Day 1: Embarking Or: Bouncing Around, Mid-"Air" Repairs, and the Nadir of the Journey Before I start, I feel like I ought to explain why I'm doing this. First, I love Kerbal Space Program. But, if you're not careful, you can fall into the trap of only playing for the orbital mechanics. Planets are just points. Who cares what's on them? So often, Kerbin just becomes either "green field" or "ocean". Duna is just "red desert". The Mun is "middle of a crater". And that's boring. The planets and moons in this game are so much more diverse than we give them credit for, and you can only really see that diversity if you go overland; if you drive them. Second, rovers are next to completely useless in this game (especially on airless rocks where rockets are just... better), and I've got a strange drive to always try things that seem completely useless. Maybe it's just to confirm that they really are useless. Or maybe it's to try and find a use for them. Third and finally, even if you do like rovers, you aren't likely to use them on a low-gravity planet because they're "impossible to drive". I contend that they're not. I also contend that they're perfectly easy to control, so long as you've got a wide wheel base and low CoM. As far as why pick Pol, I'll hazard that Pol is the least interesting body in the Kerbol system. It's not the smallest, it's hard to get to, there's no anomalies, the terrain is annoying but not particularly interesting, and it's just not... cool. I'd like to try and prove myself wrong. First thing to do would be to figure out where I need to go. If I am where I think I am, I should go south to the lowest point on Pol. Probably a bit South-Southeast. So, I--wait, where's the flag? Valentina couldn't find it. She'd just planted the thing not five minutes ago and now it had disappeared completely. Even Bill couldn't find it from his external seat. Turns out it's 600m above the surface. With the discarded "spare" fuel tank. Oh, and somehow, it's daylight now. Bill chalked it up to eddies in the spacetime continuum. I think it's something to do with loading a save file on Pol's notoriously bumpy tiny surface, but I'm no astro-engineer. Weirdness now safely explained, I started off down Twilight Ridge, moving South-Southeast. Already I encountered a problem. With Jump Cannon jammed on top of Noether's Revenge, the CoM shifted upward enough for the rover to want to wheelie. But it's still quite manageable with SAS on. I set off down Twilight Ridge at a good clip, and then bounced. I landed fine, though; the tires can take it. But I bounced again. And again. At one point, I hit the ground too hard, and a tire broke. Of course, however, I'd bounced into the air again. Problem being that if one tire broke with the previous bounce, presumably, more tires were going to break with the next impact. It looked like it was going to be a particularly long bounce this time, so Bill did what he came to do: repair some tires. In mid-air. As I predicted, once I'd landed that bounce, even more tires broke. But this would be okay; as long as I fixed the tires before the craft hit the ground, I could maintain control. Bill got to work again. This time, however, Bill couldn't get back onto Jump Cannon before Noether's Revenge bounced. Bill hurriedly used his jetpack to arc skyward again, but Noether's Revenge was spiralling out of control rather badly. If it landed on anything but its wheels, it'd be a mission scrub. So there wasn't much choice. I had to switch to Valentina, and hope Bill bounced instead of dying. I brought Noether's Revenge to a juddering, broken-wheeled halt. Bill was speeding past the ship into the air. Apparently he'd survived the first impact. Now that Noether's Revenge was stable, I switched back to Bill. He juuuust barely managed to gain altitude quickly enough to pull out of his dive. I landed him next to Noether's Revenge to repair some tires, refuel in the command pod, and plant a flag. It had been a long and eventful five kilometers. I named the place "The Last Bounce". It seemed appropriate. After deciding to set out again, I immediately got sick of the Noether's Revenge's tendency to wheelie. I pulled her to a stop and detached the Jump Cannon. I was going to find the lowest elevation point and park there. Unfortunately, that'd cripple my ability to repair Noether's Revenge, because Bill would be far, far away. No more mid-air repairs. But that's okay, because there weren't any mountains between me and the lowest elevation point, so there'd theoretically be fewer bounces, and therefore fewer broken tires. Bill was excited to stretch the Jump Cannon's legs, or rather, rockets. So, he set off to find today's goal: the point of lowest elevation. I managed to land at 317m altitude on a downward slope, about 22km from Noether's Revenge. If the bottom of this valley isn't the lowest elevation on Pol, I'll be surprised. Jump Cannon performed beautifully; no complaints there. However, when I switched back to Noether's Revenge, the recently-planted flag was mysteriously floating 1000m up. I wonder if this is the beginnings of a trend.... As I started off again, I realized that there was going to be a mountain in the way. Drat. Oh well. At least Noether's Revenge was much easier to control, although it still tended to wheelie. This was disappointing; my previous (hyperedit tested) iteration of Noether's Revenge didn't wheelie, but it did scrape the bottom and explode when it landed large jumps. As I roved, I learned quickly that the best method of accelerating and braking is to make like an Antilock Brake System, and do it in rapid spurts. Turning can be surprisingly well effected by rotating the whole rover in mid-(air). So long as the angle from your heading isn't too great, Noether's Revenge just bounces forward in the right direction at that point, and then eventually settles down. Land-based turning happens both surprisingly effectively and shockingly normally. Also, whatever you do, don't press the brake button on landing. That'll lock your wheels for sure, and then flip the rover.* Coming to the top of previously-mentioned smallish mountain, I decided that I'd take this one slow to try and spare the wheels. With luck, I could avoid being airborne for too long. The sheer cliff at the bottom of this thing makes that unlikely.
Though I took the descent gradually, the cliff proved too much. Four wheels broke. And Bill was 20km away. I debated getting Bill back to Noether's Revenge by EVA jetpack, but then I had a better idea: drive Noether's Revenge on the remaining front two wheels by listing starboard. It worked, though it slowed my average speed from 10 or 15 m/s to 6m/s. Finally, the front wheel popped. That left me with one wheel in the middle of the starboard side. Time for repairs. Bill jetpacked in from 12km away, repaired Noether's Revenge and refueled, and then sped off back to the Jump Cannon. As I was flying back, I really started to appreciate just how alien Pol is. It's just me, Bill, and Valentina here. I really feel exposed; I regret not making room in the delta-v budget for some kind of permanent base for my Kerbals to relax in. Poor Valentina's been cooped up in that one-kerbal capsule for years. Bill hasn't even had that comfort. Jeez, what have I done to these poor Kerbals? I made some good headway in these "flat"lands, far from any mountain range. Or should I say "mountain ring"? My average speed was up somewhere around 19m/s, and I spent a good deal of that, unfortunately, airborne between bounces. These hills can be quite annoying; I don't think there's a lick of flat land anywhere on Pol.**
I slowed the video down to 1x near the middle so you could experience what 20m/s on Pol is like. For those too lazy, the answer is "bouncy". Without much further incident, I caught up to the Jump Cannon. Bill launched the Jump Cannon and efficiently re-grabbed the Noether's Revenge. Then I ventured down into the valley, trying to find the lowest point on Pol. Eventually, I abandoned Noether's Revenge, and travelled about 700m on foot to where I think it is - 82m in altitude. I made about 28km today. That means it'll take just about 12 days to get around Pol. Casualty report: -1 SAS Module (Fore Starboard) <Wait, shoot. When did that happen? -1,5,6,1 tires (in four events) Progress so Far: Next: The Zenith of the Journey *Hmm. I think this is an ideal place and vehicle to do stunts. I'll have to investigate that. **Well, maybe at the poles. I'm going to keep pretending that that's the case until I can't any more. Hope is a good thing.