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martincmartin

Most efficient way to gather science from multiple surface biomes?

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I've landed successfully on both Mun and Minmus.  Yay!  Now, I want to get as much science as possible from the different surface biomes.  What's the most efficient way?  I could create a lander with a big gas tank that could "hop" from the first biome to a second and maybe even a third, letting me get 2 or 3 biomes per round trip.  I could attempt an Apollo style orbiter / lander separation, and dock with the orbiter between each surface expedition.  I could make a rover and, with luck, drive to 1 or 2 nearby biomes.  Or I could skip all that and just head to Duna. :)  What's the best way to progress in career mode?

In particular, I think I'd measure efficiency in science per hour of play time.  But am also interested in science per kerbin dollar.

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My usual approach is a small, light biome hopper, generally with about two tons of LFO aboard (smidgeon more for the Mun), and a medium-sized fuel tank left in orbit -- say, 16 tons.

The biome hopper is very efficient because it's not lugging the fuel for every biome to each biome. On Minmus, the lander can hit several biomes before refueling. On the Mun, it can hit two biomes on each sortie, as long as it lands reasonably close to a biome boundary.

One such mission can strip the Mun or Minmus pretty much dry of science in one round trip.

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For me, a large tank on a Minmus lander definitely is the way to go. For particular biomes  you'll need large inclination changes, costing relative (it IS Minmus, after all) large amounts of fuel. You might as well spend that fuel on hops. I get all biomes covered with two trips down to the surface.

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I say take a page out of NASA's book and send probes everywhere. Even with the transmission penalty on the science returns, a simple probe that lands and sends back data is fairly cheap per science return, and fairly quick for gameplay time because you can stagger them. So send one to Duna, and while it's on the way, build launch and send another to Eve. Then just time warp until one gets to its destination. 

It also gives you practice for sending things interplanetary without risking any kerbal's lives. And visiting other planets is a good way to break up the tedium of "landed on Mun, got science; landed somewhere else on Mun, got science" multiple times. 

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I use the scansat mod to scan biomes of any body I intend to land on and then select a landing site near multiple biomes.  You can usually land near the boundary of three biomes if you select your landing zone carefully.

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I put a scientist in a polar orbit first, to collect the "EVA in space low over biome X" science -- and also the "low and high over biome X" data for the gravioli detector, if I have that detector unlocked. I pretend that my scientist makes a map of all the biomes as they are taking this data -- then I turn on the "see biomes in map view" cheat and pretend that's the map the scientist made. Then I use a hopping lander to gather surface experiments. Usually I have a drill/ISRU making fuel somewhere on the surface while this is happening, so there is infinite fuel available for the hopper. A nuclear hopper on the Mun can easily hit two, and sometimes three biomes before needing a refueling. An ion supplemented one can always hit three.

On Minmus, an ion-supplemented hopper can easily hit every biome before it needs to be refueled.

Rovers take a really long time to get from biome to biome, and on the Mun they are usually really hard to drive around, too (it's hard to make a rover that will climb out of a steep crater!). I would recommend against trying a rover, although that was the first thing I ever tried, myself.

 

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The ultimate answer is of course a rover, since they use no fuel and can drive indefinitely, but they are difficult to construct and bringing one to your destination isn't easy.   On the other hand you could just pack a bit of extra fuel on your regular rocket based lander for biome hopping, the problem being that the required extra fuel is huge.   This is why i quite like my interplanetary space planes  - the landing gear allow you to taxi huge distances for less than a tenth of what a single vertical takeoff would cost.    Of course, if you actually have an atmosphere and can fly there, so much the better.

 

 

..you can see how little friction there is on Minmus - resulting in very good MPG across the surface.

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Single stage biome hopping works better on Minmus than the Mun, but you can really do it either way (single stage or multi-stage) on either body.  If you send a biome hopper with a rockomax 16 and a Terrier as the power section, you should have over 3,500 m/s of delta v on tap.  You can do a lot of hopping with that.  Put an Flt-200 and a Spark on top as the "get home" section and you should be good.

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 Even without looking up where biomes are or using a mod, on Minmus you can land at the edge of one of the flats and send a Kerbal using RCS to several biomes from there. That will just get you a surface sample and EVA report for each but it has a small d/v foot print and can be done early on in the tech tree.

If playing in contract mode though you will need the buildings upgraded for EVA and without EVA a hopper is the best route.

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Multiple cheap lander on Mun is the way to go - AVOID MINMUS it will only cause you pain

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How does Minmus cause pain? It's easier to land on and return from than the Mun. It's only a bit trickier to get there, until one's understanding of orbital mechanics increases some more...

That said, I did the "mass amount of cheap landers" thing once before, in .23.5. It was fun. Each lander clocked in at 3.2 tons while carrying all applicable science experiments in stock KSP and a Kerbal with life support, and had the ability to return itself to Kerbin safely. Each launch carried three, meaning that I could cover three biomes in less than 10 tons of payload to Mun orbit. Sadly it's not that easy anymore nowadays where you actually have reentry heating to worry about... :wink:

(mods used: RLA Stockalike, KW Rocketry, TAC Life Support.)

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Minmus encounters can easily cost 1200m/s dV if you don't launch into the right orbit. And getting EVA's back into craft on Minmus takes >10min sometimes

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I usually send some kind of refueling space station (half an orange tank) with a science lander (3000m/s - 6.5 tons) and a small return vehicle. For Mun, it's better to set the station in polar orbit and for Minmus, it doesn't matter much.

Then Land/Hop/Hop/refuel in low orbit and redo (you can do 2 more hops on Minmus.

In my current career, I hadn't unlocked every science experiment when I did the Mun. I explored 10 out or 13 biomes then unlocked all sciences. I did Minmus full striping. I redid the missing science experiment on the Mun with 2 low TWR ion drive probes (7500m/s, 750kg). Flying around a 1.2 TWR thing on the Mun is a very different experience than the regular lander (which has usually a 2.5+ TWR)

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avoid minmus? but its super easy to biome hope there....

Anyway... in terms of science per funds... if you had ludicrous amounts of patience and personal time... you could land a rover and visit every biome on mun/minmus(roving on minmus is a pain!)... it would be *a lot* of driving, but it would be the "cheapest" way to get all the science.

Orbital fuel depot: avoids the tyranny of the rocket equation... when you go visit a biome, you're not lugging around the fuel needed to vist another biome (plus the fuel needed to more that fuel... and so on). its perfecly reasonable to set up an orbital fuel depot with enough fuel for a lander to go grab every biome, refueling and depositing science up at the depot. This also allows storage of extra copies of the biome it visits (1 copy in the pod/crew cabins as normal, plus the extra in the science experiments that would otherwise be discarded at the next biome)

In contrast "a lander with a big gas tank that could 'hop' " is going to start hitting the limits of the rocket equation after a few biomes.

However, for the orbital depot.. while you avoid the waste of spending fuel to move fuel from biome to biome.. everytime you go down, you spend fuel, and every time you come back up, you spend fuel...

It comes down to optimizing the extra dV cost of going up and down from orbit each time, vs the added mass of moving around extra fuel.

it costs ~575 m/s to go down to the surface... and a little less to come up again. If your biome hop takes 200 m/s to get your trajectory to reach the new biome, it takes 200 m/s to stop there... you need another 400 m/s in your lander.. another 200/200 hop will nearly double your dV requirements (1950 vs 1150)... but you get 3 biomes, not 1.

assuming 345 isp, its a matter of how much fuel it takes to do 1150 m/s vs 1950 m/s... divide each by 9.81*345 =

ln (mass fraction) = 0.34 vs .58... ie dry mass * 1.44  vs 1.77  ... less than double the fuel (.44 vs .77) for 3x the biomes (use a scientist, otherwise extra goo and mat bays will plague you).

Put your craft in a polar orbit to avoid "large inclination changes". If you can land right on a biome border... rather than spending 400 m/s on a hop, you might spend 40... but there are few places where 3 biomes meet... and after getting a few biomes, it may be hard to get more than 1 without a costly hop (if you have to nearly get to orbit, then its costing you more fuel to do two hopes rather than a single biome with less fuel)... this is particularly true once you have the midlands and highlands... depending on what order you're going in.

If you're good at landing near biome borders, a rover-lander is great... but if you have midlands before you visit the southwestern crater.. for example... there's no relevant biome border to land at... and if you had gotten midlands craters and highlands before landing... there's no short hop to another biome anyway... a rover-lander would have a long way to drive.

I typically go with a lander capable of 2 biomes per trip to the surface... and when I planned a trip to the surface with not other biome nearby to hop to... I just reduced its fuel load (so I don't spend fuel uselessly moving fuel to the surface and back up again).

When possible, keep in mind Mun's rotation when choosing where to hop to if your depot is in a polar orbit, so you hope to stay under its orbit, not hoping away (the mun doesn't rotate so fast, so its not a huge deal)

On minmus, you can eva your kerbal ot the surface and back again... just getting a pod to orbitof minmus allows you to pretty much get EVA reports and surface samples of all the biomes thanks to the "free-refils" of the jetpacks, and the jetpacks capable of a dV of ~600 m/s

 

 

Edited by KerikBalm

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1 hour ago, OrbitalBuzzsaw said:

AVOID MINMUS it will only cause you pain

I would say, "go straight to Minmus, it's way easier."  Lower gravity, lower dV, much less challenging overall.

It does mean you need to have an idea of how to navigate using maneuver nodes-- I'd suggest waiting until you have nodes unlocked.  And if you're new to KSP and don't know how to find your way around, the Mun can be good target practice.  But seriously, Minmus is a lot easier to land, to take off, to design a ship, to pick a precise landing spot, to find a nice flat place to land.... better in every way, other than having a few degrees of orbital inclination.

47 minutes ago, OrbitalBuzzsaw said:

Minmus encounters can easily cost 1200m/s dV if you don't launch into the right orbit.

Well, any trip can cost a lot of dV if you do it wrong.  So don't do it wrong.  :)

Going from LKO to the Mun is 850 m/s for the initial burn.  Going from LKO to Minmus only takes an extra 100 m/s more for the initial burn; plus one additional inclination-correction burn en route, just a few dozen m/s, if you didn't take the trouble to launch into the right plane in the first place.  And then it's a lot cheaper to land and take off.  It more than pays off there, even if you're only landing and taking off once.  If you're doing it multiple times (e.g. biome-hopping), then it's enormously cheaper and easier.

47 minutes ago, OrbitalBuzzsaw said:

And getting EVA's back into craft on Minmus takes >10min sometimes

Not following you at all, there.  Are you talking about stepping out, doing the EVA thing on the surface, and climbing back into the ship?  It's quick and easy.  Just turn on your EVA thrusters and fly back to your ship.  Considerably easier than on the Mun, where flying is possible but requires much more concentration and faster reflexes, or else you just walk (which is slower than flying).

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32 minutes ago, Snark said:

Are you talking about stepping out, doing the EVA thing on the surface, and climbing back into the ship?  It's quick and easy.  Just turn on your EVA thrusters and fly back to your ship.  Considerably easier than on the Mun, where flying is possible but requires much more concentration and faster reflexes, or else you just walk (which is slower than flying).

The EVA Pack controls aren't sensitive enough.

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12 hours ago, martincmartin said:

In particular, I think I'd measure efficiency in science per hour of play time.  But am also interested in science per kerbin dollar.

Snarfing up science requires 3 related things.  First, you need to pack as many different experiments on your ship as possible, so it can get the most science possible from a single biome.  The 2nd is to hit a lot of biomes in quick succession, :"a lot" meaning 6 or more.  And finally, you need to get the from the ship to KSC as fast as possible so you can put it to use.  As an option, you can also play with the difficulty sliders when you start a new game, so that you get like 200% the normal amount of science.  But whether you do that or not, the 3 main things are what you focus on.

So, 1st off, maximizing experiments.  Stock gives you 9:  crew report, EVA report, surface sample, and the 6 stock instruments.  However, not all of these work in all places, some of them require expensive building upgrades, and some experiments are fairly far up the tech tree.  The result is that if you stay stock, you won't have all these available for much of the game, which slows down science acquisition.  The solution to that is to use mods like DMagic Orbital Science, which give you many new experiments early in the tech tree.  Also, many of these experiments can be transmitted for full value which goes into the speed factor discussed later.

Hitting many biomes quickly is only really possible at Kerbin, Minmus, and Mun.  These are the only planets with scads of biomes, the rest all having only a handful.  Of these 3, the best candidate is Minmus because it's small, which means most biomes are very close together, and it has little gravity so it's easy to get from one to the next.  Minmus has 9 surface biomes plus "space high above" and "space just above", all of which you can hit in a single trip by a lander with 3500m/s.  The "space just above" is special because some experiments can get separate "just above" results at every surface biome, while others can only do it once for the whole planet.

Mun and Kerbin have even more biomes.  However, Kerbin's don't pay very much and are time-consuming to visit in low-tech airplanes so I usually ignore them.  Mun has enough gravity that you can't hit many biomes per trip unless you refuel, which increases the time, cost, and complexity of the mission.  So pillage Minmus first, then use its science to unlock parts to make doing Mun and/or Kerbin easier.  Or skip them an head off to Duna.

As to returning science to KSC quickly, a clean sweep of Minmus takes about 30 days of gametime, nearly all of which is spent getting there an back.  With DMOS's extra experiments, this trip will bring back 3000-4000 science points with the default 100% return slider, and obviously more if you jack this up.  You can get to Mun and back in just a few days but you can't do much while there with low technology and small budgets.  Transmitting data saves you the time of having to bring it back, but with stock experiments, only crew reports and EVA reports can be transmitted at full value.  As mentioned above, however, many of the DMSO experiments can be transmitted at full value, however, so be sure to take advantage of that.

One other thing....  Biome-hopping requires access to a biome map so you know where to go.  The only way to see a biome map in stock is to use the Alt-F12 menu.  To get something that you can actually use in-game, and that you have to make yourself, use SCANsat.  Besides, making the map with SCANsat counts as a science experiment so you get a few hundred points for that as well.

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13 hours ago, martincmartin said:

...

In particular, I think I'd measure efficiency in science per hour of play time.  But am also interested in science per kerbin dollar.

if you want to unlock the tech tree in the least amount of real time, your best bet is probably to do a few trips to mun/minmus to get enough science to unlock the mobile processing lab. labs can churn out enormous amounts of research points within very little real time and very little manual input. just collect some data somewhere and get it to your lab for processing. boring but very "real time efficient"

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If you want to max out the tech tree efficiently then landing isn't the way to go. Better to fly-by the Mun, Minmus, Sun, Duna and Ike at low (except Sun) and high altitudes.

If you do want to do 5 biomes of the Mun or Minmus then here's one way...

czofZRI.jpg  

Edited by Foxster

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Firstly, if you don't have the ability to take surface samples unlocked, do it now. Like others have said, Minmus is easy pickin's. You can get over 2000 science without much effort. I recently sent a lander there that had 4 FL-T400 radially attached tanks feeding a single terrier and hit 5-6 biomes easily. For the Mun I do like @Snark said, keep some fuel in orbit so my hopper can head back to fill up- I also keep a MPL attached to the fueler to maximize science returns. Also, today I took a Minmus lander to my Mun station to drop off science at the MPL for further gains.

 

Quote

Minmus encounters can easily cost 1200m/s dV if you don't launch into the right orbit.

This is what the second stage is for- a medium 2.5m tank + Poodle will get you there easily, heck if you get lucky you can do your first landing on it!

Edited by Waxing_Kibbous

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I think the absolute most efficient way would be a rover or hopper equipped with the Mobile Processing Lab, and precision-land it at a biome junction then travel the short distance between each biomes. The massive amounts of bonus science from the MPL will help.

Also good is a base or space station with the Mobile Processing Lab, and use a lander to visit various biomes and take science results there to convert into massive amounts of bonus science.

Also good is to land at a biome junction even if you don't have the MPL.

Also good is to send probes with the gravioli sensor to orbit a bunch of places, I believe it gets per-biome results in both high and low orbits.

Bad is to rove between biomes, except at junctions. They're just too big.

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If you have the SCANSat mod and look closely at the boundaries between biomes, you often will find tiny (single "pixel") regions of some other biome right on the border.  This is due to the way the biome maps were generated/stored in the game.  It's why there is a patch of tundra just west of KSC, even though it's almost on Kerbin's equator.

If you land close enough, you can take advantage of those micro-biomes to pick up extra science without having to hop very far.

Edited by PnDB
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Oh! I have a fun one. There's a _very_ close pile-up of 5 biomes on Minmus. Since they're on/near a flat, you can get most of them by simply sliding your space ship around. It's super silly, and a pleasure to fly.

Info starts at about 40:20, but I made the video start a bit later. In media res, you know?

 

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On 5/29/2016 at 8:42 PM, Kerbart said:

For me, a large tank on a Minmus lander definitely is the way to go. For particular biomes  you'll need large inclination changes, costing relative (it IS Minmus, after all) large amounts of fuel. You might as well spend that fuel on hops. I get all biomes covered with two trips down to the surface.

No, you can do all of any body with a single small inclination burn:  Upon arrival in the SOI immediately do your inclination burn to 90 degrees.  Now you won't need any more unless you don't get the ascent correct.  In my experience MechJeb can't get this launch correct, though.

On 5/30/2016 at 8:06 AM, OrbitalBuzzsaw said:

Minmus encounters can easily cost 1200m/s dV if you don't launch into the right orbit. And getting EVA's back into craft on Minmus takes >10min sometimes

Huh?  I've never seen a Minmus launch that needed even a tenth that not counting the fuel to simply get that far out.  Ignore the planes, pretend Minmus is in your plane when you burn.  When you get halfway there correct your orbit.  It's much less expensive this way than fixing your plane before you burn.  Note that MechJeb's transfer orbit then fine-tune does exactly this.

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18 hours ago, OrbitalBuzzsaw said:

Tsk-tsk, @Loren Pechtel.  120m/s TMI (Trans-Minmus-Injection) burn?

"Encounter", not "Capture".

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