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Thousands perish in Elite Dangerous expedition, but survivors reach the edge of the galaxy

The great unknown is now a bit more known

Whoa. I was too distracted during the disgusting month of E3 to pay attention to what really matters: the space news. The Elite Dangerous expedition which saw 13,000 players set out to cross the galaxy in a long trip has finally ended after six months. Just over one quarter of those explorers touched down at Beagle Point last month, which is practically the furthest you can get from our own blazing sunball without leaving the known galaxy. A total of 3747 pilots made it, according to the organisers of the giganto-journey. However, this is a bittersweet moment, because thousands of other players bit the spacedust along the way.

Yes, I know Elite players respawn. But in this case players respawn ages away. Dying during a big explorathon in Elite means losing all your pricey exploration data, not to mention weeks and sometimes months of progress to the destination. It’s bad, which is probably why most pilots who died along the way to Beagle Point gave up the dream. 3000 players seemed to give up that dream willingly in the lonely expanse, self-destructing their vessels mid-journey, according to statistics compiled by Commander Qohen Leth.

On top of that, an estimated 2700 players crashed somewhere along the way. We already know many ships succumbed to high-gravity at one planetary body during the beginning of the journey. But it looks like many others fell to the heavy shackles of physics at some point. Interestingly, 620 of the pilots who crashed were not fazed. They simply woke up back at their last space station, clambered into another ship and set off to complete the journey, finally landing at Beagle Point. Brave and patient souls, I salute ye. However, not all who did not reach the finishing mark died. Some of them may still be out there, suspended in space thanks to being logged-out. Others turned back part-way through the trip.

That stats page is good for a perusal. There are some fun infographics with spaceship facts. Did you know: if you laid out all the ships that went on this expedition, it would cover the whole land mass of Portugal? Cool. There’s also a list of the most-used ship names, including “Discovery”, “Aurora” and “Serenity”. It is unknown how many of the 16 ships called “Icarus” survived the journey.

There’s also a big table breaking down the survival rate by ship. Look closely and you’ll see that 66 brave souls set off in a Sidewinder, the game’s tiny starter ship. Which is very brave, considering that ship cannot strap many useful tools to itself. Only six of those plucky rustbuckets made it to the end of the expedition. But man, that even one survived is impressive. Good work, Sidey pilots.

Regardless of the massive losses, the expeditionary flotilla did achieve their goals. Not only did a quarter of the explorers make it to the end, many more helped to build a starport in the centre of the galaxy. They created it in the system of Sagittarius A* basically next to a supermassive black hole (well, the developers zapped in a skeleton of the station and the players gathered the materials to “finish” it). The station is called Explorer’s Anchorage, and it’s now there for any future space tourists making the long trip to see the big light-lacker in the middle of the Milky Way.

There was plenty of other trouble during the mega-trip. The Fuel Rats (a well-known group of players who rescue stranded pilots that run out of space-petrol) estimate they rescued 166 players on the journey. “Which is very very very low for such a massive fleet over such a long time.”

We’ll soon have more on this expedition’s last days from our own roving spacesplorer Corey Milne, who fought both gravity and the law to follow the flotilla. How will it end for him? You’ll see in his final eye-witness diary.

*The asterisk in Sagittarius A* is not mine, but did you know it is pronounced "Sagittarius A-star"? Astronomy is neat.

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Brendan Caldwell avatar

Brendan Caldwell

Former Features Editor

Brendan likes all types of games. To him there is wisdom in Crusader Kings 2, valour in Dark Souls, and tragicomedy in Nidhogg.