After a two and a half year delay, Boeing’s Starliner capsule launches with the International Space Station. It was an important milestone for a company that, at least in the popular imagination, . So it’s fitting how Boeing decided to celebrate a successful mission.
When the ISS crew opened the hatch to Starliner, they found a surprise inside the spacecraft. Floating beside Orbital Flight Test-2’s seated test dummy was a stuffed animal depicting Jebediah Kerman, one of four original “Kerbonauts” featured in it Kerbal space program. Jeb, as he is better known among the KSP Community, served as the flight’s zero-g indicator. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin took a small doll with him on the first-ever human spaceflight, and since then it has become a tradition for most space crews to carry stuffed animals so they can easily see when they have entered a microgravity environment.
If you have ever played Kerbal space program, you have a sense of why it was so fitting that Boeing decided to send Jeb into space. In KSP, designing spacecraft that will launch your Kerbonauts into orbit and beyond is no easy task. Often your original designs as they struggle to break free of Kerbin’s gravity. But you go back to the drawing board and tweak your designs until you find one that works. In a way, Boeing engineers had to do just that after Starliner’s first test flight in 2019 failed due to one and its second was delayed after one.
Boeing kept Jeb’s presence on OFT-2 a secret until the spacecraft docked with the ISS. A spokesman for the company said that the Starliner engineering team chose the mascot in part for the science, engineering, engineering, and math instruction KSP must teach the players. Jeb will spend the next few days with the ISS crew before they put him back on the spacecraft for the return trip to Earth.
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