All this week the team at Elite: Dangerous are running a speed docking contest. Simply fling your starship at the nearest spaceport, record it on YouTube, and earn the adulation of other pilots both in-game and out. You can find the rules here. The deadline for posting is Friday, 11:00 am Eastern.
One of the more thrilling things you can do in Elite is, oddly enough, dock your ship. With a game world that already spans more than 500 star systems, the side effect is an awful lot of empty space to fly through. That changes when you get close to a populated system where starports are common.
Elite's starports aren't just intergalactic drive-ins. They're kilometers-long cities populated by thousands of people. Each one has been placed in orbit around a given celestial body, while the station itself is spinning on an axis in order to create artificial gravity for its residents. Docking, therefore, is essentially trying to land one bullet inside of another.
The rules of this week's speed docking contest are simple. Start 5 kilometers from a station, facing away from it, turn and burn on in. The best times right now are around 40 seconds, including this 43-second run from John Virgo, a.k.a. Kerrash.
But think for a moment about the scale of this. From five kilometers away you're accelerating a ship that's about the size of 10 minivans to a speed of 230 meters per second. You're hurtling through space towards a man-made structure that's a kilometer wide on each side, aiming for the docking port that's around 190 meters wide and 60 meters tall.
This is a contest with very little room for error. As such, the developer Frontier will not be held liable for in-game losses.
We cannot be held responsible for any damaged ship parts as a result of this competition!— Elite Dangerous (@EliteDangerous) October 20, 2014
Crazy as it is, speed docking is nothing compared to the Isinona maneuver, where smugglers fling themselves towards a docking port from 10 kilometers away and then turn everything in their ship off and try to land, unobserved. Skip ahead to 7:40 in the video below to see it in action.