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Nekozjin Aeronautics Flight Files (aka eddiew's c'logs) - Season 4: Gaelic Folk

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Ocean Birds.

Roddenberry, Nimoy, Doohan and Kelley Kerman reach their beach holiday destination - along with Jinx and Lily Kerman, who aren't entirely sure why everyone else looks so disappointed to be here. 

Mission control gets more practise with using moons for gravity assists. Slightly more expensive than hoped, the Odyssey came in a little off-plane and spent ~330m/s to make the first encounter with Laythe maintain its inclination, but after that it was just a matter of waiting for the moon to pick them up on a subsequent pass. A further 700m/s are used to get into an eccentric, almost-equatorial orbit.

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With the lab stuffed full of data, the crew gets to work while casting longing glances out of the window at the shimmering turquoise jewel below. They'd love to go right now, but mission control insists on waiting until they can do a daylight descent with Jool on the horizon. Something about photo opportunities.

Finally, and with a goodly portion of the lab's data processed, mission control finally gives the go ahead for descent. Thunderhawk leaves they Odyssey in its eccentric orbit and aerobrakes down on its own, saving many precious fuels. The Laythian atmosphere proves unexpectedly hostile, heating the ship almost as soon as it touches the uppermost fringes, but with careful piloting, Jinx Kerman manages to keep temperatures under control - and avoids mentioning anything to her colleagues in back, whose main concern seems to be a lack of consumables.

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Nearer the ground, the moon proves more hospitable. While the atmosphere isn't exactly conducive to respiration, it is at least good for jet engines, and at 0.8g, the landing proves easier than simulations at Kerbin. With the systems check reading green across the board, Doohan and Lily Kerman deploy surface science packages. Nimoy Kerman takes readings while the rest of the crew spread out to look for... well, anything interesting, really.

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Doohan Kerman loses a few surface experiments to the inexplicably hostile sands, but the pyrotechnics seem to be mostly harmless and no injuries are sustained. While the surviving experiments are packed up, Nimoy Kerman regales the crew with the song of his people.

With the light fading, the crew decides to wait out the night where they are before making a move again next morning - by pushing the Thunderhawk off the cliff!

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With 2/3rds of their oxidiser left, the crew decide that conditions are optimal for an ocean landing. Science gathering is necessarily limited, but that doesn't stop Kelley and Lily having a darn good go at getting some data.

Matching the Odyssey's orbital inclination is cheapest with a departure at sunset - and the crew are glad of the fact, as a rainbow of colours glisten on the ocean around them. Now there's a photo that will drive the tourist industry!

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The Thunderhawk being a lot lighter than the Odyssey, it's much more fuel efficient to leave the mothership in its eccentric orbit had have the lander head back to meet it. After a surprisingly easy rendezvous and docking, the science data is transferred to the lab. Nimoy and Kelley set set about the long task of working through it while Jinx, Lily, Roddenberry and Doohan kill time playing space darts and i-spy.

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Space Druids.

Upon reflection, mission control realises that it's much more efficient to send the Thunderhawk between moons than it is to move the entire Odyssey. So they do.

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The first landing is made at a location where anomalous signals have been detected by previous missions, but... it turns out to be too anomalous to investigate properly. Perhaps a micro-lander would have had better luck.

Yet another surface science experiment bids farewell to existence the moment it is placed, but three still survive, and Doohan and Kelley Kerman set about taking readings.

While Thunderhawk's TWR is barely adequate for Vall, the delta-v suffers no such shortage, and the crew are able to hop to two further biomes before calling it a day.

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From this point, the mission becomes rather routine. Tylo has somehow evaded mapping, so the Odyssey parks up in polar orbit and turns its sensors upon the ground below. After a few days, an anomalous signal is detected, but the Thunderhawk isn't equipped to handle a 0.8g vacuum world, so all the crew can do is note the location for future missions to investigate.

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Tylo has somehow evaded mapping, so the Odyssey parks up in polar orbit and turns its sensors upon the ground below. After a few days, an anomalous signal is detected, but the Thunderhawk isn't equipped to handle a 0.8g vacuum world, so all the crew can do is note the location for future missions to investigate.

Return doesn't require stopping off at a lab because the Odyssey is a lab and has already worked through the data by the time it gets home. All crew promoted to 5-star rank upon landing. Total science haul... roughly 40,000. Almost enough to be significant vs the 100,000 needed to unlock the warp drive!

Edited by eddiew
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Big Dumb Rocket.

After the delicate intricacies of sending the Odyssey and Thunderhawk to Laythe and Vall, it seems that the engineering team needed to blow off a little steam and build something big, dumb, fast, and loud.

Enter Space Y's 7.5m parts, given a tune up with KR&D, investing science points to get the vacuum engines to 500 isp. A similar investment is made into the standard issue aerospikes (much to Lyssa Kerman's satisfaction after her perilous ascent from Eve on pure stock engines) bringing them to an equal efficiency. With these mighty engines in their arsenal, and the sheer lifting power of a 7.5m launch stage, the team prepares a lander massing a solid 69 tons. Packing Jay, Thystle, and River into the somewhat stingy cabin on the top, mission control flicks the switch and sends the mighty Grenadier on his way.

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Total launch cost: 1,350,000 roots. A new record!

However, there are 1,250,000 roots available for just two contracts: planting a flag on Tylo and investigating an anomaly on it. Combined with the worlds first for landing+walking on Tylo, the mission should break even as soon as boots hit the ground. That, and the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed some wheels sticking off the side of the lander. There are indeed a pair of Ranger Rovers strapped onto it, which will generate contracts over time for modest rewards.  And of course, all the science instruments are stuck to the return pod, so there should be a recovery factor in the region of 150,000 roots if the aim is good.

After waiting a few days for their polar orbit to bring them around over the chosen landing coordinates, the crew separates the lander from the fuel cache/transfer stage and prepares for descent. It's a foregone conclusion that landing accurately on Tylo is going to be hard, and there won't be any option to relocate, so the engineering team packed Grenadier with a pair of Ranger Rovers.

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Tylo, it seems, shares Laythe's propensity for exploding anything science related placed upon its surface, but a handful of experiments survive and some good data is gathered.

The original mission plan has the team splitting up, with River and Thystle taking one rover to an adjacent biome while Jay investigates the anomaly coordinates... but Thystle doesn't think that's a very good idea and decides make a few adjustments. It may not be the prettiest rover in existence, but it should be just as resilient as the original models. At least we hope so, since one of the wheels blew up when it was detached.

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Tylo turns out to be surprisingly kind to rovers, and while there are a couple of flat spins, there seems to be no risk of flips or rolls. Plotting a course southwest, the crew think they can potentially cover an additional three biomes within about 50-100 kilometres - and it would be a shame to waste the opportunity for science. Let the road trip commence!

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The 120km trip passes surprisingly quickly (Ed: 50m/s and 2-3x timewarp) and soon enough the crew are back at the Grenadier with an additional four biomes worth of rocks, reports, and surface experiment data. Concerns about ladder safety are quickly dismissed as they all ascend back to the capsule without incident. 

Ascent from Tylo begins gently, not wanting to knock over the flag or damage the Longer Ranger Rover, but quickly picks up to a full 2.99 TWR and near-horizontal burn. Following the popular Jinx Intercept ascent profile, Jay Kerman gets the apoapsis within a respectable 4km of the orbiting fuel cache.

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Docking... was annoying. The crew is very glad that the transfer stage has both a probe core and its engines, rather than being a dumb target onto which they would have to reverse without any thrusters. As it was, careful taps with the main engine keep the fuel cache headed towards Grenadier's back end until the two lock together like kelephants in musth.

It was around this point that someone noticed the laser scanner and magnetometer on the bottom half of the lander, which River Kerman totally forgot to use when they were on the ground. Well... we ain't turning back now. Mission control makes a note to use action keys for science gathering, lest future scienticians have the same lapse of memory.

Return to Kerbin is as uneventful as can be, what with not having a lab onboard, and in what seems like minutes the blue marble is looming ever closer through the porthole. A modest 2500m/s burn drops the Grenadier into a low orbit, and a simple transfer sees them rendezvous with Starcrossed Station for data transfer. There seems to be a lot of fuel onboard, but Starcrossed doesn't have a 3.75m docking port, and Grenadier doesn't have any monoprop anyway. It seems like a sad shrug is in order, except...

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...and that is why you leave your assets in orbit. Except for the Grenadier lander itself, which is both rather flawed, and sufficiently specialised that it is somewhat inefficient to send it to anywhere that isn't Tylo. Nevertheless, data is sent to the lab, excess LF+O are sent to Herkules, and Ollie Kerman is finally relieved after 10 years on duty. Llew Kerman has only been there for 5, so she'll be staying with River and rotating out at next opportunity.

With the larger than planned recovery, the predicted 150,000 roots instead became 280,000, roundly putting the mission into a profit of a quarter million. Pretty good for a big, dumb, loud rocket, and a lot quicker to design than an interplanetary cruiser like the Odyssey. Maybe there's something in this malarkey after all...

 

Superheavy Tanker

Just some routine maintenance missions with a Thomas Superheavy, preparing for the next interplanetary thing - which will probably be Dres, since the window is only 100 days away and it only needs a light lander such as the Odyssey can carry. Current candidate is 22 tons, which is only 2 over the original design weight and should leave plenty of range.

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This version of Thomas is... on the edge of what even those turbocharged, supersized rapiers can do. He passed his AP at 50km and fell back to 47 before his PE went positive. That aside, he reached LKO with a fantastic 22k of LF to spare, plus enough oxidiser to perform three dockings. Would have been four, but MechJeb squandered some by randomly turning on the rapiers after I'd turned them off. No biggie, but maybe I'll consider investing another 1000 science points for 10% more atmospheric thrust. At this point, that would make a real difference.

Felt a bit bad about draining the last of the Discovery's fuel, but the short of it is that it's outdated, has 200 less bounce per ounce than modern nuclear cruisers, and isn't well designed for carrying landers because it only has lateral docking ports and thus requires matching pairs. The Odyssey on the other hand, packs more fuel, better engines, has a similar number of 1.25 and 0.625m ports, and a central posterior 2.5m port, meaning it is just plain better for the job of being a mothership. With this in mind, the Discovery One is now officially retired and the onboard computer put into permanent hibernation. We pulled out some circuits just to be sure. Can't be too careful.

The Herkules hanging around at Starcrossed is now only 3k LF shy of being fully fuelled. There's an option here to launch a light lander (anything with a 2.5m docking port) and use the big guy as the carrier. Or he may just act as a fuel dump for a while or bring a lander back to ground, as happened after the Moho and Eve missions. Whatever the case, Starcrossed is pretty laggy now, and it might be time for Herkules and the station to have some time apart. Similarly, Sylveon - while recently very useful - is not part of Starcrossed's meat and potato tasks and might be better redeployed a kilometre or two higher to drop the part count.

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But it doesn't exist!

It's mystery mission time! We're taking the Telemachus rover, partly based on the successful Nono which tackled Moho so well, but the design has been markedly improved for a lower CoM, higher delta-v, and 40% higher crew capacity.

Mission commander is 5-star pilot Ellie Kerman, with engineer Rei Kerman, and scientists Ollie Kerman, Yuki Kerman and Merlin Kerman, and none of them know where they're going yet!

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Suspense!

The sum total of Kerbal knowledge after the Tylo data now stands at 90,205 science points... warp drive... I can taste you!

(Ed: Suspended yet? Well, you won't be waiting long because I can't sleep!)

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It exists? It exists! And holy smokes look at those mountains... suddenly mission control is less than sure that a rover was the right choice here... Fortunately Telemachus packs a whopping 3400m/s and the Odyssey carries enough spare fuel to refuel him fully, so he should be able to manage at least three biomes.

Insisting on an ore scan before departure completes a contract that covers the cost of launching Telemachus, and reveals some good news even with the threshold set to 60%. Non-existent Dres, it seems, might actually be a pretty good mining spot...

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Have we proven either way yet?

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Merlin Kerman unravels the mystery of why so many experiments kersplode when set down on the ground! So far Rei has only lost one out of the seven, which is a 100% improvement on the usual survival rate.

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The highlands give Rei some issues. As soon as the experiment station is set down it decides to flit away over the undulating terrain, requiring an energetic chase. Somehow, it doesn't explode, and eventually she gets it back under control and waddles slowly back to the ship because it's too heavy to jetpack with.

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The challenge.

The voyage home is slow but fruitful, transmitting a total of 30,000 science points and bringing the sum total of kerbal knowledge to 115,520. Which means... IT IS TIME!!

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...pants.

Upon review, mission control decides that Werner's challenge is... challenging, but viable. Moho, Eve, Gilly, Mun, Minmus, Rald, Duna, Ike, Dres, Laythe, Vall, Tylo, Bop, and Pol have already been sampled, with rocks of various colours sitting in Werner's clean-room storage area. This leaves the moons of Sarnus, Urlum, Neidon, and the Plock/Karen binary. They're all a long way from the sun and will take a lot of tech to get to, but it can be done. Boffins from across the campus are called in for a high level meeting to discuss how Werner will get his surface samples.

(Ed: ok, the TLDR is that even though 1.2 is close, I don't feel finished with this career. The main offering of the new patch, communications networks, just isn't interesting to me and my game's performance is doing fine. It'll also take a while for the mods I love to update, so imagining that I'll want a new start as of next Tuesday is probably overkill. I'm going to aim for early-mid November, allowing for one major expedition per week. Which means that I don't really want to obtain the technology of the gods just yet. I had already upped the warp drive to cost 100k science, thinking that I would unlock itexactly as I finish with all the planets... obviously that's not true, and I don't want to keep tweaking the cost, so I used an RP reason to disallow it. Science is certainly not redundant now; I need to maintain a buffer of 100k, but I can freely spend the excess with KR&D, improving my engines, lightening my command pods, and generally making craft incrementally more sci-fi in their performance. Which is bang on for a species approaching warp drive technology, tbh. I think that this will provide a decent run in to 1.2 over the course of a few weeks.)

Edited by eddiew
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Logistics nightmare.

So... mission control need surfaces sample from everywhere that is sample-able. And everything from Moho to the moons of Jool has already been done - which means they have to set their sights on the outer planets: Sarnus, Neidon, Urlum and Plock. This is a little intimidating, because they aren't very well mapped and nobody is quite sure what it's going to take to get around them.

Conclusion? We need more margin for error.

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Kicking off the Odyssey's "outdated" 1200 isp engines, the engineering crew swap them out for some brand new 1560s fresh off the factory floor, boosting the Odyssey's range to 15.3km/s with a Telemachus class rover in tow. This, mission control feels, is a safe number with which to begin the exploration of the further reaches of the solar system.

(Ed: 15,000 science points went into that LV-N upgrade :(  A similar number has been spent on some other components, but I don't think those will be used for the next mission. Currently there are two high paying Eeloo contracts, and Telemachus is perfect for that already, so it's a bit of a no brainer to send the Odyssey as-is. Also, faffing around with those ships to swap the engines was really hard work - to the point I forgot to take many screenshots, resulting in the poor camera work.) 

With the Odyssey's engines upgraded, what she needs now is a fresh crew, the last few gallons of fuel, and a couple of subsidiary probes to fulfil some contracts at other moons. Tackling all of these at once, flight commander and pilot Jay Kerman, engineers Thystle and Otter Kerman, and scientists Nimoy and Kelley Kerman take off in an Investigator MPV. By pure chance skillful piloting, the station passes close overhead during ascent, so Jay guns the throttle and catches up to it. Who needs Hohmann transfers when you can just pretend it's a computer game and fly straight to where you want to be?

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With a full load of fuel, probes and the same Telemachus rover that went to Dres, the Odyssey's superb new engines read a mighty 17.3km/s, which flight deems satisfactory and gives the mission a green light. 

Bringing the Dres crew home via Starcrossed, Ellie transfers excess fuel to Widget and Sylveon, noticing as she does that the Eve tug still contains experimental results from the purple planet. Mission control is both pleased and mildly irked by this discovery, since there's a good chance that that data could have bought some additional upgrades for the Odyssey, but nobody has the heart to do that mission twice and the margins are considered satisfactory anyway. 

Merlin, Yuki, and Rei are all promoted to 5-stars upon landing, meaning that the entire roster is now operating at maximum capacity. Maybe it's time to take on some newbies for the drudge tasks? 

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Hard edges.

Jay's mission hasn't even left LKO and already Lyssa has hijacked it for her own purposes!

Today, those purposes involve a detour to Slate, a 0.72g vacuum moon around Sarnus - not very far from Eeloo, but still a pain to land on. Hence the hardware. It didn't take a lot (15,000 science points ;.;) to upgrade Telemachus to be ready for such a task, but balancing a dropship to within 1kNm of torque is a little outside the reach of in-situ upgrades, so a replacement unit was sent out, along with a team that Lyssa bulliedpersuaded to accompany her. As a result, the original Jool Discovery team is reassembled and about to become the first kerbals around the second gas giant of the Kerbol system!

Hopefully nobody will accidentally become an immortal energy being this time. (Ed: Although for those of us who read 2001, we know that Sarnus is the exact right place for such an event :wink:)

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The Odyssey is running a little heavy with Telemachus IV in tow, but only needs about 1/4 of her fuel to get into orbit around Slate. From there, the rover will discard it's drop tanks on descent and burn the majority of its own oxidiser during ascent, so the load will lighten significantly. There's more than enough oxisider in the Odyssey's tanks to refuel Telemachus for a smaller world like Eeloo, and if all goes well it's possible that mission control my try for Ovok and/or Hale afterwards - but that is at least six years in the future and nobody wants to guess how well the hardware will be holding up.

As for Tekto... that's a special case. The thick atmosphere demands an ascent vessel that, if not aerodynamic, at least has engine gimballing, and Telemachus simply can't offer either. A future Grenadier variant might be able to land a disposable rover, but for now, that moon is deemed outside the scope of this expedition.

Despite some minor squabbling amongst the crew, the Sarnus mission proceeds apace. Passing into the gas giant's SoI, the probes are unbundled and sent on their way before the Odyssey makes final course adjustments for a Slate intercept. As it gets closer, the crew notes... it looks kind of like a baseball.

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After a few days spent mapping the moon's rugged surface, two potential landing sites are chosen. The first seems flatter and has a smaller distance between the contracted biomes. The second has Sarnus in the sky, more ground to cover, and brutal terrain.

Lyssa opts for the second because what's the point of a mission without a few good photographs?

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This moon seems to have a curse, in that it is impossible for anything to stand still on its surface. The rover, the surface experiments, the crew - everything slides at a few cm/s. In the end, the crew gave up trying to lay out experiments and just settled for what they could get with the onboard instrumentation while driving through the marked zones.

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Faced with almost-impassible terrain and a heavy, fuel-sodden rover, Lyssa makes the call to engage the engine and perform a suborbital hop after the second biome, cutting 200km and many hours off the journey. Landing with just 2400m/s in the tank, she knows it's tight, but feels confident in her ability to pull off the ascent, and the mission continues as quickly as she can drive.

As fascinating as it seems from orbit, Slate proves to be very inhospitable to rovers. The high gravity and steep slopes give real issues to Telemachus, although burning 5 tons of it off does improve matters slightly, allowing him to climb slopes of up to 12 degrees. Even so, the conclusion is that Telemachus is the wrong rover for this job. A Grenadier class lander and Ranger Rover pair would have been vastly better suited to the steep terrain, and would have made quicker work of it even allowing for the return journey.

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By the time the crew find themselves in the flood plains and ticking off the final parameter on their contract, everyone is more than ready to just get out of there, and Lyssa sparks up the engine as the Odyssey passes overhead. Rather annoyingly, she nails the intercept, getting into RCS range with just 24m/s left in the main tanks. Mission control wonders why they put up with stroppy pilots, though the 1.8 million roots from the survey contract are probably quite a large part of it.

(Ed: when I said there were two choices of landing zone - I should have chosen the other. This one offered Sarnus in the sky. The other one was flatter, and required a shorter travel distance, may not have needed a suborbital, and would have therefore had better fuel margins. Overall this was a highly stressful drive full of choosing the routes of least incline, following riverbeds, avoiding hills, and constant reloading because the same stupid wheel kept getting 'blocked' without good reason. Basically, it was 2 hours of tedium and not going where I wanted to go. I will not be using this class of rover on high-g locations again. By the third biome I wasn't even thinking about screenshots because I just wanted to get the contract over and leave. Slate seems to be Tylo's angry half sibling :()

Finally away from Slate, the crew all agree that it's a strangely beautiful world but... wow, is it scary. Steep slopes, deep canyons, and gravity high enough to really demand that you obey the terrain and its whims result in a moon that tells you where you're going and doesn't negotiate. Or if it does, the deal gets worse every time you try, so you soon stop asking.

Now Eeloo on the other hand... 0.17g, flatter, smoother, lots of biomes in a small space. That's a proper moon, fit for a real kerbal to explore!

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...and a very lucrative one. Jay, Thystle, Otter, River and Llew are briefly excited, until mission control explains that they don't get commission. Glory and salaries are what drives kerbonauts, apparently.

Exploring Eeloo comes as welcome relief in comparison to the brutal, hard edges of Slate. With modest gravity and gentle hills, this moon offers the option to just point in the direction you want to go and go there. Sure, the Telemachus' wheels tend to bounce over the grey rocks with more nimbleness than would be expected, but no damage is incurred and Jay Kerman is able to set a steady 25-30m/s pace.

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A handy spot near the equator provides the initial drop site, offering a potential total of five biomes within an easy driving range. Despite a surface that seems to offer minimal traction to the rover wheels, Thystle and Otter the engineers are pleased to discover that things placed on the ground actually stay where they are put and that the rover doesn't tend to run them over as it did on Slate. The scientists Llew and River are most pleased at a full haul of data. Well, except the one that always explodes. That exploded. But everyone's used to it now and nobody bats an eyelid as the fire swirls briefly around them.

Over the next few days, the crew of the Telemachus set a new record of 6 biomes in one mission. By the fourth, the engineers are frankly bored of setting out the same machines and getting the same readings, and all they do is toss paper darts against the back of the pilot's chair while the science team quickly jumps out for a drive-by surface sample.

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Space egg.

Making their escape from Eeloo, the Telemachus meets up with the Odyssey and transfers to Ovok. Which proves to be quite hard to scan, since its SoI is barely bigger than the minimum altitude for the scanner. While pondering over the results, the crew notice an anomaly in the mapping data, and mark it as the first landing site.

Since Jay and Lyssa Kerman have both shown a propensity to get bored and waste fuel, rover-enthusiast Ellie Kerman is put in charge of the landing on Ovok.

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Whelp... ok, we could have predicted that anomaly, really. Ellie is somewhat disappointed to not turn into an immortal energy being.

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Ironically, it turns out that driving a rover like a rover on Ovok is simply impossible. The microgravity gives the wheels no effective traction, and any movement just launches the rover into the air. So, hopping it is - over three different survey locations for a total of twelve landing sites. Fortunately, this moonlet's escape velocity is only 25 32m/s so it really doesn't take a lot of gas to pootle around on its surface. Total money haul from Ovok; 8.3 million roots.

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By this point, the crew are exhausted and a tad sweaty, so mission control decides that only one biome's worth of science will be required from this tiny moonlet. 

As a final target, the Odyssey drops into orbit around Tekto, gathering orbital science and queuing it in the lab for the long (very long) trip home. As tempted as it is, Telemachus is wildly unsuited for the dense atmosphere of Tekto and would never make it back to orbit, even if he did get down safely. This is one surface sample that will have to wait for the next mission.

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Remaining delta-v in the Odyssey: about 4km/s. Some thought may be needed before launching missions to further planets than Sarnus.

Final science haul: 106,000. Total funds gained: somewhere around 12 million roots. Time to science the poop out of something with KR&D and build something science fiction-y...

 

Science fiction-y.

Invested 15,000 science points into beefing up aerospike engines just to see what would happen... Now they have 507 isp asl, and 593 vac. The lack of gimballing is minorly annoying, but setting the control surfaces to 150% gives enough authority in-atmosphere, while a pair of reaction wheels in the cargo bay allows for 'good enough' turning in vacuum.

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Deliberately tested with an inefficient design because why not? Still musters 5km/s vac delta-v, which was plenty to retrieve the veteran crew of the Odyssey at the end of their long, long Sarnus expedition. A couple of them gained over 110xp from the trip - shame they were 5-stars already ^^;

The engineering team wonders whether this OP mighty aerospike could deliver a mk2 Eve SSTO... the passenger cabins might be wishful thinking, but with a properly streamlined shape and just two crew... With this thought, the entire department closes their doors and refuses entrance to anyone except the takeaway delivery guy. Mission control shrugs and lets them get on with it.

 

 

Edited by eddiew
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Fat little rocket.

The recent Sarnus expedition was a complete success - but there was one moon missing from its catalogue of landings, because it requires a specialised approach that the Telemachus rover simply isn't equipped for.

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Following in the footsteps of the Grenadier's landing on Tylo, this mission is a single-launch to a deep space target.

Tekto poses a unique challenge, in that it's thick atmosphere demands a reasonably aerodynamic shape despite the low gravity. (Ed: actually, it's best done with a really aerodynamic shape, but it turns out that brute force and overpowered engines can compensate for a lot. If I go back here, it will probably be with a spaceplane, possibly with ISRU facilities onboard.)

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...and once again, we find our pilot is not following the mission parameters :huh:  Apparently Jinx Kerman really wanted to see the ocean. I guess she has been stuck in that capsule for the past 6 years, we can't blame her for wanting a swim. In liquid ethane... odd girl. On the up side, she lands respectably close to the rover, cutting the 50km return journey over rough terrain down to a quick jaunt along the shoreline.

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The ascent proves to be... well, terrifying, actually. Despite the heavily improved vector engines kicking out over 500 isps at sea level, the atmosphere proves to be a lot thicker than expected, and drag continues all the way up to 40km altitude. (Ed: no, really. The in-game note says 0.6 atm, it's actually double that, and it doesn't seem to thin out as quickly as Kerbin does either.)

Falling just short of the fuel requirement to circularise, Jinx falls back on the manoeuvring thrusters, managing to stretch those last few m/s out of the monoprop reserves. Future missions should note; Tekto is potentially harder to get off than Kerbin.

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As usual, the transfer stage is massively overspecced, and not only can it come to meet the lander, but it more than compensates for the lander being bone dry, bringing it back to LKO and seeing it safely to Starcrossed station for data transfer. Its job done, it is left in a parking orbit with 1/3 of its fuel untapped because... well why not? It can't land safely, and it may be useful some day.

The Musketeer is at least perfectly tested for landing back on Kerbin. Made with truly space-age materials, it is highly heat resistant and provides complete protection for the rover in its cargo bay. Yes, after 96 years of flinging rockets towards the skies, kerbalkind have finally worked out how to make tyres survive re-entry - and as a bonus, all the expensive experiments come home too, recovering at 97% value and a respectable 1/4 of the original launch cost.

Total mission profit; about 2 million roots. Total science; Starcrossed is loaded with 4500 data, expecting 22,500 science points after processing. 

 

Bipolar.

Turns out Minmus has somehow escaped the ore scanner, and a client wanted that data badly enough to pay 400,000 roots for it. So the engineers cobbled together a cheap doohickey and off it went.

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Watching the central scanner revolving turns out to be strangely hypnotic... mission control blames the effect on the wonderful shade of green... so soothing and spinny...

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Who's lum?

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(Ed: ok, so the observant may have noticed that Numinor is not a rover as I have been traditionally using on extended missions. TLDR, science points aren't doing me much good anymore. Even with KR&D there comes a point where things are 'good enough'. My nervas have 1600 isp. Numinor weighs 22 tons, seats 6, has many science instruments, and has 12km/s in the tanks. The Odyssey with him in tow has 19km/s. That turns out to be excessive by all standards. I thought that the planets in OPM would need a lot of go juice to get to, but it turns out they're only slightly harder than Jool. I've got way too much science coming in, way too much money to ever need to consider the budget, and basically I'm playing sandbox with infinite fuel. The challenge is rather fading now.

Which isn't necessarily bad, because I like the idea of playing KSP in seasons that actually... end. It's easy for this game to run forever and then fizzle and stagnate, but in this case I have a distinct finishing line; boots on everywhere that can be imprinted with a boot, unlock warp drive, and declare kerbals an interplanetary species. My goal now is to go flat out on achieving that goal in the least possible play time so's I can wind this career up, maybe take a couple of weeks off, then review my mod list and planet packs for a fresh start with 1.2. Uh, so yeah, expect the Urlum system to not take a real-time week as Sarnus' moons did. Hopefully I can clear it out next play sesh :))

With Numinor, mission control has brought the exploration of the outer planets back towards the more traditional snatch-and-grab operations of yester-decade. The landing lasts just long enough to set up the two non-splodey surface experiments, and for the crew to get falling down drunk...

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Turns out that kerbals do not know how to handle being asked to re-orient the selfie camera... if the frame flips upside down, so do they...

And now we head for the moon-moon.

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Sized somewhere twixt Minmus and Gilly, Tal turns out to be a relaxing destination. Even the 20 degree slope doesn't really matter in the low gravity, and for once all the surface experiments behave themselves.

Although the science team did forget to take any suborbital data readings. Great going, nerds. At least the explore contract was lucrative.

And spiralling inwards towards Urlum, we encounter a moon that seems to be made of cheese... dark cheese, but cheese nonetheless. 

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Unfortunately mission control insisted that nobody lift their visor to try a nibble. And sorry folks, those samples need to be sealed before you board the ship for return. We can't risk any cheese mites contaminants escaping.

Ok, Polta... Polta is nice. Of the four moons of Urlum, this is the one the crew would have liked to have a rover to explore better. Lovely colour, gentle terrain, and just-right gravity, they could probably have covered half a dozen biomes in a Telemachus class rover.

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...but nah. Surface samples obtained, docked to the mothership, and homeward bound!

(Ed: I'll leave you to imagine what it looks like when the ship comes back to Kerbin - or you can scroll up and see the last time it came back! It happens often and I'm bored of screenshotting the same old arrival :P)

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Sand and Ice

Onward, ever onward!

Actually, mission control was eyeing up Neidon as the next destination, but its moon Thatmo seems like it might be suited for something a little more specialised than the excellent Numinor vacuum lander. Plock and Karen on the other hand... those are perfect for this high efficiency vehicle. So, a quick refuel in LKO, and it's time to step on the gas once more!

It's possible to take up to 97 years to transfer to Plock, but since it only saves about 1km/s and the Odyssey is not exactly short of range, the crew quite wisely opts for the 16-year express route.

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By chance, Karen is right in front of us as we arrive, and since it doesn't really cost any more to circularise here vs Plock, the crew makes the call to visit the moon first.

Mission control notes that their total funding has now gone round the clock on the counter. Nobody seems quite sure whether there are 101.5m funds in the bank, or 1.5m... Guess we'll find out when we try to spend it.

And from Karen we circle inwards to Plock, a tidy little planet of sand and ice. Probably. At least, it doesn't seem very edible, and it's certainly cold, so we'll assume it's mostly sand and ice.

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With the precious (and sandy) rocks collected, Numinor heads back for the Odyssey in orbit, and the crew plots a burn for the next sensible window home. Only 26 years travel time... who's for Monopoly?

(Ed: somewhat disappointed to discover that the biome map for Plock is actually Moho's with a slight recolour... not sure if that's just how it is or whether my game is a little corrupted. Still, fresh textures, and enough delta-v for a hop, so a bit of science collected.)

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Neidon it again!

The Odyssey prepares for what will likely be her final voyage. She is now 96 years old, but the engineers have maintained her well, and her engines fire as efficiently as the day they were replaced last week. The crew watches Rald slide past 1400km below them, the last glimpse of home they will have for quite a long time. Time for a snooze then.

Sixteen years pass before the computer wakes the crew to perform the engine burn that will capture them into Neidon orbit. Leo Kerman takes a 'closer' look while Lyssa, Jay and Ellie plot an intercept for Nisse, a small, bright moon made mostly of crushed ice. Seems like a good time to crack open a nice single malt then!

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Descent onto Nisse is as gentle as can be. About the size of Minmus, the world presents no challenge to Ulysses' ultra-advanced engines, although the rough terrain does need some careful piloting in order to identify a flat landing zone. After such a long journey, the crew are keen to stretch their legs a bit, so they take a short jump to an adjacent biome.

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With the precious icy rocks gathered and stashed in the freezer next to the vodka, a course is plotted that will bring them closer to Neidon and the orbit of Thatmo. So far is Nisse from its purple parent that half a year elapses until the Odyssey finally reaches the descending node, but the up side of this is that the huge plane change only costs a couple of hundred m/s.

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Thatmo turns out to be particularly pretty. A world of nitrogen ice, it shines brightly even in the pale light of a distant star - the sun. After mapping the surface, the crew transfers once more to Ulysses and prepares for descent onto the cold surface below.

There is however, an important lesson to be learned...

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...you can't land a plane like a plane. Even with low gravity, the wispy atmosphere just doesn't do enough to control your vertical speed once you're below ~125m/s, which is pretty scary over rough terrain. But that's why we have some powerful Space Y thrusters on the bottom, which are more than enough to allow VTOL here, and Ulysses touches down gently at the equator - which turns out to be the polar biome.

Waiting for a fresh sunrise to un-freeze the thermometer, the crew takes advantage of Ulysses godlike engine efficiency and takes a hop down towards the south pole - which turns out to be the midlands biome. The crew are beginning to suspect that their maps are upside down. The terrain here is rougher, and Ulysses' powerful anterior vernors are used to provide a quick burst of retro-thrust in order to allow a vertical descent onto one of the few flat areas.

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Sciences are gathered, nitrogen-snow angels are made, and beer is chilled. Which turns out to be an error, since it expands and cracks the bottles, leaving our crew to make the ascent stone cold sober. Scary times. Although River finds them even scarier when she goes for an EVA report and finds Ulysses running away from her. Fortunately the faint wisps of atmosphere at this altitude are no match for her jetpack and she scrambles back aboard no worse for wear.

Back in orbit, Thatmo treats the crew to a sunset show as they dock with the Odyssey once more.

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Quite a few years pass until Kerbin is sighted. Indeed, so many that the Odyssey decides it is now 159 years old, which doesn't tally with the travel time of this mission. The engineering team blames the computer team for poor software. The computer team blames the pilots for slamming the computers around too much. The pilots don't particularly care as long as the navigation systems still work.

Temporal oddities aside, the crew double and triple check that all the precious surface samples are stored in the Ulysses' overhead lockers, then detach from the mothership, dropping down to an 80x80 orbit so's to ensure a gentle re-entry. Ulysses doesn't really need this level of care, but nobody wants to break one of the space rocks and get sent back to fetch another one.

Year 200, day 30, 00:18 in the morning (or just about lunchtime, judging by the sky) the crew set foot upon tarmac for the first time in decades. Turns out, nothing has changed.

Or has it? Perhaps our bold crew do not yet suspect the cataclysmic repercussions that their return is about to release upon kerbalkind...

Spoiler

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Warp speed, Mister Skott.

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Some really amazing stuff you have here, @eddiew! I'm sad I haven't checked back sooner. Also, burnt out of likes here. 

Your shots are brilliant, you have awesome craft flying around and he story is funny and interesting to read. 

May I ask, how long has this save been going on for? 150+ years?

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Thanks @DMSP, glad you've been enjoying it :)  My game clock stands at 200 years and about 55 days by the time I'm done shaking down the new warp drive. Most of the time got soaked up on the missions to Neidon and Plock, which were at least 35 years each.

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16 minutes ago, eddiew said:

Thanks @DMSP, glad you've been enjoying it :)  My game clock stands at 200 years and about 55 days by the time I'm done shaking down the new warp drive. Most of the time got soaked up on the missions to Neidon and Plock, which were at least 35 years each.

Wow! That's once helluva long run! By comparison, my longest save only lasted only a little over 8 years.

Still out of rep likes.

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1 hour ago, DMSP said:

Wow! That's once helluva long run! By comparison, my longest save only lasted only a little over 8 years.

I made a commitment to only having 1 exploratory mission running at a time. Even probes - if one was en-route to Jool, no more launches until it arrived.

Previously I've tended to parallelise, with the result that it would take weeks of real time for a ship to get to Duna because I was forever faffing around in LKO or putting bases on Minmus. Sometimes doing less results in doing more :) 

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Interstellar species.

Spoiler

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And thus did kerbalkind attain the technology that would allow them to venture among the stars. A new wave of exoplanet finding begins, seeking likely targets within range of the Olympus One and its successors. Within years, it is hoped, kerbals will finally learn the answer to the oldest question, a question passed down through the generations. A question of deep import, whose answer will shake society to its roots. A question that has united the world, ended war, and driven kerbalkind to focus entirely on space exploration, because it is so very fundamental for kerbals to ask... are alien snacks better than theirs?

...

Thoughts on warp drives in spoiler...

Spoiler

In all honesty, it's not quite Star Trek :P  The Alcubierre drive allows you to conserve either linear velocity, or angular momentum - which sounds good, but actually both are a problem when what you really want to do is punt between stable orbits at 100km altitude. I opted for angular momentum conservation because my brain finds that slightly easier to process - but really, I don't understand how to pilot Olympus One effectively :blush:

It's easy to get to a target in a few minutes. It's also easy to arrive with over 10km/s orbital velocity, making it impractical to stop. I worked out how to raise/lower an orbit, and how to circularise, but it requires being at PE, AP, or the two points midway between them. Meaning you're back to waiting on orbits to swing round. That's not so bad when you're talking about bimbling around the moons of a gas giant, because you can ping between them and cheese the gravity assists, but when you want to, say, go to Duna... that's actually quite hard. Most likely you'll arrive with somewhere around 4-6km/s orbital velocity, which is worse than a conventional transfer.

There is a get out - you can warp to your PE, then timewarp/coast to near the edge of the SoI, warp to your PE, timewarp... etc. Each loop, you'll lose some velocity, just as if you were doing multiple gravity assist passes. Eventually, you'll jump back to your PE and be in an eccentric orbit, which is easy to sort out within a couple of passes. The annoyance is that Duna only slows you down by about 70-80m/s on the way out, so when you want to wash off 3km/s... that's a lot of warping back to PE. It's possible, but it's not necessarily an efficient use of play time vs just going with conventional rocketry. Return to Kerbin is a little easier; it'll drag a good 500m/s off you each pass, and 6 warps isn't as horrible as it sounds.

As far as I can see, the optimal way to travel by warp is to establish a circular solar orbit until a radial line from the sun would pass through both you and your target, then warp straight at it. With angular momentum conserved, you then tend to enter the planet's SoI and basically fall into it, but that's easy to solve while it's still a speck in the distance. Of course, the problem with this is... time. As noted above, there are only 4 points on your orbit when you really want to be warping, and you have to wait for one of those. You can reduce this by dropping to a low solar orbit, but it's still going to take some time. Ultimately, you end up choosing real-time, or game-time, but you're going to have to pay for the trip with some form of time.

 

Epilogue
What a long career this has been! Geebus, I think it started somewhere back in late July - although it honestly feels more like February. From humble beginnings on a harder-than-hard setting, I've gone through 1-kerbal Mun landings, to the first crew on Duna, to having boots on every planet in stock, plus OPM, plus Rald. It's absolutely been a career of firsts for me, and I've had a lot of fun with it. And I've had landers that crabwalked up hills, hatches that wouldn't let the crew back in, fuel lines where only one side is connected, things that blew up when trying to get down onto Eve, rovers that pinged into the air if stopped for more than a minute, ships flung over backwards by kerbals that got stuck underneath them, random game hangs when EVAing kerbals, and generally a crash every few hours.

But it's still been a lot of fun :)

I am however quite pleased to be able to bring it to a graceful end - for once not dictated by increasing instability or incompatible game updates. I'll probably take a step back from KSP for a week or two, and with 1.2 out and mods still catching up, this feels like really good timing to do so :)  Next career... mmm, dunno yet, really. I think I want to try Galileo's planet pack, and probably some different tech mods. KR&D has been great fun, but it's also stopped me from really investigating Near Future properly and has meant I've mostly stuck with the same ship designs, so maybe I'll leave that out and really learn Near Future next time. I also need a goal... having a finish line has been nice, because it's kept me focused and stopped me bailing out, with the result that I've seen more of the game than in any previous career. Tempted to think of something involving FTL Drives - maybe look at establishing mining colonies in every planetary system, if it becomes possible to ping between them quickly. I dunno, I'll work it out later :) 

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In your edited opening post (both the links list and the title) you called Kerbals an interplanetary species. I assume you meant interstellar, because interplanetary can be done with a Poodle and a Pod.

Anyway, congratulations on developing Kerbals into an interstellar species! You can now change your status to the one with the ears and the FTL Drive!

(First Exception drive, in my headcanon on KSP FTL travel, which I will post in a bit.)

Going to go install Rald now...

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12 hours ago, OrbitalBuzzsaw said:

@eddiew what mods do you use for so many goddarn planets? Me want!

That was a combination of Outer Planets Mod, and Rald. Early on, I was also using Kerbol Plus Remade, but tbh it's both older, and built to be stock-alike, and having modded the stock planets up to be super shiny, it felt like a bit of a letdown to visit the K+ planets and I kind of let them slide off my mission radar ^^;

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Season Two

Early days... kicking off with a little extra science in the bank to make up for 10% income. Let's see how it goes from here :) 

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Edited by eddiew
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Plane Pain

Couple of simple surveys and part tests.

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Turns out it was two new biomes; unfortunately Canary's improved landing capabilities weren't quite as improved as the engineers had claimed.

Total science from both missions: 11. We really need to go to space :blush:

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I found the 1.875m Home Grown Rockets parts to be useful early on in my x3.2 career game.  (You will want the community fixes as well.  http://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/index.php?/topic/131556-12-hgr-community-fixes-home-grown-fixes-for-home-grown-rockets-v151-02016-oct-29/&page=1 ).

Amongst other things that adds a good general purpose 1.875m engine (and 1.875m tanks) to the Advanced rocketry node that is sort of half way between a Swivel/Reliant and a Skipper (and available before the Skipper and 2.5m tanks).   

 

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(Un)stable Orbits

Despite having concluded that it was getting important to go to space, mission control couldn't help but notice that their rather basic facilities were going to make the job somewhat challenging. Having been offered a pair of lucrative survey contracts over the ocean near the launch facility at Broken Arrow, they told the engineers to put their heads together and come up with something that could hit all the waypoints in a single trip - and ideally, do it faster than Canary II would have managed.

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As tedious as a 1300km trip is at mach 2, the mission was classed a resounding success. Not only did Leo Kerman scoop up a jar of flavoursome saline solution for 9 science points, but the completed contracts pulled a comfortable profit of 150,000 roots, even accounting for the mysterious loss of the Condor's engines that had caused it to make an emergency landing *cough*

And yet, even though this jar of mostly water was the final ingredient that could be sourced upon kerbin, it was lacking a certain... je ne sais quoi. Despite a cupboard full of minerals, vials of water from the various lakes, and some sort of crawling invertebrates, the Council of Chefs felt that none of them were offering the taste sensation that everyone had been hoping for. Clearly, if they were to produce the best seaside rock, they were going to have to source ingredients from further afield - so far afield, in fact, that there were no fields there, for no kerbal farmer had ever walked that far without getting bored and coming back.

Fortunately, this conclusion coincided with having enough science data to unlock 2.5m rocketry, and a new industry was accidentally born when someone immediately offered a handsome sum of money to use it!

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Naturally, mission control notes with annoyance - as soon as we get a satellite into a good orbit, immediately some yob at a competing agency tries to go one better and loft a kerbal into orbit. Except they screw it up, and guess who has to deal with it? 

Most annoyingly, they screwed it up in such a way that they left their pilots skimming the upper atmosphere, meaning the rendezvouses had to be done at breakneck closing speeds less drag from the upper atmosphere start throwing the manoeuvres out of whack!

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On the up side, the reward from the rescues tipped the bank balance in favour of upgrading the VAB, thus waving farewell to the awkward 50 part limit.

This being the case, engineering strapped an aggressive satellite onto the top of an even more aggressive booster, and shot it skywards. Hopefully no idjit is going to try to put kerbals here before they're ready...

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The pictures sent back to Gael prompted a surge of funding the like of which had never been seen before (thanks Strategia for the 400% to milestones!) and the KSC was promptly upgraded to a full tier-2 campus.

 

19 hours ago, AVaughan said:

I found the 1.875m Home Grown Rockets parts to be useful early on in my x3.2 career game...

Thanks for the suggestion :)  Though... as per above, I have just recently unlocked 2.5m ^^;

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Lonely on Iota

Well, due to an unfortunate oversight, the engineering team forgot to put an antenna on Lyssa Kerman's ride to Iota... fortunately she's capable, if someone brash, and despite enduring two weeks of radio silence, she eventually returned home with all objectives complete.

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Nearly a million roots in funding, and some interestingly fluffy rocks that taste a little like marshmallow... or maybe creme brulee. Anyway, that's one for the Council of Chefs to ponder over. Of almost equal importance is the delicious science! 359 sweet sweet research points came home in Lyssa's footwell, the biggest haul since... well, ever, really. Mission control ponders where to invest them. Heavier engines? Tempting, but... biome scanner? Knowing where we're going and where we've been would be a major advantage on the search for the tastiest surface samples. Definitely biome scanner.

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Why I-ota...

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And that ends Iota, really. It's small, it's tasty, it's easy to land on, but it only has four biomes and we've scooped them all. The science haul is decent, allowing the unlock of Mainsails, with 218 research points left over to go towards the 300 needed for nuclear engines.

The Council of Chefs is pleased, but already looking forward to the next flavoursome discovery.

A few days later, the cartography department decrees that there was in fact a 5th biome on Iota that neither Lyssa nor Jay managed to spot, mission control decided to do something about the gap in the data. Identifying a useful synchronicity with a request for rescue from Iotian orbit, they modified the standard lander and sent it up on remote control.

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After a successful orbital rendezvous with a chirpy looking engineer, they immediately set her to work collecting rocks. Very, very bright rocks. Slightly salty, sweet, gunpowdery bright rocks that will add an unusual piquance to... nevermind. That's another one for the Council of Chefs to work out.

Of more import is the upcoming Ceti program. With the recent development of orbital research labs, and the realisation that there is a heavy fuel requirement for returning missions wishing to enter stable orbit around Gael, it is decided that getting one out to Ceti ahead of the lander missions would be a fine idea. Thus far, only an artists impression of the prototype has emerged. Mission control has nicknamed it Manatee Station.

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