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KSP Weekly: Colonization of Mars

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Welcome to KSP Weekly! There’s been a palpable excitement about the colonization of Mars in recent years. We all know about SpaceX’s intentions, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have also announced its plans to set up Mars’ first mini city for 2117. But there is one fundamental issue that will need to be taken care off first: How will visitors to Mars stay alive?

Humans have four vital needs in space: breathable air, clean water, nutritious food, and a way to discard of (or recycle) waste. But it can cost tens of thousands of dollars to send just a single pound of anything to Mars with current rocket technology. One solution could be the use of Bioregenerative Life Support Systems (BLSS). The basic concept, which dates back to the Cold War, is to use plants and microbes in a self-contained system to recycle waste and regenerate it into air, water, and food. But it was in 1980s that Hydroponic greenhouses — soil-free farms that grow crops using flowing water and mineral salts — became a viable option, thanks to improved sensors, ever-faster computers, and the emergence of high-efficiency LED lighting. From 1987 through 1998 NASA built and tested the Biomass Production Chamber and broke food production records in the process. The space agency took lessons from that project to start on the Bio-Plex at Johnson Space Center. The facility was designed as a two-level, multi-chamber space mission simulator that relied in part on hydroponic greenhouses for life support. Four astronauts were supposed to lock themselves inside for hundreds of days at a time, starting in 2003. But a change in presidential administrations — and NASA’s exploration goals — halted construction in 2002. Though NASA lost most of its funding for bioregenerative life support, it did manage to find outside grant money to fund the Mars Lunar Greenhouse project at the University of Arizona starting around 2004.

The Prototype Lunar Greenhouse is an innovative hydroponic plant growth chamber. Each unit is a tube built around a lightweight aluminum frame and lighting rig and can be folded to fit inside a decent-size spaceship. Two persons can assemble it in about 10 minutes, and martian or lunar dirt could be piled on the outside to protect against small meteorites and radiation. Inside, plastic sleeves carry water to plant roots, delivering the nutrient-laden liquid on a computer-controlled schedule for maximum efficiency. An external composter digests human and plant waste with microbes while also helping filter water. Light can be generated by LEDs or directed from the outside using solar concentrators and fiber optic cabling. One unit operating at its full planned potential could provide 50% of the food, 100% of the air, and 100% of the water that one astronaut needs on either Mars or the moon. Though designed primarily for plants, a tube can be configured to grow insects, mealworms, or other edible arthropodes for protein. As advanced as it may seem, the system is far from being mission-ready. Oxygen production, for example, is roughly half of what it should be and other details still need to be addressed, but it’s still a very promising project.

China, on the other hand, is experimenting with bioregeneration on the “Lunar Palace-1” facility, an environmentally closed facility where occupants can simulate a long-duration self-contained mission with no outside inputs other than power/energy.  In July 2017, four students locked themselves inside that structure’s airtight confines and subsisted on plants and mealworms for 200 days. All with the goal of developing an eventual moon base.

Bioregenerative life support is crucial if we’re serious about sending people to Mars for long periods. Although there’s much work ahead of us, it seems that some are close to creating a reliable Bioregenerative Life Support System that will get us closer to what years ago seemed to be pure science fiction.

[Development news start here]

The work on the 1.4.4 continues vigorously. With this update, The team is aiming to provide our players with a substantial amount of improvements to the base game and the expansion. One key element — as we’ve mentioned in previous entries — is work on the Particle System. The Aero, Reentry, engine flame, smoke emitter and splashdown effects were carefully assessed and we have been working on them for the past weeks. In the particular case of the Splashdown effect we had to make sure the position at the water surface was adequate, we also looked at reducing the whiteout effect, and performed some scaling to reduce prefabs and improve the effects size based on the impact. Additionally, from the Engine Flame and Smoke Emitter FX assessment, we found two particular elements that could be improved for the particle. For instance, smoke trails are placing particles in world space, but not incorporating the vessels velocity, so in order to solve this we had to work out and implement a code solution that adds the world space to the smoke particles. We also adjusted the amount of particles/particle life based on the vessels velocity, and adjusted some of the emitter values to balance the smoke and flame related issues.

Other aspects that we are aiming to improve is the game’s 4K support on PC, so we started an assessment process. Most people do not own 4K displays, but people who do and play KSP at this resolution noticed that some UI elements are so small that it is very hard to read them. We are working on a feature to scale these elements accordingly. For this endeavor we are looking  into the tracker and forum for any reports related to that and list any other issues related to the 4K display of the game, so if you own a 4K display, please help us by reporting any issue you experience. You can do so at our bugtracker, or at the forums.

On top of that the team has been working on implementing Cloud Saves on Steam (game saves and missions) and adding support for missions to GOG Galaxy users. Once 1.4.4 is released, players will be able to access their save files and mission files from any computer by logging into their respective accounts. Good news for those who want to continue their space career while at the office (just kidding… but you could actually do that now).

In other news, BlitWorks hasn’t stopped their work on the upcoming console patch for KSP Enhanced Edition. This week our testers received another build filled with bug fixes, including a bug that locked the game if you opened the debug screen after a crash; pretty annoying, but mercilessly squashed. There was another issue that locked the screen and caused the loss of functionality to the controls when the user rapidly deleted saves in the pause menu on the Career home screen. This forced them to restart the title, but now no one will have to worry about it.

Don’t forget that you can also share and download missions on Curse, KerbalX, and the KSP Forum.

Finally, we encourage you to participate in our latest KSP Challenge - Stylish Decay! This time around the challenge consist of perform an EVA reentry from a stable orbit into Kerbin’s surface. Are you up to the challenge? Check it out and share your screenshots, videos or images!

That’s it for this week. Be sure to join us on our official forums, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Stay tuned for more exciting and upcoming news and development updates!

Happy launchings!  

 

 

*Information Source:  

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I have a 4K display. Not that I need glasses or anything, but I was thinking it would be neat if the VAB/SPH could have a dynamic "magnifier" window that appears only while connecting/hovering nodes. Particularly for small, surface-attached areas that are obscured by outboard fuel tanks or other structures. On a 4K display, this probably wouldn't crowd out the craft view very much. I mention this because I find that I am always zooming in and out and angling my view angle to get a better look. Sometimes I really need to see just where a part is going on a complex craft.

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Greetings, a question. The improvements of the particles do not doubt that they improve the aspect of the game. But will it affect performance? Best regards.

Edited by Atroner

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Lots of good stuff to look forward to :3 thanks Squad! Love the polishing endeavor, I hope that one day we'll have native PBR shader support and atmospheric scattering.

Oh, and I'm obliged to remind you that walking kerbals on moving vessels instead of ragdolling would be nice too ;)

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It's been a while since I've posted here, but with the current and upcoming 1.4.x releases, I'm guessing the codebase and modding API have stabilized. 1.4.4 shouldn't really break 1.4.3-era mods when it gets released...Right? (Maybe at most a simple re-compile?)

I got out of KSP for the past year or so because of a new job and the broken mods that always follow nearly every KSP patch release. (Especially the major ones.) I'm hoping the modding API has stabilized for both the sake of the modders' and players' sanity. (DISCLOSURE: No, I do not use CKAN for anyone who wanted to say, "But keeping up-to-date with mods is easy with CKAN." No, I will not start using it. No, I will not bother trying to justify, argue, or debate my choice to not use it.)

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3 hours ago, SQUAD said:

Good news for those who want to continue their space career while at the office (just kidding… but you could actually do that now). 

Nobody would ever do this or intentionally bypass their workplace firewall to view the forums. It does seem like a nice feature, though....and beats emailing saves to myself.

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1 hour ago, StahnAileron said:

1.4.4 shouldn't really break 1.4.3-era mods when it gets released...Right?

Jokes!

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Cloud saves! Finally I won't have to set up dropbox links on every computer... 

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Shame that it would only work for stock games... Synchronization of my GameData-folders would get a major undertaking...

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I can get behind utilizing features of the platforms you sell your product on.

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If you guys are improving the particle system, why not make it more realistic as well? Please remove the jet engine smoke at low altitudes, it doesn't make any sense, at all.

Or if you want to keep it and give a 1960's feel to, at least make it black and a lot thinner.

Plus add the smell of soot and unburned kerosine.

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12 hours ago, SQUAD said:

work on the Particle System

Good plan. Not the biggest fish in the pan IMO, but those aero effects sure could use it.
 

12 hours ago, SQUAD said:

aiming to improve is the game’s 4K support

Yawn. Might be interesting one day, maybe.

 

12 hours ago, SQUAD said:

implementing Cloud Saves on Steam (game saves and missions) and adding support for missions to GOG Galaxy users.

Nice. And for those customers who purchased the game directly from @SQUAD? They get what, a warm fuzzy feeling?

 

12 hours ago, SQUAD said:

work on the upcoming console patch for KSP Enhanced Edition.

Cool, so customers who run on a console are finally going to get the same release as everyone else, right? DLC too? Should I be laughing now?

 

-----

As for what I still don't see in this weekly:

Joysticks on GNU/Linux.

When. Is. This. Going. To. Be. Fixed? 1.4.4? 1.4.5? Never? What gives?

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1 hour ago, steve_v said:

Nice. And for those customers who purchased the game directly from @SQUAD?  They get what, a warm fuzzy feeling?

There's a bit of a difference between flipping a switch to enable a 3rd party utility; and creating, testing, and supporting that feature yourself.

You may as well ask why they won't support 4k on your 1080p monitor.

Edited by 5thHorseman
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2 hours ago, steve_v said:

And for those customers who purchased the game directly from @SQUAD? They get what, a warm fuzzy feeling?

Yes. It's what some call...empathy.

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8 hours ago, steve_v said:

@SQUAD

As for what I still don't see in this weekly:

Joysticks on GNU/Linux.

When. Is. This. Going. To. Be. Fixed? 1.4.4? 1.4.5? Never? What gives?

 

Since a mod does this I'm guessing that its considered good to go.

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11 minutes ago, Bornholio said:

 

Since a mod does this I'm guessing that its considered good to go.

 

Here is the latest version that is being maintained.  Windows user without a joystick so your milage may vary.

 

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Or at least close the VAB doors, or remove the faux clouds from the outdoor scenery.

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20 hours ago, klgraham1013 said:

It's what some call...empathy.

Ahh yes, that must be what all the strife was about during the "steam only, making patches be too hard" prerelase thingy. Too much empathy, for sure.
Or the kerfuffle over the zombie updater that was left in there after somebody misplaced the server, just so it could louse up people's installs and force them to waste bandwidth... Empathy there too I guess.

Or maybe it's just greed. Because hosting stuff yourself costs money.
Then again, given the impressive reliability record of the patcher that nobody could be arsed to maintain, a Squad developed cloud-save system would probably become a save-mangling system in short order.

 

15 hours ago, Bornholio said:

a mod does this

And a shout out to @linuxgurugamer, many kudos for picking up maintenance of yet another excellent mod.  Do you even sleep bro?

 

15 hours ago, Bornholio said:

I'm guessing that its considered good to go.

By who? Squad?
If that is the case, then I assume everyone is just fine with them cherry-picking community generated content to copy and charge for, but expecting them to do something similar to fix a crippling bug that they introduced is totally unrealistic? Seriously? :confused:

Yes, a mod solves the problem. That's nice, but frankly, the community fixing Squads bugs makes them look incompetent, lazy or both.

A fix is all but handed to them on a silver platter,  yet all we have on this so far is "It is not a simple fix".
Between perusing the AFBW code and chipping the rust off my brain with a couple of SDL tutorials over the weekend, I'm pretty well convinced that this is utter, utter horeseexcrements.
Not a 5-minute job to be sure, but difficult enough to spend 3 months (or a year, if you visit the Unity forums) "exploring different solutions to this problem"? That's just pathetic.

More aggravating still is the repeated insinuation that this SNAFU is somehow SDLs fault (it isn't) or the "open source community" needs to create some hocus database of irrelevant mappings (which it doesn't), or the SDL2 joystick API doesn't do what they need (which I'm 99% certain it does).
At this rate I expect to see the traditional "Unity bug, won'tfix" copout real soon.

 

@SQUAD: I'm not after any water-walking here. Just fix your damn regression already, steal code from AFBW if it helps.
Leaving something this glaring untouched while you work on some bogus new landing strips or texture-tweaking for the money-grab is krakens. I don't want a DLC, I want a game that runs on all cylinders and doesn't crap the bed spectacularly every time some new thing is added or an update released.

How in the nine hells does speculative support for bigger UI elements on 4K displays or "cloud saves" get a higher priority than working joysticks in a spaceflight simulator* anyway?

*Yeah, yeah, I know. But it's at least part flight-sim.

Edited by steve_v
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On 6/2/2018 at 5:36 AM, Atroner said:

 

Greetings, a question. The improvements of the particles do not doubt that they improve the aspect of the game. But will it affect performance? Best regards.

The plan is not to impact performance, but to fix some of the issues we've identified in our review, things like the broken surface effects, reentry or engine effects. It is a patch release so please don't expect 4K magic real world flames and smoke, some of it is under the covers work too :)

 

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my game wont switch to 4K when selected it stays at 1080p :(

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3 hours ago, TriggerAu said:

The plan is not to impact performance, but to fix some of the issues we've identified in our review, things like the broken surface effects, reentry or engine effects. It is a patch release so please don't expect 4K magic real world flames and smoke, some of it is under the covers work too :)

 

Please do something like realplume whereby the engine effects change with altitude.  It looks so good.

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15 hours ago, TriggerAu said:

The plan is not to impact performance, but to fix some of the issues we've identified in our review, things like the broken surface effects, reentry or engine effects. It is a patch release so please don't expect 4K magic real world flames and smoke, some of it is under the covers work too :)

 

Thanks for answering, keep it up! Greetings.

Edited by Atroner
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On 6/1/2018 at 11:49 PM, SQUAD said:

The Aero, Reentry, engine flame, smoke emitter and splashdown effects were carefully assessed and we have been working on them for the past weeks.

I'm so glad this is being addressed right now, really great news. Thank you very much.

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I keep hoping that Squad will give us a release date for 1.4.4... Then I remember how they got grilled by the community for missing their planned 1.4.3 release. I'd imagine they're a bit less enthusiastic about making predictions now.

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