So, I decided to attempt a Mun landing.
I altered my lander’s orbit to hit Mun’s surface. I did a quicksave, since I knew this was not going to go right the first time.
As my lander flew lower and lower, the thought came to me: “I don’t really know how to land this thing.”
I’d done plenty of parachute landings on Kerbin, but this was not Kerbin and there was no parachute. I remembered seeing something about lowering the descent speed, and I tried that with the lander’s rocket.
My lander touched down on the surface of Mun – and made pretty fireworks as parts broke off, bounced, and exploded.
I went back to the quicksave, exited the game, and did some research. I learned about eliminating the horizontal velocity. The lander has to descend straight down, rather than flying over the Mun’s surface, like in my first attempt.
I started the game again. I aimed my lander straight into the top of the navball. But I couldn’t get the lander to stop moving horizontally. The thought came to me: “This might be easier with an RCS system.” But I hadn’t built the lander with RCS thrusters. I’d have to make do with the lander’s rocket.
I restored the quicksave when it became obvious that I was heading toward another crash.
The third attempt was better than the first: The lander bounced twice before exploding.
I was missing some detail about the process of landing.
I shut the game down and did more research.
I learned about lining up the periapsis with the top of the navball. (That’s the detail I’d been missing.) I also heard the opinion that a controlled landing is the most difficult thing to do in Kerbal Space Program. (I believe it.)
(It occurred to me, just now, that I should be giving these fine teachers their due credit. I’m going to go back and edit this post, and previous posts, and add footnotes. Phillip, who doesn’t play Kerbal Space Program and yet got me hooked on it, made a comment recently that he imagines it’s a game played by only about 2,000 people, but those 2,000 people are extremely devoted to it. I think he’s right. I’ve never played a computer game before in which I’ve relied so heavily on fan-created YouTube tutorials.)
So I decided that I’d put the Mun landing aside until I gained some more knowledge. But, I decided, I’d better put my lander back into a stable orbit, so it doesn’t crash while I’m conducting other experiments.
I started up the game. Previously, it said I had 8 flights in progress. Now it said I had only 7.
I realized that I had shut down the game right after the third crash landing, instead of restoring the quicksave and then shutting it down. My lander was gone.
But, after some thinking, I saw it as an opportunity.
I went back to the Vehicle Assembly Building and resurrected my lander ship. I added RCS thrusters to the lander. (I’m going to have to practice using RCS thrusters.) I added more thrust to the first stage, hoping to avoid the orbital problems I had the first time. (It worked.)
My lander, attached to the second stage, it now orbiting Kerbin with a nice, equatorial, mostly circular orbit. The second stage has plenty of fuel left for its journey to Mun. Then I’ll leave the lander in orbit around Mun for a while.