Let’s Light This Candle!
I loved Scott Glenn’s portrayal in The Right Stuff of Alan Shepard, the Navy pilot selected to make the first flight on May 5th, 1961. Anyone remember a very confused Werner von Braun telling Shepard to pee in his flight suit after confronted with the possibility of having to go get a plug wrench and pry him out, scrubbing the whole launch?
In honor of that brave test of flight suit durability, I selected a sub-orbital flight for my first effort, like Shepard’s. Following the friendly suggestion of the included documentation to try things on the ‘Easy’ settings, I set up a flight using only a keyboard and mouse for a controller after my mishap with the X45.
When in the ‘Easy” setting, you can run the simulated launch and never touch the controls from liftoff to splashdown. Great for just studying what the flight is all about, but not too fun in the sense that you don’t do anything. It’s what I’d call the ‘von Braun’ mode, since the esteemed German scientist didn’t even want his human ‘spessimens’ (you’d have to see the movie) even laying a finger on anything that might affect the capsule in flight. Neither will you in this mode.
‘Spam In A Can’
So I ramped it up, selecting another sub-orbital flight, only this time on the ‘Average’ difficulty setting. I used the Sub-Orbital Flight checklist and played ‘Find the Switch’ that so many users of Falcon 4.0 are used to doing. The computer handled the flight itself and I began to feel like the original passengers on these machines were…passengers. They monitored, rather than flew, the spacecraft. The feeling of which, Wings Of Mercury recreates very well.
The Mission Checklist provides a step-by-step index of what your instruments should look like and should be doing. It appeared that the only time I was to step in and take manual control was when things didn’t look kosher. The one fatal mishap I had was the mission where my joystick was my primary controller. Everything was fine after I went back to the keyboard and mouse. This may be a problem with my rig alone, as I’m not sure what other beta testers have reported.
The biggest obstacle here is that this will not be very exciting to people who aren’t dedicated to high-fidelity space flight. It will be very tedious and not very ‘fun’ to sit for three hours and just do attitude control. I hope that the modding community will be able to model the Orbiter so that I can break the SALT 2 accords with some tactical warheads in orbit, otherwise this will put you to sleep.