Hamstronaut Program

Job opening

Geoff and Gonzo stared at each other, still in disbelief. They were standing in TSOSD hangar 2, where the debris of Rocketship 1 and the empty hamstronaut capsule were stalled out for investigation. How Scruffy managed to get out of his launch suit was still a bit of a mystery. Of course all hamstronaut suits, especially the bulky ones, are equipped with internal controls to allow the hamstronaut to escape, however Scruffy hadn’t used those. There were no markings on the in- or outside of the suit that would indicate tampering.

“I’m happy that Scruffy ejected the capsule from the launchpad when he did, otherwise he would have been hamster roast…” Gonzo muttered, then continued; “But how did he get out of the damned suit and capsule without help? The doors were locked from the inside, except for the safety locks for recovery, again those had not been used. According to this log, the doors were opened from the closest console to the hamstronaut chair. This is what Scruffy could have done while in his launch suit, but then there are no further log entries or signs of opening and closing this turnip of a launch suit…”

“Hmmm,” Geoff walked over to the debris that used to be Rocketship 1’s first stage and walked around it in a large circle before inspecting more closely. “It was definitely not the early uncoupling and ejection from the launch pad by Scruffy’s capsule that caused this RUD. But why, why would he go AWOL?”

Gonzo said nothing, and started to walk slowly to the briefing room. Meanwhile TSOSD personnel had begun to work on the debris, cataloging and investigating while supported by robots for the heavy lifting.

After arriving in the briefing room, Gonzo sat down in one of the comfortable chairs around the table and drifted away into thoughts about the accident and Scruffy’s whereabouts. He didn’t notice Geoff enter a little while later after he’d instructed the investigating crew. The directors sat in silence and deep thought for a good 10 minutes until Gonzo suddenly spoke: “Well, I guess we need a new hamstronaut then…”

“Are you sure we should just get a hamstronaut? Why not recruit a bunch of them? We could use a lot more personnel for the program, maybe some back-up hamstronauts in case another one whimpers out as well…” Geoff replied.

Gerald had snuck into the room a while back and was hiding under the table, listening intently. He had recently met a few new hamster friends in the bunker, some whom might be good candidates. He climbed up the table and squeaked his idea to the directors. “Excellent plan,” Geoff replied and continued: “We’ll set up the registration procedures and training schedules. We can assess their skills during the training, and see which jobs would be suitable for each of them.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Gonzo said, “I’ll sort out the paperwork and registration forms, Geoff, could you look after the training schedules with Gerald?” “Woo, training class!” Geoff replied.

With that it was decided to open Hamstronaut registrations to all hamsters of the bunker (and perhaps a few other bunker critters.)
Does your hamster have what it takes?
Sign it up to the Hamstronaut program right here!

Hamstronaut Registration!
[ Artwork by: Engineer RAD ]

Accident

The Accident

It was time! It was finally time!!! Scruffy was ready, at least he thought he was. He was excited to say the least. The first hamstronaut to go to space! Alright, technically not the first hamster to go to space, but he was the first of the hamsters in the Digital Bunker to go. It has been noted before that hamsters within the bunker are not exactly the same as normal hamsters you get at a pet shop. The continued overlap between the digital and physical world maintained by the QVRESS is not completely without side effects. Scruffy didn’t mind all that. He was going to space!
The rocket stood ready at the launch pad, the small hamster admired it’s size. Of course a lot is needed to actually go to space. Even for a small hamster the rocket had to be powerful enough to launch itself into space. The rocket was being fueled while Scruffy got through the decontamination and suiting procedures. Once he was fully suited, he sat in the waiting room. Through the waiting room window he saw his good friend and mentor Gerald. Scruffy waved at his friend, for as much as waving was possible while in his launch suit.

T-90 minutes to launch.

Scruffy got escorted to the capsule on top of the rocket and suited up for launch.

All strapped in T-70 minutes…

Scruffy sat in his seat, waiting… Outside Gerald scurried around the launch pad for a full systems check before the area was to be cleared of all personnel. Gerald had an ominous feeling something was not quite right…

At the launch control center, Deputy Director Geoff was discussing the nuances of orbital velocities with Director Gonzo. Both of them were not aware of the small red light blinking on the console…

In the capsule, Scruffy was also unaware of any blinking lights. He could barely move, his short paws barely reaching the control panel. “Squeek squeeky squeek squeek.” is what he recorded into his log before the 30 minute countdown started. Scruffy was getting quite nervous now, he suddenly squeaked in fear, something was wrong. Scruffy noticed the blinking red light labelled “Something not quite right, sit tight yo.” Scruffy noted to tell the Director not to have Geoff design labels again…

In the control room Gonzo and Geoff had just become aware of the red blinking light as well. “Oh turnips!” Gonzo exclaimed. “Yes that too,” was Geoff’s reply. “We need to terminate the countdown immediately!” Geoff quickly worked the consoles and looked up at Gonzo. “It’s entered terminal countdown, there’s nothing to stop it…”
Meanwhile in Rocketship 1 Scruffy was unaware of the severity of the situation, there was a red blinking light, it said: “Sit tight,” so he did. Scruffy waited for launch, T-5 minutes…

Suddenly a familiar squeak on the radio, it was Gerald. “Something’s gone wrong, I don’t know if the Directors have found it yet…”

“What?”

“You need to get out of that capsule, Scruff.”

“I can’t.”

“You can make the capsule escape the rocket, I can guide you through…”

*T-3 minutes*

“I think I got it,” squeaked Gerald. He quickly browsed through the manual and instructed Scruffy through the procedure of detaching the capsule.

In the control room the Directors finally noticed there was something going terribly wrong. The alarm bells were ringing while Scruffy with the help of Gerald disabled the locking mechanisms that held the capsule to the rocket.

*T-2 minutes*

“All the locks have been disengaged,” Scruffy squeaked to Gerald over the comm.

“Hit the following commands,” Gerald squeaked; “it should launch the evacuation system: RED BLUE STRAWBERRY BETA ALPHA.” Scruffy entered the commands as instructed…

*T-55 seconds*

The capsule suddenly launched off the rocket, reaching a height of a few hundred meters before deploying parachutes and slowly falling down. The rocket itself was still ready to launch, there was nothing to stop the terminal countdown. Gonzo looked at Geoff in sheer terror…

*T-10 seconds, 9, 8, 7, 6…*

The robot voice counted down…

*Liftoff of Rocketship 1*

The ship lifted off, the launch seemed successful. The rocketship reached its max Q at T+90 seconds and performed perfectly. Everything was going as intended,except that the Hamstronaut was missing… Suddenly when the intended separation of capsule and rocket was planned, the rocket exploded…

Scruffy’s capsule was slowly descending a few hundred meters away from the launch area. Unsure if he just admitted to fear or if he’d really saved his own life, he had not heard the results from HQ yet. He didn’t want to know…

In the control room Gonzo and Geoff were busy ordering robots around to start a search and rescue operation, but it would be too late. Scruffy managed to get himself out of his suit and capsule before anyone reached the landing site.
Scruffy ran and ran, he was doubting his decision to abandon ship, he doubted everything. Would he have gone to space if he wouldn’t have bailed out, or would he have exploded like the rocketship did? He couldn’t face the Directors, he couldn’t live in or near the bunker. They would see him as a coward…

Scruffy ran and hid away, somewhere deep in the forest…

IMAG0097

TSOSD Report 2015

Already a full month into 2016, it is a good time to look back to 2015 which was a year with a lot of developments in spaceflight and a first rendezvous with a mysterious far away dwarf-planet. The first steps towards rocket landings were made by private companies SpaceX and Blue Origin, Pluto and Charon finally pictured from “up close” and your Orbital Sciences Director had a few minor invasions on his own.

Launch.Land.Repeat.

The 10th of January saw the first ever attempted rocket landing on a ship floating in sea. SpaceX unfortunately landed their Falcon 9 too hard on the platform and the rocket exploded in a great fireball. Even while the landing failed, the payload to the ISS containing cubesats and supplies for the astronauts arrived in perfect condition. A month later on the 11th of February, SpaceX launched and made an attempted landing again. However this time the weather was too rough to let the barge into sea. The rocket made a soft landing in sea, again right on the expected target, just no floor to land on.

Incidentally on that same date ESA launched and tested their IXV, a possible step up to a reusable crew-return vehicle.
April 14th saw another landing attempt by SpaceX, this time the barge was waiting for the rocket, and again the landing was right on target. Again the Falcon 9 landed too hard, fell over and exploded. There was another SpaceX launch that month, however no landing was attempted this time.

In June, disaster struck for SpaceX, the Falcon 9 experienced a rapid disintegration event T+139 seconds after launch on June 28. SpaceX was forced to halt their operations until the investigations into the failure were completed.

On November 23rd the company Blue Origin was the first to succeed landing a rocket after going to space. They released a capsule for future space tourists that would be in space for 4 minutes before dropping back to earth. It should be noted that even though Blue Origin landed successfully they didn’t actually bring any cargo to the ISS on the meantime, just passing the Karman line (the official border between earth and space) before returning. However impressive, SpaceX decided to do it right a month later. This time they chose not to land on a barge but on solid ground. This proved to be successful, on December 22nd SpaceX launched and landed their new and improved Falcon 9, taking into account everything found during the RDE investigation.
2016 has already seen another SpaceX barge landing attempt and Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launching again after the landing in November.
We at TSOSD HQ are looking forward to these techniques that can and will make spaceflight cheaper, and maybe in the future affordable for us.

Dwarf Planet wonders

On March 6th the Dawn spacecraft entered the orbit of Ceres, a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt between Earth and Mars. While approaching the camera’s had picked up some interesting features. Namely bright white spots inside a crater. It was completely unexpected and it took a lot of research and of course fueled many conspiracy theories. It turns out they are mineral salt piles. Another interesting aspect on Ceres is that it has plumes of vapour coming out of some crevices and craters. The spacecraft Dawn is currently in orbit of Ceres and continues to amaze scientists.

Then there was New Horizons, the first ever spacecraft to make a flyby of our most obscure neighbour in the solar system. Only visible from Earth with a very high grade telescope, and still it’s only a small dot. The photographs that New Horizons sent back wowed everybody with only a minor interest in space exploration. Pluto was not some cold dark rock, but actually an active ice planet due to its tidal workings with Charon and the other 3 moons; Hydra, Styx and Nyx. The icy surface features on Pluto are estimated to be merely a few hundred million years old, that is very young in astronomical terms.

The data returned from this mission will continue to be investigated by scientists for at least the coming years. New Horizons already has a few new Kuiper Belt targets, which, if funding for the mission continues could shed more light on the formation of our solar system and maybe to life itself…

TSOSD Invasion of ESTEC

On the 4th of October, Orbital Sciences Director Gonzo attended the ESA ESTEC open day at Noordwijk, The Netherlands. After waking up early on the misty Sunday morning, Gonzo set out towards the train station for a visit to the ESA ESTEC headquarters located in the Netherlands. In this facility most ESA spaceships, robots, probes and satellites are developed and tested before heading to space. The Rosetta spacecraft and lander were both extensively tested here before making a rendezvous with Comet 67P and landing on it in 2014.
After an hour and a half by train and bus, Gonzo arrived at the facility. It was very crowded. Dutch Astronaut Andre Kuipers was about to give a lecture in the main conference hall and unfortunately Gonzo was unable to make it to that lecture. A few hours later would be Matt “Rockstar-scientist” Taylor’s lecture on the Rosetta mission, Gonzo wasn’t going to miss that! In the meantime it was time to browse around the many stands explaining missions and handing out informational posters, flyers, booklets and stickers. -SO MANY STICKERS!-

There was a big scale model of the Rosetta probe with lander, and in the center of a small hall was a model of comet 67P Churyumov–Gerasimenko. In that same hall stood the Rosetta mission booth, handing out DIY papercraft Rosetta + Philae, posters, folders and even fake tattoo’s. Gonzo had a small chat with Matt Taylor and got a picture with the man. After handing him a TSU business card, Gonzo went on his way to look around for another half hour before heading to the conference hall where Matt’s lecture would take place.

After the doors opened, Gonzo found a good spot to sit on the third row, right behind one of ESA’s astronaut reserved seat. The lecture was awesome, not only did Matt Taylor explain the mission findings in a way that was very easy to understand, he was also funny as hell. Cracking joke after joke, “What does this comet smell off? Well, the worst fart you’ve ever smelled would probably not come close.” He had slides to compare the size of the comet to the Death Star from Star Wars and a Borg Cube from Star Trek. He went on to explain the future of Rosetta, the mission has been extended to September 2016 when the Rosetta probe will also make a crash-landing on Comet 67P.
Before Gonzo realised it, the lecture was over. Afterwards there was time for some Q&A and signing of posters or other materials. One person even brought their Rosetta plushie!

 

After getting a poster and the papercraft Rosetta signed, Gonzo went out to locate his dad who had just arrived and together they went to explore the facility. Ending up in a hangar where some Earth test copies of robots and some space-flown parts were displayed. They were interrupted suddenly by a reporter who wanted to have a small interview about why they were there and what they thought of current affairs. Unfortunately the reporter had not really taken her notes correctly and the eventual article was not that spectacular.

After visiting most of the complex and taking some more folder and information, it was nearly closing time. Gonzo and his dad went back to the car after a great informative day, with bags full of loot.


Later in October when Gonzo was visiting London for MCM Comic Con, he extended his stay to visit another one of Matt Taylor’s lectures. This one hosted by New Scientist, also featured the scientist who made the “sniff-and-taste-apparatus.” Again, comet 67P smells and tastes horrible. Do not try to eat.

Coming up in 2016:

The Toy Soldier Orbital Sciences Directorate will be recruiting Hamstronauts, starting this year. Do you have a hamster (or maybe another pet) you would like to register for the exciting training and eventually work for the Toy Soldier Space Program? Watch this TSU forum thread because more information on this will be released in February!

 

Announcement

As visitors to Gonzo Enterprises may have noticed, there have not been a lot of new stories for a while. Allow Gonzo to explain the details and future directions of this website:

Dear friends, readers, random passers by and/or robots.
Currently there are a lot of other distractions and projects I am involved with, which make finding the time to write for the website regularly difficult.

As most of the story content that has appeared on Gonzo Enterprises is now also available over at Toy Soldiers Unite, I will adapt this website in the near future to feature different types of content.

There will still be a story section where I and/or others can submit stories to, but these will likely not be stories related to the Digital Bunker or the army of Toy Soldiers. When I write more of those, they will be submitted directly to Toy Soldiers Unite. I will keep an archive of the stories that have appeared in the past in chronological order.

I will start planning the website make-over as soon as possible, until then the content as is, is still available.

Thank you all for your support so far, and the great stories you all submitted. Please keep writing the TSU related ones and submit them here 😀

~ Gonzo

Lullaby – Part 3

“What is this?” Gonzo looked at Sophie in utter confusion. Did they have musical machines down there? A sentient synthesizer? Both moved their heads back towards the screen. “That’s it!”, Sophie shouted excitedly. “It’s that shadow!” In the distance they could see a figure, resembling a human silhouette. As Major slowly moved closer, the sound coming from that figure got clearer. It really was some kind of melody, it sounded beautiful but also very sad. Then, the music stopped. In the dim flickering of the lights it looked as if the figure had discovered the tiny robot. Hastily, it seemed, it tried to escape. And it didn’t really  move like a human being…

Quickly, Sophie switched to her putty console, and typed in a few commands for Major:

terminal

The engine howled and immediately Major moved faster, chasing the figure through the corridors at quite some speed. Whatever they were chasing, it was definitely not slow, but unlike the spider bot it had no wheels and seemed a bit clumsy, too, so that was a huge disadvantage. Major got closer, but it never made any attempt to stop or even attack the figure. It was only Chase Mode after all. “This looks like a kid or something”, Gonzo murmured. Then it happened, the mysterious figure fell as it tried to run faster and turn around at the same time. Major slowed down and came to a halt right next to the ‘kid’. Sophie looked closer at the picture on her screen. “You know, you weren’t entirely wrong there. That DOES look like a kid. A robot kid.” The new HD camera revealed, although the lighting down there was terrible, the face of a somewhat humanoid robot. It was the size of a maybe ten year-old child, it even wore awfully outdated and dirty, ripped clothes. It reminded her of a metal version of Pinocchio. And it sang.

A few moments passed by, robot staring at robot. Neither of them moved. The only sound was a disturbed and confused melody from Pinocchio. Sophie and Gonzo held their breath. Then, after a while, the robot boy seemed to realise that Major was no threat at all. The melody changed, slowly, to something more light-hearted and curious. *Bleep boop bleep* It was heart-warming. “Look, they get to know each other!” In absolute fascination the two soldiers stared at the screen, being witnesses to the first contact of the two robots. The kid seemed shy, but the moment it realised there was nothing to be afraid of, it made no further attempts to flee.

Many years later, both Gonzo and Lieutenant Sophie would still be talking about this wonderful moment to new recruits on occasion, and would get all teary-eyed and that look on their faces as if they had just watched the cheesiest romance ever.

~This guest story was written by Lt. Sophie