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Reach for the Stars: A Kisney+ Exclusive Series (and a Kerpollo Challenge Submission)


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Hello forum readers! This thread contains my entry to @Superfluous J's Kerpollo challenge. The full rules and other entries to this challenge can be found in the link below but the TL;DR is that I need to unlock the tech tree in only nine launches, one to Kerbin orbit, one to the Mun, one to Minmus, and then one to each of the other planets and their moons. This is only nine launches I'm allowed to make but I am allowed to make other "launches" to grind science from the KSP buildings and biomes as long as I don't leave the ground. For the difficulty settings I chose a Normal difficulty science mode save.

The only mods I am running are KER for the handy readouts, MechJeb to help with planning my Jool V mission when I get to it, and a custom Module Manager patch to fix an issue with the new 1.10 magnetometer's mass.

// Fixes the magnetometer to weigh 0.05t instead of 0.5t
// https://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/index.php?/topic/195193-kerbal-space-program-110-shared-horizons%E2%80%9D-grand-discussion-thread/&do=findComment&comment=3813960
    @mass = 0.05

Without further ado, lets get this thing started!


Episode 0: No Pain, No Gain (KSP Science Grind)

Bob had a dream. He wanted to be the first Kerbal to land on each celestial body in the Kerbol system. As this was obviously out of reach of even Bill Kates' large pocket book, Bob and his close friends Jeb, Bill, and Val decided to approach the Kisney Channel to see if they would be willing to fund a TV series featuring them exploring space as a Kisney+ exclusive. For maximum realism each episode would be filmed on location of course. The executives of Kisney loved the idea and immediately ordered construction of the Kisney Space Center or KSP for short.

After the center was completed, Bob and Jeb took the new Mk1 capsule and mystery goo experiment for a test ride. 





Although the process of collecting this science was very painful (Bob gets carsick easily and vomited several times throughout the mission) the Kisney producers assured them that the viewers would connect with Bob's suffering which would lead to them being hooked on the show or something like that. Regardless, this stomach churning mission was over, and with the science gained the next episode would feature Bob going into space!


Edited by CDSlice
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Episode 1: Touching the Heavens (Reaching Orbit)

After the last episode, Bob and the crew were able to unlock all the technologies up to Tier 3


This means it is now time for Bob to finally go to space!


This fairly standard launcher was easily capable of taking Bob and his experiments (including the new thermometer and barometer) into HKO.



Bob was also able to show off his snazzy new Kisney+ space suit (which was definitely not stolen from any other space agencies, nope not at all, and we have the lawyers to prove it) as he went on EVA to collect and reset the science experiments. It was then time to head into a higher orbit to get even more science. Bob then instructed his spacecraft to perform a retrograde burn to begin re-entry. After a somewhat scary aerobrake, Bob and his capsule landed safely back on Kerbin.


Unfortunately, the science gained was less then what Bob hoped for. His crew was only able to research 4/5 of the Tier 4 technologies. Since the mission to the Mun was next and the series schedule and budget didn't allow for any delays to gather more science, Bill would have his work cut out for him making a suitable rocket.

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Episode 2: One Small Step (Mun)

As seen in the last episode, the science gains from reaching orbit were rather lackluster, only allowing 4/5 of the Tier 4 tech to be researched.


This made designing a rocket that could take Bob to the Mun a bit tricky. Luckily, Bill was up to the challenge.


The Munpollo rocket was powered by a swivel lower stage augmented by two Thumper SRBs and a Terrier upper stage that would finalize the orbit and put Bob on a Mun trajectory. To help pay for the rocket the KSP sold ad space on the tanks and SRBs. The ascent was perfect and left Bob in a 101x78km orbit of Kerbin with 1k m/s of dV left in the tank, plenty for a Mun transfer but not enough for the insertion burn. To finish the insertion Bob had to fire his lander's engines for a few seconds.


After a few orbits to collect the EVA reports from several biomes, Bob began the descent to the Mun.




After performing the science (sponsored by StructCo) Bob headed back up into Mun orbit to prepare to go home.


Tragedy struck however as Bob barely didn't have enough fuel to get his orbit low enough for aerobraking!


As the Kisney Space Center scrambled to come up with ideas to save Bob, Jeb suggested that Bob should just go out and push. The producers loved this idea as it allowed them to show the hero straining against all odds to make it home. Bob wasn't so sure of the plan but since the KSP didn't have the funds to save him and he only brought enough snacks for a week in space he decided to give it a go.


The plan worked perfectly as Bob was able to push his Pe to 35km, plenty low for an aerobrake to slow him enough to land.


Despite some intense moments when the mission was nearly lost, Bob made it back home with nearly 1k of science and the episode was a huge success once aired. Kisney wanted to strike while the iron was hot and immediately ordered a Minmus mission while they worked on decided which planet should be visited first.




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Episode 3: There's Ice Cream in Them There Hills! (Minmus)

After Bob's science haul from the Mun the KSP was able to finish Tier 4 and almost all of Tier 5:


(side note, while I could have unlocked the last node of Tier 5 that would have given me docking ports which by the rules of the challenge would have forced me to have a separate orbiter and lander vehicles launched together Apollo style. This is a bit over complicated for Minmus so I put off researching that node to the next mission)

Bill had no trouble making a Minmus capable rocket with the new 1.875m parts that were researched. The first stage is a Bobcat engine augmented by four mite SRBs for a TWR boost at launch.



Although Minpollo was a beautiful rocket with plenty of dV, the low TWR provided by the Bobcat made the ascent tricky as a shallow ascent profile was unable to break the Karman line and the rocket would burn up in the simulations. This meant a more vertical ascent was required.


The second stage was powered by two Terrier engines which working together provided plenty of thrust to finish getting into orbit of Kerbin.



A course was then plotted for a polar Minmus orbit as that would maximize the amount of science to be gained from EVA reports. Since the next mission would be interplanetary every scrap of science Bob could gather would be required.




Bob gathers some science high above Minmus before burning for a polar orbit.



After multiple orbits Bob landed in the Flats. This spot was near the equator which made getting home easier later.


After performing his surface experiments Bob made an incredible discovery. The flats of Minmus are made out of mint ice cream! Although Minmus as an ice cream moon has been a part of Kerbal mythology since they first looked up at the night sky, in modern times the idea had fallen out of favor with the astronomical communities as they couldn't imagine how a planet sized ice cream maker could exist. However the ice cream got there the flats were chock full of it. The Kisney executives nearly fell out of their seats when they heard the news imagining the profits to be made in Minmus ice cream mining. When they came to they immediately ordered Bob to return with the ice cream samples.




The KSP got a whopping 1200 science out of Minmus plus the funding from Kisney to go anywhere they wanted. Mission planer Jeb had a pretty good idea of where to go first...

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Episode 4: Déjà vu? (Dres)

After the buzz from the discovery of mint ice cream on Minmus, Kisney wanted the KSP to make one more episode before the mid-session break. Bob and the gang decided to go to Dres as it didn't have any moons to fit in to the mission while being slightly easier than the Mun to land and take off from. Dres is also fairly close to Kerbin so the dV required to reach it and return wasn't massive.


The 1200 science from Minmus didn't stretch as far as Bill hoped, but he was still able to make do with the parts he had and created a respectable Dres capable rocket for two. Bob's test pilot wife Val would be joining in for this mission to man the orbiter and plan the manouvers required when they were out of contact with the KSP.


The Drespollo rocket was much larger than anything the KSP had used before, but it still looked skinny compared to its payload.



The Drespollo was easily able to make orbit with enough dV left in the upper stage to provide a high TWR kick to help the vehicles transfer to Dres. The orbitor used a new Cheetah engine and 4 fuel filled droptanks to increase dV at the expense of a low TWR when all the tanks were filled. As the mission progressed the empty tanks would be dropped increasing the dV remaining and the craft's TWR as the dead weight was dropped. While space wildlife activists protested that littering space with tanks and stages would be harmful for the space dolphins Kisney waved aside their complaints by denying the existence of space dolphins, whales, squids, or any other space aquatic creature.


A midcourse correction burn was required to fix the inclination of the transfer orbit so that Drespollo would reach Dres' SOI.



All of the fuel in the droptanks and a good third of the fuel in the main tank was used in the injection burn. Luckily after ditching the weight of the lander the mothership would have plenty of dV for the voyage home.


Bob then undocked the lander from the mothership and flew it down to the surface. Once landed he repeatedly asked Val if she had made a wrong turn somewhere since "this is just a lumpy Mun." Val repeatedly assured her husband that yes she had followed the directions to Dres correctly and no he wasn't on the Mun. Not entirely convinced, Bob still ran his experiments and gathered plenty of science before heading back into orbit to meet up with the mothership.



Val then plotted a course for home. Although the plan had originally been for the crew to aerocapture into Kerbin orbit, the mothership had enough fuel left to make its own injection burn allowing for a much smoother and safer re-entry.




A whopping 1900 science was gathered by Val and Bob in their historic mission beyond the confines of Kerbin's SOI. The producers decided that this would be the perfect time to have a mid session break as they planned their next mission.


Edited by CDSlice
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Interlude: Less Pain, More Gain

After the last mission the KSP was in a pretty good shape tech wise with one exception: they hadn't researched 3.75m tanks yet.


This seriously hampered Jeb and Bill's planning for where to go next as the 2.5m tanks and engines just didn't provide enough oomph to take a larger lander and mothership very far out into the Kerbol system. As such they decided to gather the last bits of science they needed by calibrating their instruments across the KSC.



With the new sciencemobile Bob was able to gather lots of science from across the KSC. In fact, they not only got enough science to unlock the 3.75m tanks but they also unlocked the Atmospheric Fluid Spectro-Variometer. Now that the only science part missing was the gravioli detector the KSC had a tough decision to make. Should they go to Moho, the closest planet to the sun and the planet where the least amount of science could be gained in order to maximize science from other missions? Or should they go to Eeloo, whose massive science multipliers would ensure that plenty of research was gathered? Or should they go to Duna and Ike which although they have the lowest science multipliers being able to visit two bodies and gather atmospheric science would allow for a massive science haul even without the gravioli detector? Stay tuned to the next episode to find out where they decided to go!


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  • 2 months later...

So, Real Life(TM) got in the way of me being able to play KSP and make mission reports the last two months. I'm hoping to finish this challenge in a reasonable time frame now that I've gotten all but three missions done. Hope y'all enjoy reading these mission reports as much as I enjoy writing them!

Episode 5: We Like Ike! (oh and his brother is OK I guess)

After the mid-session break, the producers wanted to get the hype rolling again with something Big. After going through the list of planetary systems left and analyzing them to determine if the system could be explored with their current tech and how big of a hype factor a mission would have Jeb, Bob, Val, and Bill decided on visiting Duna and Ike. These bodies were a perfect fit as they were close by and could easily be reached with the KSP's current tech and since Duna had a moon Kisney could stretch this mission into a double length special as the mid-session opener.





On this mission Bill would be accompanying Bob and Val in order to gain valuable first hand experience on how his designs work. In order to accommodate the larger lander and orbiter needed to complete the mission objectives Bill made a larger 3.75m rocket with an even larger fairing. Christened the Kerbal Launch System or KLS, it unfortunately came in overtime and over budget which combined with Kovid meant that this mission was delayed. However, all of that is in the past as it is time for the mission to Duna to begin!

The KLS was slightly overpowered with its upper stage able to take the orbiter, the lander, and two com-sats all the way to Duna orbit.


After reaching Duna orbit, the crew's first objective was to land on Ike. Val and Bill expertly plotted a maneuver node to get them to Ike while Bob checked on the science experiments.


After entering Ike orbit Bob flew the lander down to the moon's gray, rocky surface. 


This lander was a slight modification to the Dres lander with more fuel, experiments, and parachutes for the Duna landing. Again, Bob was suspicious with how closely Ike resembled the Mun, however the clear view of a big red planet in the sky convinced him that Ike was not the Mun. After collecting the science Bob then flew the lander up to the mothership to head to Low Duna Orbit and land on the red planet.




The parachutes worked perfectly to shed the lander's speed, requiring only a quick burst of the engines at the end to land safely on Duna's surface.


After posing for the perfect marketing photo, Bob ran the science experiments and then headed back into orbit to dock with the mothership for the voyage home.




The ship easily had enough dV to do an engine capture at Kerbin, saving the crew from a toasty extreme-G re-entry.




And with that, another successful mission came to a close for the KSA. Bringing home a whopping 5.9k science Bill was able to research new exciting technologies that allowed the KSP to conduct their longest and coldest mission yet.

Edited by CDSlice
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Episode 6: Ice Cream: Electric Boogaloo

After the last mission to Duna, the KSP had unlocked nearly the entire tech tree: 


(note: I forgot to take the tech tree screenshot until AFTER I finished the mission so rather than redoing the mission again I decided to just screenshot my tech tree before I unlocked any tech with my new science)

With the Jool V mission looming ever closer, Bill wanted to gain some practical experience with extreme duration missions. As such the KSP decided to go to Eeloo as its extreme distance makes travel time long and viewer interest high while having no moons for a simpler mission design. Or at least that was the plan before Bill unvieled to the world the Sarnus X, an utterly massive rocket that may have been more than slightly overkill for Eeloo and has Bob terrified as to what Bill will come up for Eve and Jool.


With two 5m boosters surrounding a 5m core and a height that barely fit in the VAB, the Sarnus X easily dwarfed the KLS. As it turns out, the Sarnus X upper stage and the orbiter together had over 2.5k m/s of dV left over after completing the mission so while for this mission the Sarnus X was overkill for the Jool V or Eve missions it should end up being a good fit. As the Sarnus X roared into the sky, Bob began to regret some of his life choices.




The Sarnus X easily reached orbit with plenty of fuel in its upper stage to send Bob, Val, and Jeb on their way to Eeloo. As the mass of the Sarnus X upper stage plus the Eeloo mission itself was so great even the mighty Rhino engine couldn't do the Eeloo transfer burn in one go, instead having to split it into two burns of around 1.1k-1.2k m/s of dV.


After being sent on its way to Eeloo, the crew of Eelpolo deployed the main fairing in order to get the ship in shape for the long voyage.



The Eelpolo was split into three sections. On the left was the Eeloo lander, the first lander made by the KSP to deviate from the single Kerbal in a pod with fuel and science strapped to the side philosophy started in Munpollo and perfected in Dunapollo. Instead, this lander would ferry two Kerbals, Val and Bob, down to the freezing surface in search of Vanilla ice cream and science. In the center was the detachable crew and service module where the crew would live and science experiments would be conducted during the voyage. It would stay attached to the mothership for the entire mission, only being ditched during re-entry of Kerbin. Finally, on the right is the mothership with the command pod for piloting the vessel as well as the fuel and propulsion for the mission. This ended up both being massively oversized as well as not large enough as it didn't have enough fuel to to do an engine capture at Kerbin but could get the command pod in position for an easy aerocapture with 2k m/s of dV left.



After a long voyage the Eelpolo arrived at Eeloo. Bob then performed some orbital science while Val prepped the lander for their trek to the icy surface.



The lander worked flawlessly with the extra large extra grip landing gear preventing the craft from slipping. Bob and Val were able to perform multiple science experiments with fascinating results. Unfortunately, the surface analysis concluded that rather than being made up of ice cream, Eeloo was just made up of ice and rocks. Jeb cheered them up by suggesting that future missions could look into Eeloo's suitability for being turned into snowcones.

Bob and Val then headed back into orbit to prepare for the trip home leaving the science equipment on the surface for a future expedition.





After ditching the rest of the lander leaving only the command pod which was gutted of equipment and converted into extra living space, the crew plotted their course home.





Despite not being able to run as many experiments as previous missions, Eelpolo earned a respectable 5k science points. Now it was time for the crew of the KSP to go from one of the furthest and coldest reaches of the Kerbol system to one of the nearest and warmest.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Episode 7: The Floor is Lava!

The science from Eelpolo unfortunately wasn't enough to unlock the entire tech tree with two nodes left after doing as much research as the KSP could do with the science they had.


Fortunately, these two nodes contained mostly dead-end technologies and the next mission would easily get enough science to research them anyway. After freezing on Eeloo, Bob wanted to go somewhere closer and warmer for the next episode. With only Mopollo, Evepollo, and the epic Jool V left, the choice was pretty simple. Moho has no moons and while it takes an absolutely ridiculous amount of dV to get there and back without gravity assists that can fairly easily be solved by moar fuel tanks. Learning from the wasted potential of the Sarnus X, Bill created a new Sarnus family rocket for this voyage.


The Sarnus K was a cross between the KLS and the Sarnus X, using the core lower stage of the later while using strap-on SRBs and a 3.75m upper stage like the former. Although still a massive rocket, it was a much simpler design to build and fly than the Sarnus X.


With five Mastodon engines and two Pollux boosters, the Sarnus K roared into the sky.


After reaching space the fairing was deployed to revel the small Moho lander as well as the nuclear mother ship. Although the KSP was not fond of the NERV due to its high weight, low thrust, and the fact that it only runs on liquid fuel and therefore isn't compatible with any of their larger tanks, for a Moho mission a NERV and liquid fuel drop tanks were the only way to get the insane dV required.


Fortunately, Bill had designed the Sarnus K upper stage to have enough fuel left to do the departure burn to Moho and part of the mid-course correction burn. The extremely low TWR of the single NERV would have made departing from Kerbin a very long, arduous, and joyless task.


Because of how long the capture burn would take, Jeb and Val plotted a course for 230km above the surface of Moho. That way when Pe falls during the burn the crew wouldn't be in any risk of impacting Moho.


After arriving in Moho's SOI, it was time to begin the capture burn. Yes, you are reading that right, it is a 40 minute(!) burn that uses 3.2km/s of dV to capture at Moho. Val made a mental note to look up "gravity assists" later.


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After capturing at Moho, it was time for Val and Bob to descend to the surface.



Bob was much more impressed with Moho than most of the other celestial bodies he has visited, exclaiming "Finally, a color other than grey or ice!" Val didn't want to rain on her husband's parade by reminding him that ice wasn't a color.


After performing their science experiments, Bob and Val headed back into orbit to dock with the mothership and return home to Kerbin.



Another large burn awaited the crew as the plotted their course home, although luckily without the lander and one set of drop tanks the TWR was much better, with the burn only taking 13 minutes to complete.



The KSP still isn't sure why Jeb thought firing a nuclear engine in the upper atmosphere while screaming through at interplanetary speeds was a good idea.


It wasn't.




Other than irradiating half of a continent with Jeb's little idea, the re-entry was safe and the mission was a complete success, bringing home more than enough science to unlock the last nodes of the tech tree. 


With the entire tech tree unlocked, it is finally time for the last episode in Reach for the Stars before the finale movie-length conclusion. It's big, it's got lots of atmosphere, it has a moon that's really just an overgrown asteroid, but most importantly it's purple, that's right, the next mission is to Eve! :o





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Episode 8: KSP: Atmosphere War


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With the full tech tree unlocked, there is no part off limit to Bill and his crack team of unpaid interns to use in their quest to make a craft that can conquer Eve, the single hardest celestial body in the Kerbol system to land on AND return from. Fortunately, a little bit of industrial sabotage of Lowne Aerospace gave Bill an idea of what the requirements for a Eve lander would be when creating his own design.


To get the mothership and the lander to Eve, Bill designed the Sarnus KX. This variant of the Sarnus K uses a 5m upper stage instead of a 3.75m upper stage for more vacuum performance, 9 Vector engines instead of 5 Mastodons on a stretched lower stage for more power in the central core, and 4 Clydesdale boosters instead of 2 Pollux boosters for more dV and a higher launch TWR.





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After dropping the SRBs the lower stage would get Evepollo well on its way into orbit.


The massive upper stage of the Sarnus KX would not only get the craft in orbit but would also perform the departure, mid course correction, and capture burn at Eve.





After entering Eve orbit, Bob entered the lander and began his descent into the soupy atmosphere of Eve.



Bob was able to safely land on a flat-ish area 6km above sea level, which was very important in order for Bob to have enough fuel in his lander to get back into orbit. Although it might have been possible at 4km, it would have been a lot harder. As it was, the ascent wasn't too bad.

(spoiler contains out of universe description of problems I had with my first Evepollo attempt)



Image of lander from previous attempt that didn't have quite enough fuel to reach orbit from 2km ASL. Although I was able to get it into orbit by pushing on the last stage with Bob's EVA pack, ironically it was the mothership that had no where close to enough dV to both visit Gilly and return home. I therefore had to restart my mission. I added some more fuel tanks to this lander for the Evepollo attempt that succeeded but I forgot to take a screenshot showing all of the lander on my second run through the mission. Although this lander is inspired by Matt Lowne's Eve lander from the tutorial video I linked to earlier, I built this one myself and it has several differences like lacking airbrakes and using 4 drop tanks instead of 6.



Bob was able to get back into orbit with over 600 m/s of dV left in his tank. However, it would be up to the crew of the mothership to rendezvous with him as Bob didn't have a connection to the KSP for help with plotting maneuverers.



After docking what was left of the lander to the mothership, the crew went to visit Gilly. 



Because fuel was so tight, the crew had a new computer program called M.E.C.H.J.E.B. help them determine the most efficient burns to reach Gilly.


After reaching Gilly, Bob undocked the lander again and fell to the surface of the lumpy rock.




After placing a flag, Bob waited for the mothership to pass overhead so he could burn straight for it. They then docked the mothership and the lander one last time to get the science, the fuel, and Bob before ditching the lander to head home.


At this point Jeb was very concerned about fuel. 1.3km/s of dV wouldn't even be enough to reach home from low Eve orbit, let alone get to low Eve orbit from Gilly and then back home. Luckily for the crew (and my sanity after doing the Eve ascent twice because of my first mothership barely had enough dV to just get into orbit of Gilly), M.E.C.H.J.E.B. calculated a transfer window that would let them get from a similar orbit as Gilly's to Kerbin with just a less then 600m/s burn!


Although Jeb (and I) was very skeptical of this claim, after performing the burn Evepollo was indeed on a course back to Kerbin.


With barely 700 m/s of dV in the tank, Evepollo was heading home.




And with that, Eve had been conquered! Val was very grateful to see her husband back safe and sound as she had been unable to go on this trip for health reasons (read Bill was a jerk and kicked Val off of the flight list and I didn't notice until I had already gotten fairly far into the mission)

Now, one last test awaits the KSP: the Jool V, the mission that will see the KSP rise into glory as the premiere space agency (and sell lots and lots of tickets for the documentary Kisney will put out) or fall as an utter failure (and have their contract cancelled by Kisney for any future missions)


This was my first time ever doing an Eve return mission, I still almost can't believe that after all these years of playing Kerbal Space Program I've finally beaten the "end game boss" to borrow one of Matt Lowne's descriptions of the purple planet we all love and fear. Thank you @Superfluous J for providing the challenge that prompted me to finally attempt an Eve return and @Matt Lowne for teaching me how to do it with your amazing YouTube videos!

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4 hours ago, CDSlice said:

Thank you @Superfluous J for providing the challenge that prompted me to finally attempt an Eve return

You're welcome :) This is actually the exact reason I made Kerpollo a challenge instead of a mission report. The easy start and methodical steps lure players into suddenly realizing that not only MUST they do 2 of the hardest things in the game (Eve return and Jool 5), they actually CAN do them.

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