surface of Kerbin if needed! Explorer itself was remotely piloted into a safe orbit away from Kerbin, and is still out there in a wide Kerbol orbit to this day!

Explorer 2

The next Explorer spacecraft was Explorer 2 – the first crewed mission to Duna! Launched in conjuction with the Duna Spaceport, this design became the groundwork for every future Explorer mission.

Explorer 2 in launch configuration. After the shuttle Endeavor delivered crew, the spacecraft performed a transposition manuever (similair to the Aurora Program) before it’s interplanetary burn.

On Year 6, Day 275 Explorer 2 arrived at Duna! After circularizing it’s orbit, the spacecraft began manuevers to dock with Duna Spaceport (which had been remotely launched and piloted to Duna Orbit.)

Duna Spaceport, with the Explorer 2 spacecraft docked. The first Duna Lander can be seen at the far end .

The Explorer 2 crew went on to perform 3 seperate landings on Duna using the Duna Lander and Duna Spaceport’s fuel reserves. Explorer 2 set the future for the Explorer program!

Explorer 3

The Explorer 3 Mission Patch

Explorer 3 was the second Duna mission, and was a slightly modified version of the Explorer 2 spacecraft – this time with more fuel and more life support.

Explorer 3 launched alongside the new Advanced Atmospheric Lander (more commonly known as the Super Duna Lander!)

Edan, Glenica, and Sean on Duna. The moon Ike can be seen on the horizon!

The Super Duna Lander allowed 3 Kerbals to land simulataneously! Explorer 3 went on to make 3 seperate landings on Duna!

Explorer 4

Explorer 4 was the first (and only) crewed mission to the oft-neglected world of Dres. Explorer 4 left Kerbin on Year 3, Day 344 and returned to Kerbin Year 9, Day 14!

Explorer 4 was the last iteration of the Explorer 2 basic design. Explorer 4’s crew landed on Dres on Year 7, Day 386. The low gravity allowed the Mun-designed lander to perforum 2 seperate landings, “jumping” from one site to another!

Val and Orlas on the surface of Dres.

Explorer 5

Explorer 5 was designed as a testbed for new technologies to reach Jool (as symbolized by the green star on it’s patch!) Notably it was the first interplanetary mission to use cryo-stasis to extend crew range!

Explorer 5 departed Kerbin on Year 9, Day 262.

Having the crew in suspended animation saves deltaV as the crew doesn’t need to bring as much life support, snacks, and other necessities! Explorer 5 arrived at Duna on Year 10, Day 202.

Val, Bill, and Bob landed at Duna’s Eastern Canyon!

Unlike Explorer 2 and 3, Explorer 5 did only one landing (future missions sent refuelling craft to Duna Spaceport to allow more missions.)

Explorer 5 leaving Duna .

On Year 11, Day 411 Explorer 5 left Duna, and the crew re-entered Cryostasis! On Year 12, Day 285 Explorer 5 made history by being the first interplanetary spacecraft to return to Kerbin orbit after a mission!

Explorer 5 docks with Kerbin Spaceport!

Explorer 6

Explorer 6 pushed the limits of the Explorer 5 design by sending a crewed mission to Jool’s moon Laythe!

Explorer 6 launched on Year 11, Day 129!

On Year 14 Day 1 Explorer 6 left Laythe and started the return to Kerbin! The crew was already in suspended animation – but the mission proved that life support and the communications network was capable of acceptably safe operations in the Jool system!