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    Kerm Telegraph Maintenance Engineer
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    The North Grove, Duna.

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  1. And overuse of K words is a very tired kliche. How about we make the forums a happier (or at least marginally more creative) place and avoid them?
  2. My personal take on Kerbal culture is (very briefly) that it revolves around a species of sentient tree called a Kerm (historically, this is where the Kerman name came from). Their society consists of two major groups, the Kerman and the Kermol. Roughly speaking, the Kerman are predominantly urban dwelling technophiles, whereas the Kermol are rural and mostly given to agriculture and care of those Kerm trees I mentioned. The traditional Kermol village is based around a group of generally dome shaped buildings each built around a Kerm trunk. The other buildings in the village will also be dome-shaped. Bigger buildings are constructed by merging two or more domes together. Suburban architecture tends to follow this model - dome shaped buildings, lots of green space, the odd building built around a tree. Heavy use of wood and other natural materials for decoration if not for structural members. City centres also have their share of traditional architecture but mixed with more modern buildings which tend towards the Art Deco from @Pthigrivi’s post - that building with the sandstone cladding and greenish ironwork looks about right if you imagine it with more gardens. Industrial parks near the cities would probably be more utilitarian but clean and with a focus on green space as far as possible. Solar panels and wind turbines would be appropriate greebling. I only mention this because I think it’s a scheme that would be possibly amenable for in-game use. Most of Kerbin would be rural with lots of fields, forested areas and a regular pattern of fairly similar looking villages, each built in and around a small group of trees. After that there would also be a handful of larger cities which could reuse quite a few of the art assets from the villages.
  3. Which is exactly what they did in the book. They used the maneuvering thrusters to get Hermes as close as they could to Watney whilst still leaving a (just) acceptable reserve, breached the hull as an emergency effort (escaping air created thrust) to slow down to a viable intercept velocity, then sent a crewmember over on a tethered MMU to collect Watney. You could have a reasonable debate about where to draw the line but to be called an auxiliary craft, I'd say that any crew need to be able to work in a shirtsleeves environment inside. Whether that's necessarily wise or not is another matter. EVA suits, Manned Maneuvering Units and the like don't quite count for me but maybe that's just me. But your last point hits the nail on the head in my opinion. If your spacecraft is large enough or capable enough that the mass of a 'just-in-case' auxiliary craft can be accommodated, then sure - why not take one. Otherwise it becomes a matter of tradeoffs. In The Martian for example, I would argue that even if Hermes had had the capacity to take an emergency shuttlecraft along just in case they needed to rescue a crew member under highly unforeseen circumstances, it would have been better to use that excess capacity to take along more life-support supplies or thruster fuel, as both are more generally useful for covering a range of emergency situations rather than one specific situation. Oh - and on the topic of big bad cost-cutting corporations vs government agencies. Apart from being the biggest, laziest cliche in the book, I would point out that, thus far in history, the majority of spaceflight fatalities have been caused by poor and, in some cases entirely unforced, government agency decisions.
  4. But the problem was still solved right? It could have been made easier but a parasite craft (bizarre wording by the way) wasn't actually required? Anyway, it sounds like you have some specific scenarios in mind where having a shuttlecraft along would be useful or even essential. That's great - as I said right at the start of my post, there's nothing wrong with shuttlecraft. But there's a long way from there to a general assertion that "No matter how fictional or realistic a scifi spaceship is, parasite craft are a force multiplier for bringing stuff inside your vessel. "
  5. Nothing wrong with shuttlecraft or other auxiliary vessels. However your conclusion is an over-generalization that does not follow on from your reasoning. Apart from anything else, you make an entirely arbitrary choice about the way you want tractor beams to work and use that as a justification for your statement that parasite craft(?) are a force multiplier for bringing stuff inside a vessel, no matter how fictional or realistic it is. Also, if real physics are in play, then an auxiliary vessel adds mass and complexity to the vessel it's auxiliary too. Is that an acceptable tradeoff for the extra utility it provides? Impossible to tell without knowing a lot more detail, in which case the answer becomes 'yes it's acceptable under these circumstances' which defeats your conclusion that the auxiliary vessel is always a force multiplier. Taking the rest of your points in turn. 1. Yes, a significant exhaust plume would be a disadvantage here. The obvious way around that is to use the main drive to match trajectories with whatever one is picking up but to come to rest (relative to that thing) at a safe distance. Then use maneuvering thrusters to close the gap. Locating or angling those thrusters so that they don't impinge on the item to be collected is reasonably straightforward. Besides, unless the auxiliary vessel is limited to using maneuvering thrusters only, then it will likely have a main drive of its own which again will need to be taken into account. 2. Possibly, maybe even probably, but not necessarily. If one ship has half the mass of another but its engines also generate half as much force, then it will accelerate at the same rate. 3. Unless that sci-fi drive has other unspecified limitations that make it unsafe to use in this context, then using a separate vessel could easily be adding complexity here. Simple and rugged is great if you can use it as an alternative to a complex over-engineered solution, but here you need to use both.
  6. Perhaps it’s not the most physically powerful weapon (although it’s not exactly weak either) but a stable version of Star Trek’s Genesis device would be pretty psychologically powerful. ’Behold as I destroy your likeness, your culture, your people, and recast them in mine own image!’
  7. Not quite true. Apparently, for a three body (or more) system it may be theoretically possible to use gravity assist manoeuvres to get a catapult launched projectile into a stable orbit. It would need to be an extremely accurate launch though. Wikipedia provides a little more detail plus some real life space gun examples. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_gun Replying to Spacescifi though, ignoring gravity assist shenanigans, there are basically three options for a catapult launched projectile. Projectile goes up and comes back down someplace else. Projectile goes up at escape velocity or higher and doesn’t come back. Projectile threads the needle between the above two options and enters into a closed loop trajectory. Which is great - except for the fact that that trajectory necessarily intersects the ground because that’s where the projectile started from. So even the closed loop trajectory is not a stable orbit. For catapult launch to work, the projectile has to be capable of making an orbit raising manoeuvre. Either that or it has to be intercepted by something which is capable of catching something travelling at orbital velocities and then being capable of readjusting its own orbit afterwards.
  8. Of the options on the list, LOTR was my favourite. More generally...? Bill & Ted, dude! Because sometimes you just need some charming, daffy, feel-good fun. Where the world can be fixed with good intentions, rock and roll, and air guitar.
  9. Back on topic, I’d go with a coil gun. Replacing rails sounds like a pain if this thing is being used a lot and lower accelerations allows for more flexibility with booster designs and/or whatever cargo pod is being strapped to the top of them doesn’t need to be made rugged enough to withstand railgun accelerations.
  10. Or you could wrap the coil gun around the tower. ’yo dawg, I heard you like coil guns, so here’s a coiled coil gun.’
  11. Exactly! I was going to mention Firefly in my last post but decided against it in the end. But yeah, that opening sequence and its juxtaposition of scifi spacecraft, Wild West imagery and sort-of present day guerilla warfare, really grabs the attention and sets the scene for the show.
  12. Okay, let me give you a thought experiment. I present you with three first pages for a book. In each case, the leader of a country steps off their private aircraft and they, along with their entourage are escorted to a significant building in their capital city. Therefore, in each case, the social context remains much the same. On the first page, the aircraft is a lighter-than-air airship, and the leader and their entourage travel by horse drawn coach. On the second page, the aircraft is a modern jet airliner and the leader and their entourage travel by limousine. On the third page, the aircraft is a point-to-point suborbital rocketship and the leader and their entourage travel by hovercar. How do each of those first pages affect your first impression of that book? What sort of expectations do they give you about the world that book is set in? The fine details of how those three aircraft work may or may not be important to the plot but I would argue that the general details of how they work are important parts of the worldbuilding and setting the scene for the rest of the story. Taking another, more concrete example, consider the Ketty Jay series by Chris Wooding. The stories are set in a world in which aircraft are lighter than air yet propelled by 'prothane thrusters' which I've always assumed to be a kind of jet engine. Aerodynamics isn't much of a factor for a lumbering freighter but is definitely a factor for the far more nimble fighter craft. Exactly how the aircraft work is never quite explained and is almost irrelevant to the plot. There are a number of scenes which would need to be rewritten to work well with conventional aircraft but the import of those scenes could remain the same. Certainly the main characters and the ways they interact wouldn't need to change. But... the odd blend of technologies that go into those aircraft is hugely important for setting the tone and feel of those stories. In short, they're a key part of the worldbuilding and what makes those stories so distinctive.
  13. That's a purpose for worldbuilding but, in my opinion anyway, it's far from the only one. Another two that immediately come to mind are consistency and immersion. Consider the kinds of 'how would this fictional technology work' questions that you're fond of asking. That's worldbuilding and it serves to place limits on what that technology can do. In turn, knowing what that technology can and can't do, helps to provide consistency to any stories written around that technology. Immersion is the finer detail of worldbuilding that fleshes out that world and draws you into the story. One example I can think of is the Subnautica computer game (since I happen to be playing the sequel at the moment ). The social context is simple (working Joe in an ultra-capitalist spacefaring society survives a crash landing and finds himself alone on an alien water world). But that social context is only sketched out in very general terms. The fine detail: the descriptions of all the various sea life you encounter and the technologies and tools you have at your disposal, are mostly incidental to that social context but play a huge part in drawing you into the game and the world it depicts. I'm also struggling to imagine how deciding on the social context for Subnautica would make it any easier or harder to come up with the fine details of its sea life. Maybe that's just me. Social context, consistency and immersion don't necessarily go together either. Consider the space opera genre. There will be some kind of social context, there will usually be a lot of setting detail that adds to the immersion, but consistency usually takes a back seat to 'rule of cool' and 'needs of plot'. Your points about knowing the social context and building around that also reminds me of another discussion I got into where one person asserted that all you need to write a story is to understand your characters and how they react to things. To which my reply was that I don't necessarily know how my characters will react to a situation until they find themselves in it. Sure, if knowing the social context gives you a hook to build the rest of the story on, that's great! But there are other hooks one can use as well, so I'd be wary about stating that the author only needs to know what social context he wants the characters to exist in. In my own case, it sort of worked the other way around. It was only once I'd figured out part of the worldbuilding (specifically some key historical events in that world) that I could build a social context for my characters to live in. I didn't start with that social context and use it to build the world. There's also the (rather overblown to my mind) distinction between 'plotters', that is authors who plan their work out meticulously in advance and 'pantsers', that is authors who don't do much (or any) planning and so write 'by the seat of their pants'. In other words they make it all up as they go along and then rely on editing to pull everything together into a coherent whole. In which case, social context and worldbuilding (or so I imagine) arise organically as the story unfolds, rather than being premeditated.
  14. It's terribly boring but if you're engineering organisms to help you with resource extraction then you're probably better off going for simple (in the morphological rather than biochemical sense) plants, and microorganisms. Bacteria are hardy, versatile, and can live on just about anything. Check out the Wikipedia pages for biomining, bioremediation, and extremophiles, for more detail. In a fictional setting, you could assume that genetic engineering allows you to combine whatever features you need into whatever bug you need for plot purposes. Seed your planet with the required bugs and send down a mechanical harvester to gather up the extracted resources once they're done. Much easier than trying to engineer an intelligent organism to do the same thing.
  15. Yeah, with the probable shakeout in the smallsat launcher market, I'm expecting a bear market in engine providers.
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