February 20th, 2006

krazy koati

The Friendship 7 rattled and shook

Well, this is nice. I picked up a magazine called Mac Format, a really oversized thing with a pair of CDs included in jewel cases that, it turned out, were taped maybe too much to the magazine, and one of which was broken so it was less a CD case and more an impromptu razor.

But on the disc in the razor blade case was version 3.0 of A-OK! The Wings of Mercury. This is one of those awesome little projects of a lone, determined, slightly insane person, who decided to build his own exact, switch-for-switch replica of the Mercury capsule. I had a copy of this nearly a decade ago, and it's quite the ride. You can play on the 15-minute Redstone or the five-hour three-orbit Atlas flight (or start at various interesting times inside the Atlas flight). There are some problems created by trying to imitate all four billion switches of the Mercury capsule through a computer's interface, but fewer than you might think. It's pretty straightforward.

This version is an upgrade on what I had years ago and includes the setup for multiplayer mode, with somebody as the astronaut, somebody as mission control, other people for various stations, and so on. I hope I sometime get an uninterrupted block of five hours or so to do some orbital missions, since they do offer so many interesting experiments, like balloon-spotting. The game still shows a few quirks of its shoestring operation beginning, such as some sort of programming glitch that causes the final parachute descent to slow the simulation to where one second of game time takes three or four seconds of real time(!), or there being easy ways to open up windows zooming in on button panels, but no way to close them. It's still an incredible project.

Trivia: John Glenn lost five pounds, five ounces of weight during his Mercury flight. Source: This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury, Loyd S Swenson Jr, James M Grimwood, Charles C Alexander. NASA SP-4201.

Currently Reading: Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, by Edwin G Burrows, Mike Wallace.