Following the loss of Jebediah Kerman, the leadership of the Kerbal Space Program were distraught over the uncertain future of their institution.
Similarly upset, but none-the-less sensing an opportunity, Bill and Bob, Jebediah’s colleagues and perpetual understudies, prepared to step up to the plate. Their moment in the spotlight had come.
The duo began a high-intensity training regimen – extra time in the flight simulators, full-contact cabinetry, and strenuous marathon napping sessions. KSP Control was appropriately impressed. Several of the products of Bill Kerman’s intense still-life painting hang on the walls of the training compound to this day.
In hindsight, taking the only functional manned-rover prototype on an overnight wilderness training excursion without telling anyone was ill-advised.
After several days, KSP Control was forced to admit no one had any idea where Bill and Bob had gone, and so moved ahead with their alternate launch schedule, promoting three new cadets to active duty: Elbrett Kerman, Wehring Kerman, and Miller Kerman (no relation).
Wehring was assigned to the role of flight leader as he was the first of the group to respond correctly when his name was called. The honor of the first command, inaugurating a new series of missions went to this born hero.
During the course of the Numbered Missions, KSP Control were unconcerned with building one flight specifically on another. However, the bad press generated by launching their most decorated pilot into an unrecoverable orbit, never to return, made Control think about the public response of their efforts – and the opportunity presented by manipulating public opinion to their benefit. Thus was born the Perpetual Persistent Presence Mission – “This time when we leave a man in space, it will be on purpose!” Each phase of the PPP Mission would consist of an identifiable and achievable (and marketable) goal. Phase One: a space station in low-Kerbin orbit capable of performing science, and providing a place for subsequent craft to dock and take on supplies.
Wehring Kerman was launched atop a newly constructed rocket, the design of which had been related to a junior engineer by the staff gypsy during a routine fortune telling. The wisdom of such decisions has been hotly debated, but no one can argue with the results. Wehring achieved the desired orbit, and waited anxiously for his colleagues to meet him.
The second PPP flight involved the first docking attempt as well as the first successful docking of two vessels in Kerbin orbit. Elbrett and Miller watched in forced cheerfulness as Wehring controlled the joining of the two craft. The order for Elbrett and Miller to refrain from conversing with Wehring during the docking maneuver led to an odd misunderstanding: unsure when they were permitted to contact Wehring, the two newcomers refused to acknowledge Wehring’s calls once the maneuver was complete. Performing repeated EVAs to go bang on the hatch of the new station component, Wehring got no response.
In an impromptu decision by KP Control, the mission parameter for this first phase of the PPP Missions was changed. Incapable of passing up a chance to perform cutting edge science, and possessing a highly refined sense of humor, Control now waited to see whether Wehring would discover he is, in fact, not the only person in space before or after Elbrett’s compulsion to tell terrible, terrible knock-knock jokes leads Miller to commit the first homicide in orbit.
Everyone at KSP Control is proud of their ingenuity in finding every opportunity to perform valuable science. The only downside is that the new experimental conditions prevented any future missions from visiting the station until the current experiment concludes.
Coming accidentally to the rescue, Bill and Bob Kerman finally returned from their survival training, having spent the previous seven months walking back to the KSP facility. Dehydrated and confused, the pair babbled on about a vision they shared in the wilderness of a strange island world covered in huge oceans beneath a great, green light that hung in the heavens. In disconcerting unison, the tortured pair intoned the word “Laythe,” and looked upward. Fortunately for Bill and Bob, as they were being led away for psychiatric evaluations, a memo arrived from the astronomy division describing a newly discovered moon orbiting the gas-giant Jool, closely matching their vision-world. Control decided that this seemed like as good a destination as any, and PPP Phase Two was initiated.
The goal would be to establish a presence in orbit – and eventually on – Jool’s moon, Laythe.
The next problem facing KSP Control was how to decide who should fly the first mission to Jool. While the engineers got started designing a series of probes that would gather information about the Jool system of moons, Control told Bill and Bob to figure out the flight order on their own.
Six hundred thirty four rock-paper-scissors ties later, flight cadets dragooned into officiating the contest ruled that Bill’s fingers were slightly parted and that, despite his angry protests, he had in fact thrown scissors, beating Bob’s paper and thus securing the honor of the first flight for himself.
Kindly spectators led away the grieving victor.
Bob’s fortunate loss would be short-lived, however. The engineers at KSP had plans.