Year 21, Day 137 (Explorer 7 Returns to Kerbin from Duna!)

As Explorer 7 speeds towards it’s intercept with Kerbin, the automated systems thaw the frozen crew!

“Brr! I could use a hot chocolate!”

-Dunwin

“Me too! Waking from cryo-sleep is always so chilly!”

-Shepely

“Well, don’t worry! It’s about to get a whole lot warmer!”

-Malcolm

One by one, the crew suit up, and transfer over to the Command Module!

Once inside, everyone straps in for the re-entry!

Explorer 7 heats up, but Duna-bound spacecraft are well shielded for these fast reentries!

“Hold on! Hold on! Almost there!”

-Malcolm

The chute deploys once the spacecraft is slow enough to be safe!

“Looks like a good deploy!”

-Dunwin

Explorer 7 sets down in the grassy fields west of the Space Center! Rescue craft are dispatched to recover the three Kerbals and the trove of data recovered from Duna!

Year 20, Day 10 (Explorer 7 Second Duna Landing!)

Malcolm, Dunwin and Shepely head down for the second landing! Since this will be a landing at the Highlands, the Advanced Duna Lander has to expend a good deal of fuel to slow down before entering the atmosphere!

“We’re heading in! Approach looking good!”
-Malcolm

The landing parachute deploys, and the lander pitches up…. while the engine throttles up again to slow the descent!

Shepely and Dunwin head out to explore the surface!

“It’s so pretty!”
-Shepely

Next, Malcolm plants a flag….

…and the crew poses for their landing portrait!

“Mission Control has received your picture… lookin’ good!”
-Gene, at Mission Control

Shepley gets the scientific equipment set up, while Malcolm and Dunwin supervise!

Well, let’s get our little campsite going! We have a few weeks to work here on the surface!
-Shepely

Year 19, Day 214 (Explorer 7 Crew Return to Duna Spaceport!)

After 40 days on the surface of Duna, the Explorer 7 crew prepares to come home!

“All our surface experiments should be OK when we take off, as long as there isn’t too much dust kicked up!”
-Shepely

“Engines firing! All systems go!”
-Malcolm

“Looks like we’re still getting a signal from the surface… blast off must not have been too damaging! Lander systems all good too!”
-Dunwin

Malcolm pilots the Advanced Duna Lander to a rendezvous with the station…

…and docks with Duna Spaceport!

“Great work Explorer 7! Get some rest everyone!”
-Gene, at Mission Control

Year 19, Day 173 (Malcolm, Dunwin, and Shepely Land on Duna!)

After taking a few days to recuperate and prepare, Malcolm, Dunwin and Shepely talk over their upcoming mission in the Crew Cupola of Duna Spaceport!

“Does it ever bother you that we’re sitting “up” but we’re flying “sideways”?
-Shepely

“Up, down, it’s all relative in space!  I just like going fast! “
-Malcolm

“Well, we’re not going anywhere fast sitting here!  Let’s get down to the surface!  I wanna see how this new lander performs!”
-Dunwin

After packing all their science gear (and some snacks) Dunwin, Shepeley, and Malcolm head over to the lander!

As the sun sets on the horizon, the lander sets out!

“Look at that sunset! So blue!”

-Dunwin

That’s from the dust in Duna’s atmosphere! It’s the right size to let blue light in more than other wavelengths… and scatters it!

-Shepely

Hmm – neat!”

-Dunwin

“Undocking! RCS reverse thrusters firing! Landing airbrakes deployed!”

-Malcolm

The lander fires it’s aerospike engine! This mission will be to investigate some anomalous readings detected from orbit!

Unlike previous Duna Landers that entered the atmosphere “engine first”, the Advanced Duna Lander enters “nose first” like a spaceplane!

The rear airbrakes provide just enough lift!

“Lander is on course for target… Atmosphere is slowing us down a bit more than expected… We’ll need a short engine burn to adjust our approach!”
-Malcolm

The engine fires, and the lander accelerates enough to stay on target!

“Oh wow! We’re really close to the surface! Speed is down to 200 m/s…. Is that enough to deploy the parachute?”

-Dunwin

Not quite! Almost at target…. Almost… Deploy the chute!!”

-Malcolm

The landing parachute deploys! The airbrakes retract and the landing gear deploys! 

This is one of the most dangerous phases of the mission, as the landing gear and airbrakes must retract with the parachute cords clear so nothing gets jammed or tangled! The chute then lifts the nose up, and orient’s the lander for landing!

“Chute is deployed, gear is down and locked! Starting slow burn to decelerate!”

-Malcolm

The lander slows to just 1 m/s as it gently sets down!

“Mission Control, this is Explorer 7 Lander .. we have set down on Duna! All systems are good!”

-Malcolm

On Kerbin, cheers fill Mission Control! The new lander performed perfectly!

“Nice work everyone!”

-Gene, at Mission Control

Malcolm, Dunwin, and Shepely will rest for a day, then suit up and head outside!

Year 19, Day 171 (Explorer 7 Arrives at Duna Spaceport!)

Explorer 7 performs a circularization manuever as it passes it’s closest point with Duna!

I’m showing a circular orbit – nice work!”
-Shepely

Next, Malcolm performs the rendezvous maneuver, and intercepts Duna Spaceport!

Firing thrusters… just need to get lined up with the docking port!”
-Malcolm

Explorer 7 moves in to dock…

…and makes a solid connection with the spaceport!

“OK!  Time to get out there and reposition the Advanced Lander!”
-Malcolm

“Be careful out there!  There’s a lot of hardware operating very closely!”
-Dunwin

“It’s beautiful out here! The station and lander look to be in great shape! Hard to believe the Spaceport has been here for 13 years!

-Malcolm

Malcolm uses his EVA pack to maneuver over to the Advanced Lander…

…then grabs the handholds and climbs inside!

“It’s nice and roomy in here! Much cozier than the Mun Landers!”

-Malcolm

Using only RCS thrusters, Malcolm detaches from the Ground Science cargo payload that came with the lander (and will remain attached to the Spaceport, to be used on future missions) and moves away from the station!

“The lander is oriented away from the station, and momentum is carrying us away… ejectingĀ engine fairing!”

-Malcolm

The interstage fairing protecting the engine (which allowed the Ground Science payload to be carried inline with the lander) ejects! The momentum away from the Spaceport will carry the fairing out and away from the station!

The Advanced Lander drifts slowly over the spaceport!

“RCS thrusters firing… Forward momentum should be enough to dock…”

-Malcolm

“I show you at .1 m/s … Alignment good…”

-Dunwin

With a loud ‘CLUNK!’ and some mechanical ‘whirs’ Explorer 7 is docked and securely attached to Duna Spaceport! Malcolm climbs over and the Explorer 7 crew prepares for their landing!

Year 19, Day 155 (Explorer 7 Crew Thaw, Prepare For Duna Mission!)

Explorer 7 is just days away from reaching Duna’s sphere of influence! Mission Control sends the automated signal to thaw the crew from Cryo-Stasis!

Mission Control this is Malcolm on Explorer 7… we’re all thawed out and ready for our mission!”
-Malcolm

“… I could use something hot to drink though!”
-Shepely

Dunwin checks over the ship’s systems and makes sure everything is looking good!

“Explorer handled the transit just fine… all systems are good!”
-Dunwin

Year 19, Day 66 (Advanced Duna Lander Arrives at Duna, Docks with Duna Spaceport!)

Mission Control remotely pilots the Advanced Duna Lander as it completes it’s final manuevers to dock with Duna Spaceport!

First, it circularizes it’s orbit…

…then rendezvouses with the Spaceport!

Next, it docks, backwards, with Duna Spaceport! This is so the crew of Explorer 7 can unload all the ground science experiment cargo that the lander carried with it!

Docking is a success! Duna Spaceport, and the new Advanced Duna Lander, wait for Explorer 7!

Year 18, Day 274 (Explorer 7 Launches, Heading to Duna!)

Malcolm, Dunwin, and Shepley all board Explorer 7! Outside the rocket, the loudspeakers count down to launch!

“10… 9…8…7…6…ignition sequence start….5…4…3…2…1…IGNITION!”
-Gene

“We have liftoff!”
-Gene

The powerful Sarnus Va rocket lifts Explorer 7 higher and higher!

Until orbit is reached! Then, with just 3 minutes to spare until the transfer window, Malcolm fires the engines!

“Engines firing…. We’re on course!”

-Malcolm

Explorer 7 soars past Mun on its way out of Kerbin’s SOI!

Hours later, the Advanced Duna Lander departs for Duna! The two spacecraft will arrive at Duna in 208 days!

“Ok, we’re on our way! Mission Control, we’re handing over vehicle control to KSC!

-Malcolm

“That means it’s time to head over to the Cryo Section… And take a little nap!”

-Shepely

The 3 Kerbals prepare to head over to the Cryo Module to enter Cryo-Stasis! The mission schedule has them starting suspension tomorrow!

Year 17, Day 173 (Explorer 7 Design, Blueprints Released!)

The next Explorer spacecraft is designed, Explorer 7! This spacecraft was designed as a lower cost spacecraft that would require fewer launches to prepare. Previous Explorer spacecraft required two launches: one for the spacecraft and another to deliver crew.

This was largely due to the nuclear fuel component that was part of the Pathfinder-derived vehicles.

The new design features a new Mk10 crew module at the top, which allows emergency escape options on launch. Once in orbit, the crew fires a transfer burn to Duna, then exits the vehicle and climbs from a ladder into the cryogenic stasis chamber. They’ll reverse the procedure once they arrive at Duna Spaceport!

Explorer 7 costs less than 1/10th the cost of the much more versatile and longer range Deep Space Vehicle Discovery, and is more suited to visiting Duna (and possibly Eve) than further flung missions such as Jool and beyond!

The next Duna Mission won’t be for another year – once the launch is closer, a crew will be chosen and a new mission patch will be released!