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A Harder Edge: Nanocrystalline Diamond Caveman challenge attempt (Chapter 9: The Home Stretch) (DONE)

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1 hour ago, The Dunatian said:

I know where to find the mod, but only for 1.3.1. Will it still work in 1.4.2?

It seems to be working fine for me, although it may take a bit of fiddling (it seems there are a few issues with visor reflections on Windows).

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Chapter 6: Deja Vu All over Again


For our future missions, I'm going to need funds. Lots and lots of funds. The Kerbin survey contracts I've been doing have been good enough so far, but it's time for an upgrade.


I'm going to survey the Mun. In many ways, the Mun makes for far more favorable surveying than Kerbin, as the slower rotation and smaller size mean more reliable flyovers of survey zones.


But first, I need to bring Jeb home. I can't spare Val, and hiring a new pilot would be prohibitively expensive.


Man, look at this thing. No heatshield, science mounted on the parachute... Talk about a blast from the past.


Back... for now.


May I present Fakin' It II, the latest iteration of our survey craft manned reconnaissance platform program. The science stuff is all in the service bay, along with a couple of batteries.


Burning for the Mun.


Nice polar orbit.


Oh man, look at that return! This will do nicely.


In a shocking turn of events, the contract system threw me a bone. Before I go off and do something as crazy as landing on Minmus, though, I'm going to have to visit a bunch of places I've already been.



There are a few places I haven't gotten Science Jr. data from yet. Scarborough Fair is designed to fix that problem.

Don't mind the part clipping.


Another single-stick liftoff, this time with extra-tall technology. Gotta go full SpaceX with the fineness ratio, because that will definitely lead to good things.


So... it turns out the new reentry effects really don't like part clipping. It's probably fine.


Sweet, sweet science.

Returns from all the flights in the spoiler:





While I was heading for Minmus the second time, the Mun inconveniently got in my way.


Very rude. I shall have to have a word with it later.




All right. It's time to go for that landing.


Bridge over Troubled Water is not designed to land on Minmus. It's designed to have as much delta-V as possible. The only reason it can pull off a landing is because Minmus, conveniently, has perfectly flat landing spots.

Which is nice.


Is it just me, or have we seen this before?

Nah, probably just me.


Just another Minmus transfer.


Nice low orbit.


Headed down to the Greater Flats.


Balancing precariously on the engine bell.


Let's get out of here.


Leaving for now. I'm sure I'll be back, soon enough...


White-hot reentry.




Would you look at that. 22.4 science from one mission, and I didn't even need to bring a Science Jr. along. Also, I have 90 science now, which means...


It's docking port time! The only thing standing in my way now is my own patience. And possibly my lack of nosecones and good probe cores.

On a completely different note, how do you fine folk feel about the use of Distant Object Enhancement? Non-cavemen might say it's purely visual, but being able to see things from much further away than normal could very well help docking and/or interplanetary travel. Do you all feel that disqualifies it from use?

Edited by IncongruousGoat
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  • 3 weeks later...

So, it turns out orbital assembly is very tedious when you don't have maneuver nodes or proper patched conics.

Chapter 7: Some Assembly Required


I have docking ports now, which means it's time for the real grinding to begin. The farming of Kerbin was peanuts compared to what's to come.

No, not literal peanuts. We've been over this before.

First, though, the space program is going to need a suitably beefy, technologically sophisticated mission architecture.


Before all of that, though, Jeb needs to be brought home. I'm going to need 2 pilots for what's to come.



The Old Friends/Bookends (see what I did there?) architecture uses a Kerbin Orbit Rendezvous profile, with Bookends acting as a suppementary transfer drop tank for Old Friends.


First, we launch Bookends. This is why I needed Jeb back - I needed a second pilot to fly this thing to orbit. Theoretically, I could have left the fuel tank in orbit and brought the pilot back for the second launch, but the docking procedure here is painful as it is even with control authority on both ships.


So far, the ascent looks good...


...and then aerodynamics shows its teeth. Bookends has, let's say, sub-optimal aerodynamic characteristics, which makes launches fun. Messing up the start of the gravity turn by even a couple seconds is pretty much automatic mission failure.


Once the first stage drops, everything gets much better.


Orbited, with a couple of drops of fuel still left in the tank. Let's hope Old Friends makes it up with something more substantial...


Thankfully, Old Friends is much better behaved, aerodynamically speaking.


Dum de dum...


That's... not very much fuel. Should be enough to do rendezvous and docking though.


It wouldn't be KSP if the docking happened on the daytime side, now would it?


All assembled.


First we bring Jeb home...


Get that squared away


Er... sure. This is definitely a space station. Whatever you say, contract man. Thank you for the money.

Is he gone? I think he's gone.


Ditch the nearly-empty insertion stage...


...and make for the Minmus (SOI) border.


Insertion burn at Minmus


Ditch the tank and start the landing burn


Collect all the science (hooray service bays/science containers!)


All right, that's enough of that. Let's get out of here.


Ditch the lander stage and brace for re-entry


Radial parachute, schmadial schmarachute.


Oh, for Kerm's sake. I lost a goo container on landing. Well, there goes that 1.5 science...


Still a completely acceptable haul, though.

The rest of the biomes are in the spoiler:



At this point, I halved the amount of fuel on the Old Friends lander, to increase fuel margins on ascent and transfer.



After I unlocked probe cores, I modified Bookends to be unmanned. I also shipped Bill and Bob off in probe-controlled ships to polar orbits of the Mun and Minmus for contract farming purposes.


Side note: I had to uninstall Scatterer temporarily. My desktop (which has KSP on it) is currently missing its graphics card for various reasons, and trying to use Scatterer with the integrated graphics on my motherboard was cutting my framerate in half. It should be back by the next launch, once I get everything re-combobulated.


That took way too many launches. I'm going to have to find a better way for the Mun, because I don't think I can do that launch campaign again, much less one that's twice as long.

Well, at least I got some good science out of it.


Here's where the tech tree is. The next priority is Advanced Construction, for the fairings (which will be integral to my future plans). After that, I'm not quite sure. I've got a list of nodes I'm going to want before going to Duna (and I will be going to Duna, mark my words), but no particular order in which I need to unlock them. On the bright side, I've got no shortage of places to go get science now. So that's something.

The next chapter is probably going to take a while. I've got a fair deal going on on my end right now, and also the next phase is going to involve a ton of launches. I intend to have this whole thing done by July, but I don't know if that's going to happen or not.

Edited by IncongruousGoat
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  • 3 weeks later...

'Tis a strange thing indeed, to be able to afford designing for something other than maximal science return.

Chapter 8: Nose to the Grindstone II - Electric Boogaloo


I think it's high time this space program set up some infrastructure. The radio dead zone east of the KSC has caused one too many lost launches. To that end...


I'm putting up a comms satellite. Now, fairings haven't exactly been invented yet, so it's a bit ugly, but it will have to do.


That seems a reasonable altitude. No more dead zone, at least when I'm launching stuff.

With that out of the way, it's time. Time to go to the Mun, for real this time. No more messing around with flybys and polar orbits. It's time to go for a landing.


Thankfully, the Old Friends/Bookends architecture had enough latent capacity to pull it off, with some modification. Major changes are expansion of the lander tank, shrinking of the lander engine, and use of the Bookends second stage as a transfer stage for Old Friends, with the tank that held transfer fuel on Bookends I acting as a drop tank instead.


First, Bookends II.


Orbited. The transfer stage will now wait for the lander to dock to it.


I'm starting to really like using those Spark engines on first stages. It's a great way to provide some extra thrust and control authority, if you have the parts and mass to spare.


Orbited, with more than enough fuel for a rendezvous and docking.


I'm starting to get very sick indeed of these endless repetitive dockings. If I have to do another 16 just for the Mun, I might just lose it.


But enough of that. Onwards!


Using the transfer stage as a crasher. It does mean flipping the lander 180 degrees during the hairiest part of descent though, which isn't great.


Obligatory beauty shot


Right. Enough of that. Let's go home.


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Service bays are magic. I might even go as far as saying that they're better than struts. Boosters are still king though.


That's... underwhelming. It seems odd that you get less science from the Mun than Minmus, even though it's plainly the harder of the two to land on.

How many biomes do I have left, again? 16? Oh boy. This is gonna take a while...


Or... or maybe not. The contract system went and threw me a bone the size of Long Island. The contract itself is worthless, of course, but it gives me fairings. With fairings, I can build real probes, and with real probes, well... I can do lots of stuff. Maybe even go all the way to the Mun and back in one launch.


But first, more comms satellites. The lone one we have up right now just will not do.


That's much better. All the orbits are less than a hundredth of a percent off of circular, so the network should be stable for a few in-game years at least. It doesn't need to last forever, just long enough.


And now, to the real reason I was so excited to get fairings. For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her is designed to be able to return goo, materials bay, temperature, and pressure data to Kerbin from any biome on the Mun in a single launch. I'm losing out on some science by forgoing crew reports, but my math tells me I can afford to do this. The margin on science will be tight, but I'll take it if it keeps me sane.


In other news, I finally got Real Plume working. So there's that.


The TWR on the first stage is a bit low, which makes managing the ascent a bit trickier than I'd like. Somehow, I managed to never screw this up badly enough to scupper a launch, but a couple were close things indeed.


I've been refining my transfer technique. It seems the optimal path is to slightly undershoot the orbit of the Mun at a phase angle of 45 degrees or so. On previous launches, this didn't really matter, but this time I don't have much delta-V for corrections.


Hmmm. Better than the rest of my launches to date, but it still needs some work.


Heading down on the descent stage's Spark engine. The fuel tank is (of course) clipped into the materials bay. Honestly, I should have just named this whole attempt "Revenge Of the Part Clipping".


Landed on the engine bell/fuel tank. The lander is a bit wobbly on landing, but if it falls over it can right itself by tactically opening and closing the doors of the materials bay to fling itself away from the ground.


Heading back


With the lander stage burned out, it's time to switch to the return stage. Which consists of an Ant engine, clipped into an Oscar-B, clipped into an Experiment Return doohickey, clipped into a service bay. I swear, the things I do to keep fineness ratio in check...


Now with innovative 'ablative' heatshielding technology.


I stand by my assessment about the science, although I do admit that looking at that return is a bit painful after Minmus.

And now, for the thing you all came here to see... a bunch of boring images in spoilers. Spoiler 1 contains the science returns from the remaining 15 flights, while spoiler 2 contains some screenshots I took while flying. I can't promise any kind of quality on them - they're just shots that struck me as worth preserving.





I spy with my little eye, something... arch shaped.


KSP's terrain may not be much to look at close up, but when viewed from a distance it can be quite pretty.


The Sun, just poking over the horizon in the Northeast Basin


Another shot from a high latitude.


Canyon runs are always a bit nerve-wracking.


Why hello there, crater wall. Aren't you tall today.


Made me think of the steppe.


This one left me more than a little homesick (which is not something I feel very often). Something about the mountains, I guess.


Finally, going for a nice roll in a crater near the south pole, looking for flatter ground upon which to right the lander.

That... wasn't so bad, actually. For Emily proved a joy to fly compared to most everything I've built for this save up to this point, which allowed for a far higher launch cadence than I was able to manage with Old Friends/Bookends.


This is the state of the tech tree. I only have 4 nodes left, which means I need 313 more science. The Kerbin system is, for all intents and purposes, farmed dry (I could probably eke out another 150-200 science or so, but it just isn't worth it), which means it's time to start looking further afield. The end is in sight!

Not much for a penultimate chapter. Eh, it's okay. The next one should make for a nice grand finale.

Edited by IncongruousGoat
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I've often thought that the Mun has too many biomes.  Minmus probably has a few too many as well.  Which means it is too easy to unlock the entire stock tech tree without ever leaving the Kerbin system.

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Well, this is it. The last chapter, and she's a doozy.

Chapter 9: The Home Stretch


It's time. Time to go to Duna.

I need 315 science to unlock the rest of the tree. Now, it's possible to extract that much from the Duna system with my current tech, in one mission - but only if I collect science for every experiment from every scenario (discounting biome-specific stuff). This is going to be tricky, but I think I have a solution.


A solution named Homeward Bound. An appropriate name, I think. This monster of a ship (by caveman standards) has 131 parts and weighs 35.5 tons, which means I can't even roll this mockup out to the pad. I can't do pad assembly, either, because I neglected to invent the wheel. Which means it's time for some orbital assembly.

First, though, an explanation of all of the bits:



First, the capsule, named Homeward Bound. This holds the experiment return thingamajig, as well as the thermometer and barometer. It also has an Oscar B fuel tank and 2 Ant engines, for orbital maneuvering purposes. This is the sole crew cabin for the mission - it will move between landers and transfer stages as required by the mission.


Next, the return stage, named Mrs. Robinson. Yes, it's completely overbuilt for a Duna->Kerbin transfer, but I'm playing it very safe with the interplanetary delta-V margins. Caveman transfers are rarely clean or efficient.


Next, the Ike lander core, named The Sound of Silence, and designed to dock to the bottom of Homeward Bound. The radial docking ports are for...


...El Condor Pasa, of which 2 will be launched. One for Ike, and one for Duna/solar space science. And yes, there are goo canisters buried somewhere in there.


The Boxer is the Duna lander. It's basically The Sound of Silence, minus the Baguette tanks.


Overs holds the science and parachutes for The Boxer.


Third and last in the line of science carrier modules is April Come She Will, which is just a fuel tank with some docking ports on it.


A Hazy Shade of Winter is the core of the fuel tank section of the Kerbin->Duna transfer stage. Radially docked to it via those pairs of docking ports are 3 copies of...wOYxHLs.png

...A Most Peculiar Man. The fuel priority is set up such that the Most Peculiar Men (see what I did there?) will drain before A Hazy Shade of Winter. Who says cavemen can't use asparagus staging?


Finally (in ship components) we have Why Don't You Write Me. Four of these will be docked to the bottom of the fuel section.

There is one other thing that will be launched...


Anji is a pair of basic monopropellant tugs, used to aid emplacement of the bits of El Condor Pasa and Overs, as well as the Most Peculiar Men. These tugs will also end up helping out for other reasons...

And now, the assembly process. What, you thought I'd get all the way through this without needing to put 2 spoilers in a spoiler?



Launch Homeward Bound first, since it's the only one of the modules that has any control, and docking things to an inert hulk is no fun at all.


Next, Mrs. Robinson...


...and then The Sound of Silence...


...and then the first pair of Anjis. All pretty smooth so far.


It was around here that things started getting exciting. Docking 3 Science Jr.'s with 2 Anjis flying around made the assembly area a bit cluttered.


It all went together fine in the end, though.


Next up, The Boxer. Pretty conventional.


The same, however, cannot be said of Overs. These parachute-equipped modules only had 1 Anji-compliant docking port (unlike El Condor Pasa), which made maneuvering them into position more difficult due to severe RCS imbalance.


April Come She Will and El Condor Pasa launch 2 went up without a hitch. The launches so far had been relatively light components. The next set, however, were pushing my maximum payload capacity, which made things more interesting.


A Hazy Shade of Winter was by far the worst offender. It made it into a 71x71 km parking orbit with barely a trickle of fuel left, unable to even correct its inclination. On the third launch attempt. I had to move an Anji all the way out to the stranded module and drag it back to the ship under thruster power. Which, for the record, is not what the Anjis were designed to do. I briefly considered using the fuel in A Hazy Shade of Winter itself to move it, but decided that I didn't want to cut into Homeward Bound's delta-V margin if at all possible.


The Most Peculiar Men weren't much better. The liftoff TWR was somewhat better, due to an extra Spark vernier engine, but they still arrived in orbit without enough fuel for a rendezvous. The Anjis I had up there ended up burning through so much monoprop moving those heavy fuel tanks around that I had to launch a second pair to move the last tank.


The launch of the 4 Why Don't You Write Me's went much better, seeing as they were actually able to dock under their own power. Shocking, I know.

With that (and a year of timewarping) out of the way...

It's time to get this party started.


Onwards! To victory!


Looks approximately correct.


Ah. That's... not good. Looks like it's time for a correction burn or three.


Burn radial out to keep my velocity down and give Duna time to catch up.


Eh. Not as good as I'd like, but it'll do.


Don't need those anymore


More radial burning


I see you there, Ike. Don't go thinking you can ruin my day. I've got plans for you.


Ditch the used-up science


One (split-up) braking burn later...


Move the bits around


Much better


Brace for re-entry...


Chutes out


And, open. For anyone wondering, no, this isn't a stable equilibrium. The SAS is the only thing keeping the lander upright.


Seems I picked me a good landing spot.


All right, that's enough of that. We have work to do.


Duna SSTOs: Too easy to build.


There you are.


Some rejiggering later...


I spy with my little eye, something... grey.


Uh. Ike. You were supposed to catch me. What are you doing.


Thankfully, Ike's SOI is so big that you can basically sit around in any non-resonant Ike-crossing orbit for a little while and get a decent encounter. Which is what I did.


Going in for a landing.


I like Ike.


..but not enough to stay.


Duna-rise plus a low pass make for a pretty scene.


Aerobraking down. Not strictly necessary, but I'm in no rush and would rather play it safe when it comes to fuel.


"Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson..."


All right, let's head home.

What do you mean, I have to sit here for another year and a half? Madness.


Is it finally time? It's time. Let's go home.


Homeward Bound is homeward bound.


Even more long radial correction burns.


I missed my encounter, so I decided to treat this like a rendezvous. Just get into a slightly higher orbit and wait for Kerbin to catch up.


Thar she blows.


Nice and slow encounter


Burn off all the remaining fuel. I mean, why not?


When I said all, I meant all.


Would someone kindly tell me why the capsule is overheating? I don't like the look of it one bit...


Oh, and of course I'm coming down in a mountain range.


Chute has deployed. Looking real good.


There it is. 315 science. Exactly what I needed.


There. The tech tree is complete, with barely 6 science to spare. It's done. The challenge is done.

Holy cow. I can't believe that it's finally complete. It took two years of this challenge being up for someone to make it all the way, but finally it's been proven possible. I wonder how long it's going to be before the next submission shows up? Not too long, I hope. I want to see all the things people do to do this challenge in a more clever way than I did.


Edited by IncongruousGoat
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Wow! That is very impressive! I have been passively following your progress due to the "other" life keeping me away from the real Kerbal life. This is motivation to come back and try it... perhaps... no promises. I still believe it could take an inhuman amount of grinding to complete NCD. But, maybe I was wrong or... WE HAVE PROOF OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE!

So, cheers to you IncongruousSpaceAlienGoat! Well done!


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2 hours ago, dvader said:

Wow! That is very impressive! I have been passively following your progress due to the "other" life keeping me away from the real Kerbal life. This is motivation to come back and try it... perhaps... no promises. I still believe it could take an inhuman amount of grinding to complete NCD. But, maybe I was wrong or... WE HAVE PROOF OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE!

So, cheers to you IncongruousSpaceAlienGoat! Well done!

I'm human, I swear! :P

But, seriously, there's a reason I decided to farm the Mun using single-launch probes. Trying to do it with two-launch crewed missions would have driven me off the edge with the tedium. If you take the approach @Muetdhiver took in his recent Diamond run and do lots of interplanetary stuff it might not be quite so bad, but that approach requires some intense cavemannery and is quite risky.

I do encourage you to give this a shot, if you have the time. It would be a sad thing indeed if this ends up being the only successful attempt.

10 hours ago, JAFO said:

Congratulations, @IncongruousGoat!

I imagine it'll be a good long while before you're in the mood to do orbital assembly without patched conics again..

Thank you! To be honest, it's going to be a while before I'm in the mood to play KSP again. Doing this has burnt me out pretty thoroughly.

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Frankly amazing caveman run. I really loved the mun comnet and probe approach. And the duna mission was beautifull done with the dual landing. And the guts to finish it... WP.

I can't see myself doing an NCD just now, thinking caveman rendez-vous and on lawn assembly is cringe inducing at the moment. I already felt Diamond was grindy and went interplanetary because I hate biome farming, and Mun biome farming sounded too dreadfull to me.

Interplanetary is less risky than it seems so long as one does not obsess over getting an encounter at the first pass. Doing radial burns like you did for Duna is very, very costly (and risky) compared to waiting two or three more years with a corrected AP.

Jool moons are terrifying though. I would not go there as a first choice for a caveman run. Eve is very gentle and low risk. Lower risk than Duna since there is no Ike.


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9 hours ago, IncongruousGoat said:

But, seriously, there's a reason I decided to farm the Mun using single-launch probes. Trying to do it with two-launch crewed missions would have driven me off the edge with the tedium. If you take the approach @Muetdhiver took in his recent Diamond run and do lots of interplanetary stuff it might not be quite so bad, but that approach requires some intense cavemannery and is quite risky.

I still won't promise anything but I did open up my science planner yesterday. In short, if you don't want to go to the Mun biomes, you could do either a Jool-5 Lite mission like @Muetdhiver or Duna+Eve missions.

With Jool, it would be enough to bring the reusable experiments (Crew+Temp+Press) and get High+Low space from all bodies plus all biomes on Bop+Pol.

With Duna+Eve, you can skip Eve+Duna biomes and just do all 3 biomes on Gilly and 5 on Ike but with Goo+Materials.

Duna+Eve sounds safer but Jool sounds more fun. It requires some serious caveman slingshot prevention testing though. But, that's the fun part. The Kerbin+Minmus biomes, EVA trickery, cash missions etc must be completed without accidents first... I wouldn't be surprised if @IncongruousGoat remained alone at the top for a very long time.

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Congratulations @IncongruousGoat

Feel proud to show off your NCD stone. 





There are other synthetic substances that are  harder than NCD and Nanocrystalline Diamond was chosen because it is found in meteorite craters.

This article details more information about NCD.




Looks like I am coming back to KSP at the right time.  We have one caveman completing the NCD challenge and another taking up the path.  





Caveman Navigation

The issue with navigation has been bothering me.  It seems to me that a system of calculations based on measurements could provide a better chance of succeeding an interplanetary intercept.

For a time I thought of using standard celestial navigation.  A conical measurement system is used to accurately measure the spacecraft's location in three dimensions.  This would then have to involve using a sextant to sight the planet which is not possible in stock KSP.

I would like to open another thread and discuss celestial navigation using the in game map.

It should be possible to use the equation of an ellipse to create formula to assist in navigation.

The result should allow caveman to travel interplanetary with confidence with the use of simple tools to measure on screen information and apply formulas to predict spacecraft and planet locations.




Edited by MoeslyArmlis
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It took me until I saw "Scarborough Fair" to figure it out, and then "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "Dangling Conversation" really hit it home. Simon and Garfunkel songs. Those two are great.

And wait, when they say "science over so and so" you can be in orbit? SERIOUSLY? I'm launching a survey craft to take advantage of that right now if that's the case.

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