Unplanned Tylo Circumnavigation

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Over the past few weeks, I have been documenting my Tylo expedition in the "What did you do in KSP today?" thread. It started as a simple mission to visit the cave, but things quickly got out of hand. I will collect the progress reports here in this thread.

I have been visiting the anomalies in my 1.3 sandbox, and the cave on Tylo was the next on my list. Because landing exactly where you want is difficult on Tylo, I realized that I needed a rover to get to the cave quickly. Yet because I can't build small rovers, the rover ended up being huge, and I decided to make it the descent stage of the lander as well. The rest of the mission architecture soon followed.



After I had landed and seen the cave, I decided to drive around a bit to explore. When I realized that the rover performed adequately over long distances, I got the idea of traveling down to the equator for an easier return trip. Somebody mentioned circumnavigation, and that became the next goal. On the way, I visited both poles and climbed several mountains rising over 10 km. Finally, after completing the circumnavigation, I drove halfway around the world to see the random monolith.

Part 1: Mission to Tylo

I launched the mission, landed on Tylo, and visited the cave.

While I have landed on Tylo many times, I have never explored the planet. Today I decided to change that.

The expedition required two launches. The first was my standard interplanetary ship. As the ship wasn't carrying any heavy payload, there was no need for the usual booster contraptions. Just two standard heavy boosters, with one additional Vector each to get the TWR above 1.



As the thermal control systems were dangerously close to the boosters, I had to rotate the ship to get rid of the boosters safely.



The second launch had a weird fairing protecting the payload. As the transfer stage was non-nuclear, I needed six heavy boosters to lift it.



The payload was a huge rover.



The rover took a fast route to Tylo, while the mothership arrived around 100 days later. Because I intended to land near the cave, I put the ships into an orbit with a 50-degree inclination.



The crew boarded the expedition module...



...and took it to the rover. Meanwhile the mothership moved into a 1000 km orbit to relay communications between Kerbin and the rover.



The Vector is a convenient engine for Tylo landers, though the gimbal range is way too high. I usually limit the range to 30% of the maximum to keep the ship controllable.



Everyone on the surface. The ladder must be on the uphill side of the rover, or the kerbals have a hard time climbing on top of the fuel tank.



The rover can go over 60 m/s downhill, but you can't brake or steer safely beyond 30-35 m/s. The kerbals are clearly enjoying the ride.


First destination reached. You can see the rover in the middle.



Part 2: Learning to Drive

I started driving towards the equator while learning how to handle the rover.

I continued the Tylo expedition. Moving fuel from the ascent stage to the descent stage lowered the CoM enough that the rover remained controllable at speeds up to 50-60 m/s. Sometimes I could even recover after losing control at 75 m/s.

But not without breaking a wheel.



Driving 200 km/h in heavy rover with underdamped suspension isn't exactly a smooth ride. Especially when the passenger compartment sways wildly every time the rover hits a bump.



I drove around 100 km south from the cave and climbed to a crater rim rising 2 km above the surrounding plains.



It's still over 300 km to the equator, but there doesn't seem to be anything interesting on the way there.

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Part 3: Speeding on the Plains

I discovered a large flat area and decided to check how fast the rover can go.

I continued my Tylo expedition and managed to drive another 250 km towards the equator.

How wheels work in KSP is still beyond me. What I know that if you make small turns while accelerating, the rover reaches much higher speeds. When I reached a large flat area, I decided to try how fast the rover can go.

I reached 160 m/s before making the small turns became too hazardous. After a minute or so the rover hit a small bump and crashed. I reloaded, increased wheel traction, and crossed the flats at a leisurely 100-110 m/s.



The increased traction also made the rover more stable. I can now drive safely 60-70 m/s over rough terrain.

Today's trip ended on another crater rim a few degrees north of the equator.


Part 4: Crossing the Equator

I crossed the equator and reached the Mountains of Utter Ridiculousness. Somewhere around here I remapped the rover controls and started using prograde SAS, which was essential for crossing mountain ranges.

And now, seeing the giant crater after another two weeks of practice, it doesn't look bad at all. It would be easy to drive down there.

I had some more time to play KSP, so I returned to my Tylo expedition.

Starting from 5N, I soon crossed the equator. Which was conveniently drawn on the ground.



My rover driving skills keep improving all the time. I also realized that if I remap rover controls, prograde SAS can keep the rover under control in seemingly impossible situations.



At around 30S, the mountains started getting higher. I climbed to the highest nearby peak, which was 9911 m above the baseline. That was a mistake. Behind the mountain was an utterly ridiculous crater. There was no way I could descend into it, so I had to go around .



Eventually the crater rim became too narrow to drive. I tried traversing the crater wall, but soon the rover was heading down.



That was the quickest kilometre I have ever descended in a rover. SAS performed its miracles, and I only broke three wheels.



The altitude is still almost 7.5 km, so I'm nowhere near the bottom. It will probably be the best to head southwest and cross the crater rim at a point where the slope is more gradual.

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Part 5: Mountains of Utter Ridiculousness

I crossed what may well be the highest mountain range on Tylo.

Today I crossed a mountain range on Tylo.

Starting from 32S, I went around the ridiculous crater and encountered even higher mountains. The highest peak I climbed was 11788 m, but there were probably higher ones nearby. The valleys between the mountains were often 4-5 km deep. Fortunately I had learned to brake effectively when going downhill, so most of the time I could just cross the valleys.



The last major peak of the range was at 56S. Its altitude was around 11650 m.



From there, the ground descended steeply towards the lowlands. Sometimes too steeply.



Today's leg ended at 64S. In the last 90 km, I descended from the 11.65 km mountain to 2.5 km lowlands.



Tomorrow I should be able to reach the south pole.

Part 6: South Pole

I tried to reach the south pole by driving on the highest ridge.

Today was a short day. After the Mountains of Utter Ridiculousness, the rest of the way to Tylo's south pole was easy driving.



After cresting a ridge at 87° 22' S, I saw Jool for the first time on the trip.



Soon afterwards I reached the maze of jagged ridges also known as the south pole of Tylo.



Navigating the maze took a while.



But finally I was able to plant a flag on the south pole.



Or at least as close to the pole as possible. The actual pole was 235 m further south. And who knows how far down.


Part 7: South Pole, Again

I tried the lowest valley instead.

Today I started from the ridge above Tylo's south pole and descended to the pole itself.



Finding the way down wasn't easy. The starting point was the peak on the left side of the picture.



As we all know, when you are standing on the south pole, you are hanging upside down. (Val actually seems to be standing on the vertical wall.)


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Part 8: Driving through the Night

The nights are long and dark on Tylo.

It was a long night. I started from the south pole of Tylo and drove north along the prime meridian.



There was some regional variation, but the terrain was really boring. I couldn't see much in the darkness either.



I saw the first signs of the morning at 24°S, and the Sun finally rose at 7°S.


Part 9: Crater Country

Two giant craters, the zero point of Tylo, and some interesting terrain.

Last time my Tylo circumnavigation had reached a crater rim at 7S. Today I continued following the prime meridian north, crossing two major craters and stopping at 35N.

The point where the prime meridian met the equator was rather boring.



On the other hand the terrain between the two craters was quite interesting. I often had to drop out of physics warp to keep the rover from crashing.



There was a convenient ramp going down into the second crater. It descended 3 km in around 20 km of smooth terrain.



It was time to do some mountaineering after the crater, as I had noticed an interesting peak on the north wall.



The mountain was bigger than I expected. The batteries ran out of power on the way up. 8 RTGs were not enough for going uphill, and the terrain was too steep for the brakes, so I had to some interesting maneuvers to avoid sliding all the way down. Ultimately I reached the summit, which was around 6 km above the crater floor.



Part 10: More Mountains

I crossed another major mountain range and continued north over boring terrain.

Last time I stopped at 35N after crossing two major craters. Today my Tylo expedition continued north.

At first, the terrain was quite interesting.



The mountains started getting higher, though not as high as the Mountains of Utter Ridiculousness in the south. Some serious mountaineering was required.



The mountain range ended at 49N. The edge of this relatively flat summit area was at 10.5 km, though scanners revealed that the highest point nearby would have been 11.2 km.



The plains were almost 5 km below the summit area. After driving 3/4 around Tylo, I was familiar enough with the rover that I could just drive straight down without looking for an easier route.



Then it was hundreds of kilometres of boring flat terrain. At around 73N, the ground around the prime meridian got rougher, as I saw the first signs of the ridges rising towards the north pole. I moved a bit east for easier driving, and then continued until 76N.

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Part 11: Full of Stars

The high ridge didn't lead to the north pole either. Jeb discovered something surprising.

I was already at 76N, so it was only a short trip to Tylo's north pole. The terrain was a bit rough at times, but it didn't take long to reach the polar region.

From distance, the north pole didn't look as bad as the south pole.



About 1 km from the pole, the ridge became too narrow to drive, so I sent Jeb to scout ahead.



The thing's hollow — it goes on forever — and — oh my God! — it's full of stars!



Apparently somebody had misassembled the planet.



This may be as close to the north pole as it's possible to go. I'm going to try the lowest valley tomorrow anyway.



Part 12: Jeb Goes Mountaineering

The lowest valley was even worse.

I had almost reached Tylo's north pole, but a terrain glitch blocked the way. I decided to try approaching the pole from the lowest valley instead.

The rover can easily descend 37-degree slopes – sideways.



It took a while, but eventually I managed to find a way through the ridge maze to the mouth of the valley.



The valley became too steep to drive, so I sent Jeb to climb. You can see the rover on the valley floor.



After careful measurements, Jeb determined that the terrain glitch is located directly on the pole.



Jeb decided to take the scenic route back. You can again see the rover in the picture.



A couple of hours later near 89N.



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Part 13: Back to the Cave

I completed the circumnavigation. Some parts of Tylo are really dark during the night.

I completed the Tylo circumnavigation. After picking up Jeb, who had tried some mountaineering near the north pole, I headed towards the cave.

The terrain between 89N and 87N was the worst I have seen on Tylo: countless of bumps of all sizes.



Things got easier below 87N, but I had to stop almost immediately. Because the rover is controlled by a probe core, I need constant communications with Kerbin. It hadn't been a problem so far, but now Jool decided to block the Sun.



It took an hour before the communications were restored. The terrain was very easy for a while, and there was even a large flat area where I could safely drive at 110 m/s.



When I was coming up from the south pole, the Sun was never too far below the horizon, and I had a direct link with Kerbin. Now it was around midnight, and I could only drive for an hour when the mothership was above the horizon, and then wait for another hour when it was below the horizon. I had to stop twice: at 65N and at 51N.

After 51N, the terrain became worse. First I was surprised by a 2 km deep crater in what appeared to be level ground, and then I reached the black area surrounding the cave. I had to reduce speed, as there was no way to avoid bumps in the darkness.



Finally I reached the cave at 40N and planted flag 36 next to flag 2 which was already there.



That's not the end of the expedition. When I was scanning the terrain before landing, I located another anomaly in addition to the cave. I managed to lose the location on the way, but now the mothership has discovered it again. It's located at 14N 6E, or almost halfway around the world from the cave. I guess I'm heading there next.


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finally a proper collection of the mission reports of your circumnavigation!

i think i read most of the reports already, but i will sure read them again.  

thanks for the interesting story! 

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Part 14: The Monolith

I took a long detour through the night to see the random monolith. Also some thoughts on the rover.

After completing my Tylo circumnavigation, I had a really bright idea. I had detected a new anomaly at 14N 6E, so I decided to go there. The rover was at the cave almost halfway around the world, and the entire trip would be through the night side of Tylo.

So I started driving towards west. Except that I didn't. The motheship went below the horizon just when I was starting, and the rover could not move without a link to Kerbin. Jeb spent the hour climbing on top of the cave, but it was too dark, and the screenshots showed only Jeb and the flag.

I started by driving west to get out of the black area around the cave, and then turned northwest to follow the great circle to the destination. On the average, I managed to drive around 150 km during the hour the mothership was visible, and then I had to wait for an hour for it to reappear. The great circle reached as far north as 67N before turning south. The northernmost part of the trip was close enough to the terminator line that I managed to get a direct link to Kerbin for a few hours. After that I had to alternate between driving and waiting again.

Driving in the darkness is efficient, as there is nothing to see. I spent much less time exploring and much more time driving forward than during the circumnavigation. For most of the time, the route managed to avoid major mountains and craters. Some regions were bumpy, limiting the safe speed to 30-40 m/s, while other regions had smoother terrain, where I could safely drive 50-60 m/s. The last three hours saw some impressive mountains and valleys, though it was still too dark to take screenshots. I summited one 10 km mountain just because it was there.

Jool rose above the horizon after the route turned south. As the great circle from the cave to 14N 6E passes near 0N 0E, navigation was easy after that. Jool basically showed the way.



After reaching the target area, I spent half an hour searching for the anomaly. RoveMate, which supposedly has 100% detection rate, was completely useless. I managed to spot the monolith visually before the scanner detected anything. After parking next to the monolith, RoveMate finally detected something – but the reported location was almost 20 km off.



My great Tylo expedition is almost over. I only have to launch back to orbit and return the crew to Kerbin.

The original plan was to land near the cave and explore a bit, but things got out of hand. I drove almost 1.5 times around Tylo, visited both poles, and climbed several mountains rising above 10 km. The rover wasn't even designed for long-distance driving, but it served well enough. It had many flaws that would have been easy to fix:

  • The center of mass is too high even after transfering fuel from the ascent stage to the descent stage.
  • Kerbals often fall to ground when they try to climb back to the rover, because there are not enough fixed ladder pieces on the forward tank.
  • The battery capacity is too low for mountaineering.
  • The wheels are not placed completely symmetrically, and the rover has a slight tendency to turn right after hitting a bump.
  • A command seat would have enabled driving during the night.
  • Some lights would have been useful for screenshots.


Part 15: The Journey Home

The return trip was not too different from my other interplanetary trips.

After completing the Tylo expedition, it was time to return home. I transferred fuel back to the ascent stage and launched. What was left on Tylo is still a fully functional rover, and it might even work better with a lower center of mass.



The mothership returned from a 1000 km highly inclined orbit to rendezvous with the ascent stage, and then the crew returned to the ship after 16 days on Tylo.



I believe I left 46 flags to mark the route traveled by the rover. (The lonely flag is from an earlier mission.)



Then it was time to return home. Luckily there was a good launch window almost immediately.



A spaceplane retrieved the crew, as usual.



And then everyone was back home.


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