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!
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?”
“Not quite! Almost at target…. Almost… Deploy the chute!!”
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!”
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!”
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!
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 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!”
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… ejecting engine fairing!”
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…”
“I show you at .1 m/s … Alignment good…”
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!
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!