Apr 01 2015

BASPM Gemini-DA Minimum Launch Schedule

This is part of a series of posts about the game Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager, which I am playing on iOS. In previous installments, I worked out a sequence which would give the minimum number of launches to land on the moon with no equipment penalties for the Apollo, and the Gemini-EOR lunar programs. This post covers the Gemini Direct Ascent program.

The minimum 10 launches appear to be:

1. Gemini Uncrewed Suborbital Flight Test (Suborb 3851)
2. Gemini Suborbital Flight* (Suborb-HR 3851)
3. Gemini Orbital Flight (LEO-HR 3851)
4. Gemini Spacewalk (Duration Level I) (LEO-HR 3866)**
4. Gemini-DA-Earth Orbit Tests Uncrewed Gemini-DA configuration test (LEO 45851)
4.5. Gemini-DA-Lunar Uncrewed Lunar Flyby (TLI 45851)
5. Gemini-DA-Lunar Uncrewed Lunar Orbital (TLI 45851)
5. Gemini-DA-Lunar Circumlunar Flight (TLI-HR 45851)
6. Gemini-DA-Lunar Lunar Orbital Flight (TLI-HR 45821)
7. Gemin-DA-Lunar Lunar Landing (Direct Ascent) (TLI-HR 46033)

Both the crewed and uncrewed lunar flights will require the Saturn 5 (see the rockets post).

If the number is the same, the flights can be flown in either order (ie, neither flight numbered 5 is dependent on the other). I numbered the uncrewed Lunar Flyby as 4.5 because it must fly after the uncrewed configuration test, but is not dependent on the Spacewalk.

*- Flight 2 here is uncessesary if you already got man in space with Mercury (or PKA or Vostok in a GSA campaign)

**- There is no orbit duration I flight in project Gemini which does not involve an EVA. The object of this flight is Extended Duration I, not EVA, as there never is an equipment penalty attached to the EVA suit on this line of missions. The spacewalk could be deleted if you do the Mercury Extended Duration I flight.

The spreadsheet with the dependencies can be found here.

Mar 31 2015

BASPM Research and Rockets

I’m sure there’s a wiki for Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager somewhere, but I’ve been having fun putting together information to help me play.


I started a NASA game, built the VAB, and then advanced two turns so I could record the rocket information in a spreadsheet. As it turned out, I couldn’t record program opening cost for programs my VAB can’t support, so each time I hit “Program Cannot Be Opened” I upgraded the VAB further. Then I repeated the process with the Soviet program. My spreadsheet is here . If playing a GSA campaing, sort by VAB level to see what’s available to you, otherwise sort by program and then VAB.

I’ve been curious for a while what the best way to approach development is. To investigate this, I started a game on “Buzz-Hard”, built the VAB, and then advanced 2 turns so it would be complete. Then I opened the Jupiter-C, Juno II, and Thor-Able programs. I assigned the best 4 rocket scientists from my starting 5 to each rocket, took a screen shot, then removed them and put them on the next rocket.

As you can see, with the same 4 scientists, and all rockets opened on the same turn, the projected improvements are:
Jupiter-C: 24.6%
Juno-II: 20.2%
Thor-Able: 12.1%

There must be some type of research point system going on under the hood…

In the two NASA campaigns I’ve done, I try to launch explorer using Juno-II, which can also launch Pioneer-4 (a lunar flyby). It may make more sense to use Jupiter-C for explorer and then research Thor-Able, which can also launch Pioneer 2 (lunar orbiter).

Sattelites and Probes:

After the rockets, I did the same for the Sattelite and probe programs. I then estimated what the smallest/earliest rocket which could pursue each sattelite would be. That spreadsheet is here (same spreadsheet as the rockets, different tab). I need to actually be able to open the program to see the opening (the costs shown on the menu are always incorrect, sometimes by a factor of 10 or more), so program opening costs are not included. The interesting thing for me, is that many of the long distance probes need Atlas-Centaur, which I’ve almost always skipped.

Research with Crewed Vehicles

I really don’t know how the programs link together… so I started a new “Buzz-Hard” campaign as NASA. I then immediately saved my game, so that the starting scientists would stay constant.

I opened X-15 opened at the start. X-15 has 3% starting reliability, and with these 4 scientists projects a 31% improvement. Then I reloaded, but opened Mercury instead. Mercury has 3% starting reliability and projects a 15.7% improvement with the same 4 scientists.Then I reloaded again, opened the X-15, and let it build up to 80% reliability.


At which point I closed X-15 and opened Mercury…

Mercury now starts at 11.6% reliability, and projects a 14.5% improvement. This suggests to me that there is some flow through between programs, but it may not be very large….

Mar 31 2015

BASPM Gemini-EOR Minimum Launch Schedule

This is part of a series of posts with planning information for the game Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager, which I’m playing on iOS.

I’m currently playing a NASA campaign, on the “Buzz-Hard” difficulty level. I had originally intended to follow my Apollo minimum launches roadmap, but I’ve been beaten to several goals by the Soviets. I’m switching my planning over to the Gemini-EOR program for my lunar landing, but have never really analyzed it.

The spreadsheet is located here.

Like the Apollo roadmap, I started by looking at the Gemini-EOR Lunar Landing mission and recording the penalties. Then I worked backward to find missions which would remove the equipment penalties. That should leave me with the minimum number of launches I’d need to make to use Gemini-EOR to reach the moon. Of course, in actual play it may be advantageous to accept small penalties in order to skip certain launches.

This path assumes using the projects:
Gemini (basic project)
Gemini EOR test flights in Earth Orbit
Gemini EOR (lunar program)

Flights with the same number could be done in any order.

1.Gemini uncrewed suborbital flight test (Gemini) (Suborb 3851)
2.Gemini uncrewed orbital flight test (Gemini) (LEO 3851)
3.Gemini orbital flight (Gemini) (LEO-HR 3866)
4.Spacewalk (Duration I) (Gemini) (LEO-HR 3866)
5.Circumlunar flight (Gemini EOR Lunar) (LEO 10637, LEO-HR 13946)
5.Gemini Lander test in LEO (Gemini EOR test flights in earth orbit) (LEO-HR 18393)
6.Lunar orbital flight (Gemini EOR Lunar) (LEO 10637, LEO-HR 13946)
7.Langley Light Lunar Lander test in Lunar Orbit (Gemini EOR Lunar) (LEO 10637, LEO-HR 18393)
8.Lunar Landing EOR and LOR (Gemini EOR Lunar) (LEO 10637, LEO-HR 18393)

That’s a total of 9 flights, vs 10 for Apollo. You do still need to get Man in space, which could be done either from the suborbital Gemini mission (adding 1 flight), or the manned suborbital Mercury mission (adding 2). It really surprises me that there appear to be no dependencies for docking, rendesvous, etc. They may be hidden of course… One nice aspect of this set of missions is that everything up to 4 can be done with Titan-II, (Suborb could be done with Atlas or anything that follows Atlas). The later launches could be done with Titan IIIC and the human rated version of the Saturn 1B, no need to use Saturn 5 or C3-B.

With this line of launches, the circumlunar Gemini is unattractive, because it has a 20% equipment penalty on the Gemini transtage for not doing an uncrewed lunar flyby, adding a flight. Lunar orbital Gemini has a 5% penalty on the lunar propulsion module if you don’t do a uncrewed lunar flyby before doing a manned lunar flyby, and a 7% penalty if you use Lunar orbital Gemini for your manned lunar orbit without doing an uncrewed lunar orbital test, potentially adding 2 flights.

I’m starting to wonder whether anyone mapped out the dependencies between missions while the game was developed.

Mar 31 2015

BASPM Apollo Lunar Landing Minimum Launch Schedule

This is part of a series of posts about Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager, a game I’ve been playing on my iPad.

I decided to determine a minimum launch schedule, right from the start in 1955 which would lead to landing Project Apollo on the moon. It will of course be necessary to launch more rockets in order to get enough prestige to have the budget to do the later missions. Having a path mapped out from the beginning should reduce the flailing about I sometimes do when deciding which mission to run.

I started by looking at the Apollo Lunar Landing mission (in 1955) and recording what the equipment penalties are. One thing to note, the CSM has -70% in equipment penalties, but the penalties shown only add up to 65%, so there’s a hidden 5% I’m not seeing there. (Probably for uncrewed lunar orbital flight?). I recorded everything in a spreadsheet, available here.

There are some strange dependencies… for example, the Project Apollo Orbital Flight [Type C] has serious penalties for not having already achieved Man in Space and Project Apollo Uncrewed Orbital Flight Test. However, The Lunar Module Test in Low Earth Orbit with EVA [Type D] mission only has penalties for the lunar lander, but takes no penalties for not having Man in Space, Spacewalk, Orbital Flight, Uncrewed orbital flight, etc. Thus, that mission makes sense as the entry point for the Apollo program, eliminating two uncrewed flights and a manned flight.
Actually … that has to be a data entry oversight, either on the mission or just on the planning screen display. I’m treating the mission as if it were dependent on Project Apollo Orbital Flight..

Minimum Apollo launches (for no equipment penalty) then appears to be 10. Missions with the same number have no shared equipment dependencies, and could be launched in any order. Rocket Requirement in Parentheses

1. Apollo Uncrewed Suborbital Flight Test (Suborb 30329)
1. Apollo Uncrewed lunar lander test in Earth Orbit (LEO 14696)
2. Apollo Uncrewed lunar flyby test (TLI 30329)
2. Apollo Uncrewed orbital flight test (LEO 18500)
3. Apollo Orbital Flight [Type C] (LEO-HR 18500)
4. Apollo Lunar Module Test in Low Earth Orbit with EVA (LEO-HR 33287)
5. Apollo Circumlunar Flight (TLI-HR 30329)
6. Apollo Lunar Orbital Flight (TLI-HR 30329)
7. Apollo Lunar Module Test in Lunar Orbit (TLI-HR 45025)
8. Apollo Lunar Landing (LOR) [Type G and H] (TLI-HR 45207)

That leaves an unfilled requirement for Man in Space, which puts a fairly hefty penalty on the Apollo CSM during the Apollo Orbital Flight. Man in space can be filled by either Gemini or Mercury:


1. Uncrewed suborbital flight test (Suborb 1355)
2. Suborbital flight (Suborb-HR 1355)


1. Uncrewed suborbital flight test (Suborb 3851)
2. Suborbital flight (Suborb-HR 3851)

Mercury of course, would be cheaper to open and to fly. However, what’s really interesting is that at no point is there a penalty for not having done a spacewalk, docking, rendezvous, high-speed heat shield test, or any of the many other goals which are available. In fact, you could reach the moon having never put a robotic satellite into orbit! However, flying the minimum missions would not get the player much prestige, which would mean you would have to deal with very small budgets and would not be able to open the Apollo program until fairly late. That leaves plenty of flexibility to launch additional missions based on how a specific play through is going.

Mar 31 2015

BASPM Soviet playthrough on ‘Hard’ difficulty level

This is an AAR of a playthrough of Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager. I played iOS version 1.4.16 (March 16, 2015). This page consists of notes I took while I was playing, followed by a few concluding thoughts. This was a Soviet campaign playthrough, on “Hard” difficulty level.

I don’t claim to be an expert at the game, so if I did anything egregiously wrong strategywise, feel free to let me know. Because this is a very long post, with many images I’ll place it behind the “read more tag”. Click the read more or the post title to view. Click on images to view them larger.

Read more »

Sep 17 2011

Point of Origin

courtesy WikiCommons

One issue I’ve always had when writing games is that I’ll need multiple coordinate systems for one reason or another, and if I don’t keep good notes I’ll lose track of how they relate to each other. In the real world, coordinate systems get defined by surveyors which are used to describe the area they are measuring.  Cartographers take these surveyor measurements and combine them to draw their maps. In order to do this, markers are set out to be used as points of reference.

Since this site gets a handful of foreign visitors, a quick history review… In 1803, Thomas Jefferson negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, in which the U.S. bought a large portion of what is now the U.S.A from France. This is all of the land in the green shaded area to the right.  I personally had not realized that it encompassed part of Canada… apparently in 1818 we gave up our claim to the portion north of the 49th parallel in exchange for Great Britain giving up their claim to the Red River basin. Anyway, the territory had never been very extensively explored which is why the U.S. government sent several expeditions westward to find out what we had bought. The most famous of these was the Lewis and Clark expeditions, but the Pike expedition and a couple others were launched at about the same time for the same reason.

These general exploratory missions were not designed to map the territory however. So in 1815, when after the War of 1812 the U.S. considered granting land to veterans from that war in exchange for their service, the Robbins-Brown survey was commissioned.  Property deeds are worthless unless everyone can agree on where the property being described is located.

Robbins and Brown established the the fifth principal meridian (91 degrees, 3 minutes, 42 seconds West of Greenwhich), and drew an east-west line from the mouth of the Arkansas River. The origin (intersection of the east-west line and the north south-line) of their coordinate system (apparently called an initial point by surveyors) became the reference point for plat maps (official maps which define the boundaries of parcels of land) throughout the western states.

Marker, Louisiana Purchase State Park, Arkansas

The initial point also happens to be located in a swamp.

Although they had noted that two trees were growing at the intersection, and had made marks on trees, the initial surveying parties didn’t leave any type of permanent marker on the point itself. In 1921, surveyors found marks on trees in the swamp left by the original surveyors and identified the two gum trees (‘witness trees’) that had been noted as present at the intersection by the original surveying team. In 1924 the Daughters of the American Revolution put a stone marker at the site, and eventually the swamp was turned into a park by the State of Arkansas.

Boardwark into swamp

I visited the park today, which is about an hour and a half from where I live. I’d previously been to Toltec Mounds [Arkansas] State Park, which has a small museum, exhibits, walking paths, etc… This park has just a very small parking lot, an outhouse building and a wide boardwalk into the swamp which is probably about 300 yards long (round trip approx 1/3 mile). Panels approximately every 50 yards give information on the Louisiana Purchase, and about the swamp.

The swamp is a headwater swamp as opposed to a tailwater swamp- the famous swamps near coasts tend to be tailwater swamps. Headwater swamps have less variation in their water level over the course of the year… although the very visible water mark on the stone marker proves there is some change! These swamps were common in eastern Arkansas, but have mostly been drained and the land given over to agriculture. Since I was the only visitor (a couple from Tennessee arrived as I was leaving) I could hear the swamp wildlife moving about as I ambled down the boardwalk. I didn’t stay very long though, having not thought to bring bug repellent. (It’s still more or less summer here.) I did see a fairly large snake, but he slithered off before I could get a picture.

My coordinate systems may be buggy, but the bugs don’t actually bite and I’m fairly certain there are no snakes! :)


Sep 17 2011

Question for my readers

All 4 of you, that is. :)

Since I’ve moved, my interests have drifted away from flash games for the web. I’m thinking of broadening what software I write (e.g. Graphical Daylight), and what I write about (e.g. timelapse post). I’ve been thinking of reorganizing this site, so that it would be a showcase of software I’ve written (similar to say, the Positech front page) and moving my blog to a subdomain (blog.nightflyergames.com) or moving my blog to a new site altogether (WordPress or Blogger) and restructuring this site.

Needless to say, this will probably break every inbound link, and it would take me some hours to accomplish. I don’t need to have a professional flash game developer style site because I’m a hobbyist, and what I have is fine for what I’m trying to accomplish- even if it looks unfocused and amateurish. I am after all an amateur.

The benefit would be that 5 years from now, nobody would end up here by following a ‘programmed by’ link from a game I’d written and wonder why I’m talking about the nutritional requirements of fish larvae. And fish larvae people wouldn’t arrive wondering why they’re reading something on a website about video games. (Fish larvae is a made up topic).

I won’t be bound by the results, but I’ve made a poll because I can’t really decide what to do:

Sep 05 2011

Graphical Daylight now available for the BlackBerry Playbook

Graphical Daylight, mentioned for the first time a few hours ago, is now available for the BlackBerry Playbook. You can get it from the BlackBerry AppWorld.

This app generates a daylight map for the current date/time. That’s… pretty much all it does. :)

– User can define darkness as starting at sunset or civil, nautical, or astronomical twilight
– 4 user configurable clocks which can display either a city’s time or a timezone
– Clocks retain your settings from session to session
– Places a marker on the map when a city is selected
– 195 major cities to choose from (and we will add more when we update if people request them!)
– 179 timezones to choose from
– Free, no ads, doesn’t talk to a server


Click on a thumbnail to enlarge.

Time from submission to approval was just under 9 hours.

Sep 05 2011


One issue I ran into on my drive from Alaska to Arkansas, was that I consistently overestimated how late the sun would stay up. Particularly in Alaska, the Yukon Territory and British Columbia, I didn’t want to drive at night due to the prevalence of large animals on the roadways. Although my computer was packed up, I used both my Playbook and my iPod during the drive- and I wished I had a daylight map similar to what gets produced by this java(?) app from the Naval Observatory. (Although, I wanted a local app that would update in near real time and did not care about historical or future daylight maps). Apps that do this exist for iOS, but I didn’t want to input my iTunes password while on hotel WiFi. I looked for an app in the BlackBerry AppWorld also, but didn’t see one.

Since arriving in Arkansas, I’ve had plenty of time on my hands during the weekends (it’s been way too hot to head into the great outdoors). Getting a daylight map generator hasn’t been a priority, so I never downloaded one of the apps from iTunes. In any case, this was an application more suited to a tablet than my iPod. So I spent about 46 hours over the past two weekends writing an app for the playbook.

The app assigns a lat/long to each pixel, and then for each pixel calculates the sun’s altitude relative to the horizon in degrees. Then it darkens the pixels where the sun is below a user selectable altitude (e.g Sunset = 0 deg, Civil twilight = -6 deg, etc). Scaled-down development screenshot below:

Click to view full size

This was a relatively straight forward project, and I’m generally happy with it. I titled it Graphical Daylight. Thinking I’d release it to the wild as a free app, after code signing, I started the process of uploading it to RIM for approval and inclusion into the AppWorld.

At which point, while choosing a category for my app,  I found out that Livingstone Services had released ‘Daylight’ on April 26,2011 which does more or less the same thing. (After looking at theirs, mine is a bit more feature rich.) This timeframe suggests that theirs was an app written to get a free Playbook when RIM was running their developer promotion prior to the release, I haven’t found a website for a developer called Livingstone Services. I’m releasing mine anyway (well, assuming it goes through QA I am).  And I’m putting mine in ‘Utilities->Clocks’ where it belongs, instead of ‘Maps and Navigation->Maps and Navigation’ (where, to be honest, it also belongs).  Grrr… 46 hours wasted…

I’ll put a note up here after the Graphical Daylight passes QA and is available in the AppWorld. It’s now available free on the BlackBerry AppWorld.

Aug 17 2011

Alaska to Arkansas at 37,000 mph

I recently moved from Anchorage, AK to Pine Bluff, AR. During the trip I had a Canon A590is mounted on a small tripod taped to my dashboard, running CHDK and a timelapse script shooting one frame every 30 seconds. You’ll see the changes in brightness where I adjusted camera settings, but because I was primarily driving I wasn’t able to continuously monitor them. In fact, at the end the available light goes almost completely away.

Anyway, here it is:



I shot the pictures at 640×480 because of storage space concerns (I probably could have gone bigger). As a result full screen is not really recommended.

** Edit: Actually, I’m a little disappointed, I shot 640×480 but YouTube converted to 425×349. It really does look much better at 640×480. If anyone knows a (free) video hosting service which will allow a 640×480 upload, please let me know in the comments.

The camera took approximately 10,300 pictures. With Windows Movie Maker (really) I turned these into a slideshow running at 25 frames per second and added the soundtrack and subtitles. I had also taken approximately 100 photos with my iPod which I had intended to inset into the film. However I was disappointed with the iPod picture quality when I finally got to see them on my computer, so I decided to let the film stand by itself. Those pictures are available here.  I’ll link to the individual timelapse frames once they finish uploading. (Sometime Thursday is my best guess) The individual pictures which make up the timelapse video can be seen here.

I had additionally considered adding commentary with the subtitles, such as “Only Rude People in Canada” for Yorkton, SK or “Saskatoon Shines!” for Saskatoon, SK (the visitor center lady there gave me a pin which says that) but eventually decided against. Not every area of interest is subtitled.

By complete happen chance, the video runs to the same length as the combined length of three of my favorite instrumental pieces. Soundtrack used under CC 3.0-BY-NC-SA, all music was composed by HalcyonicFalconX
“The Trek”
“Traverse the Woods”
“Following your Star”

Here’s a graph which more or less speaks for itself:

By my odometer, the trip was 4196 miles long. I used 121.9 gallons of gas. (34.4 mpg) The mean price per gallon was US$4.50, the highest priced gas I bought was at Toad River Lodge, BC (US$6.06) and the least expensive was Clarksville, AR (US$3.36) although it’s actually US$3.31 down the street from my new apartment. (Assuming US$1.02 = CAN$1, which I think is correct for the trip time frame)

I actually took about 20 pages of notes during the trip, but I can’t seem to find a coherent narrative in them. If I do, I’ll post a longer text article about the drive.