Alien Planet starts out with an interstellar spacecraft named Von Braun, leaving Earth's orbit. Traveling at 20% the speed of light (37,000 miles/s), it reaches Darwin IV in 42 years. Upon reaching orbit, it deploys the Darwin Reconnaissance Orbiter, which looks for potential landing sites for the probes. The first probe, Balboa, explodes along with its lifting body transport during entry, because one of its wings failed to unfold. Two backup probes, Leonardo da Vinci (nicknamed Leo) and Isaac Newton (nicknamed Ike), successfully land on the planet, and learn much about its bizarre indigenous lifeforms, including an apparently sapient species.
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