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!

 

Hamstronaut

O.S.F. #2 – Hamstronaut

Scruffy had never been on a big assignment before.
He thought of himself as a brave hamster, doing his hamster things, gather supplies and working his shift at the wheels of the Digital Bunker’s power generator. Nothing extraordinary ever happened to him. He was just 8 months old, grew up in a normal but crowded hamster family. All was well for Scruffy until that one day, that day he glimpsed at a propaganda poster encouraging hamsters to join the T.S.O.S.D. for Hamstronaut training.

Scruffy had never felt like an adventurer, however he often climbed up one of the bunker’s little entryways to admire the night sky. He could name his fair share of constellations. His favourite spot was quite a climb, but what a view! All the way up on the roof, a safe caged air-vent no worries about predators, and a perfect 360º vision, barely obstructed.  Sometimes an arguing married couple seems to climb up there. Scruffy had seen it happen once. A guy that was illuminating what seemed like the whole roof with his uniform got thrown off. Down to the ground. “Humans are weird.” Scruffy thought.

Hamstronaut training sounded appealing, even if Scruffy didn’t become one to test the T.S.O.S.D. Up-Goers, the education it provided could put him in a position within the Directorate and land himself a nice salary. Scruffy signed up and passed most the subjects with flying colours. He had a little trouble with applied mathematics, but cleared the course with acceptable grades. Scruffy graduated with high praise and was signed up to the Hamstronaut program.

Scruffy is now in the waiting room, right before his first training mission starts. The nerves are starting to get to him. “What if my body can’t take the stress?” Scruffy wondered, “What if one day I’m drifting out in space helplessly?” He shrugged away the bad thoughts and focussed on his training. The T.S.O.S.D. Hamstronaut training was quite thorough on helping him get though the hamster-stress, which is potentially deadly.

The T.S.O.S.D. has set up a new way to train hamsters for microgravity environments by taping a drone to a large hamster ball, of course fitted on the inside with soft materials, so no hamsters will be hurt. Scruffy will be the first hamster to experience simulated microgravity.

Scruffy enters the hamster ball and last preparations are made to launch him safely with the drone. A simulated microgravity is created by making a series of parabolic manoeuvres on the vertical axis makes the hamster experience how it would feel to be in a potential future Utopian Space Station.
After launch Scruffy got used to the feeling quite quickly and he loved to just hang there. After the training Scruffy couldn’t wait to do it more often, maybe space is the right choice for him after all…

Orbital Sciences Files #1

“T.S.O.S.D. Administration office, this is Gonzo speaking.” I put away the research paper I was reading, one of many on a pile that seemed to become larger every second…

“Sir, there has been an -uhmm- minor inconvenience at the hangar,” a nervous voice said on the other side of the line. “What happened?” I inquired. “It’s the hamsters, sir. They…, it… *beeep*” with that the connection terminated. I got up and made my way to the converted missile silo now functioning as a hangar for the Rocketship 1 among other research projects like giant catapults, models of a space elevator, high altitude balloons and preliminary designs for orbital platforms.

I got to the hangar and found myself in front of a locked door, the wires of the access terminal had been chewed through. A bunch of hamsters ran past my feet into an air vent. I decided to follow them to get into the hangar.

After crawling through the tight space of the air vent I arrived to a weird scene of hamsters preparing the Rocketship 1 for launch, with most of the human crew incapacitated, a few Robots seemed to take orders from the hamsters now… Let me be clear on this; Rocketship 1 is just a mock up so if the hamsters want to go to space, they’ll have more luck with the catapults or balloons…

I heard some squeaks over the intercom and saw a bunch of hamsters sitting in the control room, apparently giving orders to the rest. I decided to sneak to the control room, and stop whatever they were trying to do.

I made it to the control room without any incident. The hamsters seemed to busy with their work, I must admit I was impressed of their effort, how futile it might be.

Inside the control room there was a hamster sitting with a weird small helmet on, with wires going into the machinery.
“I am George, King of the hamsters,” appeared on the console screen. “Give us access to space,” was the next message.

I was confused, first of all: Who in the name of Steel would create a hamster-thought translation helmet, without considering the dangers. Second: Why?
“Do you understand me?” I asked.
“Yes.”

“Okay then, what is your purpose with this whole operation? You should know that Rocketship 1 doesn’t even have a rocket engine yet, it’s just a mock-up so the hangar doesn’t look empty.”

“Really?”
“Yes.”
“Oh…”

The hamster looked disappointed, I petted King George of the hamsters to console him a bit.
“Could we come to a compromise?” appeared on the screen after a long pause.
“Maybe, what would you like to suggest?”
“Access to space, once a rocket is built.”
“Just once a rocket is built? You could take part in the testing process before that…”

The hamster seemed excited with my last remark, maybe he shouldn’t be because testing can mean a lot of things…

After some nose twitching and me offering him a treat, the hamster agreed. Hamster king George squeaked a few times in the intercom microphone, and the hamsters began retreating back to wherever they hide. “Bye” said George. And he took off the helmet and scurried after the rest.

I ordered the bots to clear up the mess the hamsters left, and after repairing the main entrance console I went back to the pile of paperwork waiting at my desk.