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For want of a really big nail (or possibly a bolt): kerbalism grand tour at hard level

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My previous kerbalism grand tour mission (lucy in the sky with deadly radiations; incidentally, i will refer to that mission a lot, as this mission is its spiritual successor, and most of my design was directly influenced by that experience) wasn't yet done, and i was already looking for the next step. Ok, I made a grand tour with kerbalism, though i did allow some slightly relaxed rules for isru. what next? what could i do for a greater challenge?

first thing to mind was to do a similar grand tour, without relaxed isru. Now, normal kerbalism isru is practically unmanageable. except for duna, everywhere else it takes a large convert-o-tron and 100 electricity/second to produce 10 kg of fuel in a whole day. and in the meanwhile, your crew is still going to get stress and randomly smash components. the weight constraints of all that equipment make this virtually unmanageable. Still, i would like to try that some day, either by designing a ship that can keep together for a few decades while it refuels, or by designing a mission that's supposed to only refuel at duna - well, my previous mission was supposed to only refuel at duna, but it used separate shuttles to reach Moho, Dres and Eeloo. I took a shortcut there. I would like to orbit every planet with my mothership. And using the full kerbalism rules for mining at duna is still going to be a major bother.

But I don't feel ready for that mission. it's going to take a lot more adaptation for long term missions. I must also check if the resources needed are actually available; in particular water and nitrogen are very hard to find.

The second idea was spurred by the success of the Dolphin return vehicle. 15 km/s of deltaV on ions, supplies for 3 kerbals for 3 years - those could be stretched easily, food is light - it returned from Eeloo in less than one year and it did drive a small lander on the moons of Kerbin. So I thought, hey, I could make a mission based on that! Instead of a huge gigantic spaceship with greenhouses and mining rigs, a small compact mission for a minimalistic grand tour. No more greenhouses, just a few tons of packed food. No more giant solar array, just a handful of rtg. no more 400-ton radiation shield, just a fuel tank to provide shade. ion engines and a few small landers. and while i am there, i can run a geological survey and check if there are water and nitrogen in the right places for the next mission.



Part 0: How the mission is planned

0.1) Picking up additional challenges


So, the original plan was


Mission: perform a grand tour with kerbalism. the mothership must orbit every planet. No isru is allowed.

It sounded easy enough. and as I am always looking for a challenge, if something sounds easy I will start adding requirements, until the mission becomes challenging, then hard, then OMG HOW AM I EVER GOING TO DO THIS STUFF???

Ok, first additional challenge: this time I will actually land a kerbal on every planet. the previous time i couldn't, because the radiations on the inner moons of Jool would have killed any who attempted to visit all three. This time I discovered how to enable the radiation decontamination, which actually removes radiation damage. So I can land someone at laythe, move away, heal, then land on vall, and then tylo. sounds feasible.


Mission: perform a grand tour with kerbalism. the mothership must orbit every planet. No isru is allowed. One kerbonaut must land everywhere

but wait, why only land one? I'm going to bring the default 4 kerbals. i want to leave a pilot on the mothership - i will rotate vall and jeb. no reason why i should not land everyone else every time. i certainly want a scientist to land on a planet. and an engineer too! and it would only add some weight to the landers.


Mission: perform a grand tour with kerbalism. the mothership must orbit every planet. No isru is allowed. Three kerbonauts must land on every planet

But then, just landing is not particularly inspiring. I already did that. what if I also go scouting around the planet? say, visit multiple biomes? i can do that by just including wheels on the lander. Of course i can't stay long on the inner moons of Jool, so in that case an unmanned rover is acceptable


Mission: perform a grand tour with kerbalism. the mothership must orbit every planet. No isru is allowed. Three kerbonauts must land on every planet and must visit multiple biomes (deploying an unmanned rover is acceptable where radiations do not allow an extended stay).

but hey, what if, instead of wandering aimlessly to the closest biome, i went for specific targets? let's try to visit all anomalies. ok, the mun has a lot of them, and i'm not sure i want to visit them all. i'm also not sure i want to go halfway around tylo just for the cave complex. so, let's just stick with the green monolyth for requirement. so that i will also have to look for it, as its location is random. also, since i will go for discovery, i will use science mode and will try to gather as much science as possible. no specific objective here, just a general principle of trying to include science instruments.


Mission: perform a grand tour with kerbalism. the mothership must orbit every planet. No isru is allowed. Three kerbonauts must land on every planet and must visit the green monolyth, as well as carrying out as much science as possible (using an unmanned rover is acceptable where radiations do not allow an extended stay).

but look, when i choose the new career, it asks for difficulty. i wonder if it does anything to the kerbalism default settings? oooh, it does! radiation shielding efficiency goes down from 90% to 70%, so triple more radiations! Can I even survive laythe like this? The last time i got 60% damage, which would become 180% in this setting, but i spent 3 hours needlessly orbiting the planet. if i squeeze the time hard, maybe i can do it. sounds fun, let's try. And more chances of stuff breaking down in ways that cannot be fixed. longer, more frequent solar storms, but my sun shade should cover that. less resources, but i won't be trying isru anyway. let's do it.

saves/loads not enabled. This, absolutely not. i am still dependent on reloading stuff to correct manuevering blunders. not to mention all the kraken attacks i am expecting to face. so, this feature stays on.


Mission: perform a grand tour with kerbalism. Settings are default for hard level, except for a few minor communication nerfs (requires signal for control, plasma blackout) but with quick saves and reloads enabled (but not allowed to revert malfunctions). the mothership must orbit every planet. No isru is allowed. Three kerbonauts must land on every planet and must visit multiple biomes (deploying an unmanned rover is acceptable where radiations do not allow an extended stay). One command pod must visit all planets.

By this time, what was supposed to be a "small" mission has already been inflated with:

- a much bigger Eve rocket, to account for the crew of 3

- 3 disposable planes (Eve, Laythe and Kerbin, none of the three is recovered to orbit)

- 2 disposable rovers (Tylo and Vall, I won't have the time to use the manned rover)

- a manned lander/rover for the other planets that's much bigger than what it was originally supposed to be.

- a requirement of modular design to complicate engineering.

Ok, now the challenge seems about right. Let's go with it

Part 1: Projecting Nail

To survive radiation storms, i must have the habitats shaded by something else. As I learned in the previous mission, it doesn't have to be all that big, but it has to cover everything. As I want to stick to a simple design, the plan calls for a thin, narrow, long ship, that can be covered by a single S4 fuel tank. No laterally attached crafts or habitats. The name of Nail reflects this simple shape, as well as how this mission is much more unassuming in design than its predecessor

I also grew fond of the idea of a fully modular spaceship, where i would be able to rearrange around the various building blocks. I built with that criteria.

1.1) Habitation module


The mission is supposed to be small, so I won't try to get the full 20 cubic meters per crew member which should be the ideal value. But I must include 4 hitchhicker containers; each one has a radiation decontamination unit, and each one can heal a crew member at a time, so one of those for every crew member. Then i want a lab, to process all the samples i will get. And I want a cupola, because it gives a bonus against stress. Plants are also supposed to give this bonus, but it does not work, so a greenhouse will not be included. A gravity ring also gives a bonus against stress, but it is large and not compatible with a single S4 tank shielding it, so it will not be included.


Technically I can just mount the cupola in line, as nothing in the mod check that there is actually a panorama. But I care for my poor astronauts, so I placed it radially for an unobstructed view. One cupola alone was ugly, so I placed two symmetrically. I also placed some RCS propulsors to help in docking, but I now think I will just save the fuel for EVA. There are some big gas tanks, because i won't be able to get any new. I said no isru, but this says nothing about recycling what you already have, so i included chemical plants to recover oxygen from the waste carbon dioxide. The middling section is food and water containers. in the bottom are electric batteries, reaction wheels, two radiation shields (I won't try to carry 130 again, but a couple are useful) and many rtgs. No solar panels this time; I will just plan for the worse at Eeloo. RTGs are fine as long as I keep them far away from the crew modules

1.2) Engine module


This module will include all the spare fuel for the landers in the sunshade tank, as well as the ion engines and the xenon. Kerbalism gives some very efficient gas tanks, so carrying xenon is even easier than usual. I include the option to discard empty tanks, for some weight savings.



Those pressurized tanks store over 200 tons of xenon, should be enough to give me around 40 km/s.

I did include some solar panels here. The RTGs aren't enough to operate 24 ion engines at 100% power unless I pack a ridiculous number of them, so I decided to compromise. Those panels give me 100% thrust as far as Duna, and going further I can afford slower manuevers.

Do notice the price tag; xenon is really expensive in this game

1.3) Eve sucks Eve lander


My previous - and only - Eve lander, the FU Eve, was huge and riddled with problems. But I learned a lot from it, and I am ready with a new, best, ligher, improved version. The main problems were aerodinamics, so I streamlined those


I fixed the thermal shields so I could get away with 3 instead of 8. I placed them on high towers to keep them away from the center of mass, now the ship is much more stable during reentry. I also made sure to put the parachutes on the discardable towers, a detail that caused me a lot of grieving with the FU Eve. The airbrakes tower is something I learned about from another user, I would expect them to blow up in the heat but they are actually covered enough, and they help decelerate and stabilize.

The two boosters are inclined so that they will push away from the rocket when released, and they need less struts. As the ship is optimized, only two are needed.

I learned to not discard things from the sides because Eve's atmosphere will push it back against the rocket, still the modular design of the main ship made this unavoidable. But at least I made the boosters lower than the ship, for reduced risk of collision. WIth this, I am able to detach the boosters at over 300 m/s, while the FU Eve had to slow down to 150 m/s before stage separation


The design includes a small propeller plane to cruise around the planet. The plane has a hydrogen/oxygen fuel cell for power, and solar panels + chemical plant to recharge the stockpile of hydrogen. It is attached between the second stage engine and the thermal shield; while the rocket will fall down on parachutes, the plane will be detached, and will land on its own. It's supposed to be piloted, but it has an antenna and a command module so it can go remote if needed.

The landing pod on the left is my alternative to ladders. The FU Eve had this ridiculously convoluted ladder, which misaligned during landing and almost left me stranded. I decided to include two cabins at the bottom for the astronauts to exit from. Instead of climbing a long ladder, they can take the elevator inside the ship.

Wait, if there is an elevator inside, shouldn't it have extra mass? NEXT!


While I swore I'd never do that again, I decided to use the last stage as Laythe lander this time too. The size was about right. I hope I can land it upright, but it doesn't look too thin.

The rocket design (12 vernier Cub engines) solves at once two problems: how can i make a lander that won't be doomed by the failure of a single engine (something that was a major problem for the FU Eve, while the Can tried to solve this but got a too low TWR), and how can I make a lander than I can dock on the base. And the docking port on the base let me put the parachute on top, where it should be, and it avoids most aerodinamic problems of its predecessor. The command pod can be detached and attached somewhere else, i hate to add 400 kg to an Eve rocket like this, but i like the modular design. On top I have supplies for over 50 days, two solar panels, and a fuel cell for nights. I was unable to include an electrolysis plant, so the fuel cell is limited by the amount of hydrogen stored. There is enough for a few days, though, which lets me get by for a few planetary nights. I deemed this enough, I plan to only stay on Eve for a few days, on Laythe and Tylo for a few minutes, and everywhere else the pod will be coupled with the rover, which has RTG of its own.

1.4) Rover/lander platform (name to be determined)


Having covered all the worlds with atmospheres, I now need a rover for everywhere else. I need 2000 m/s to land everywhere, but not much more because that would be dead weight. I need a stable base, because I want wheels on it. And this time I'm definitely going to remember to put a decent TWR on it! Oh, and it must be able to couple with the command pod


Not visible in the picture are 4 spark engines underneat the fuel tanks. This allows the lander to survive the loss of any two engines.

For power there are 4 rtg on the opposite side of the robotic arm, for weight balance. Looks a bit clumsy, but it should be pretty stable, and without an atmosphere it won't have stability problems.

I haven't come up with a good name yet. I'm sure I will come up with something once I start using it.

1.5) Disposable planes


I wanted planes for Laythe and Kerbin too, and I decided to do a single design for both.


Instead of keeping the design of the Eve plane (which assumed a lot of sunlight to recharge batteries) I used some rtgs in the cargo bay. That's uncomfortably close to the crew cabin, but those things are supposed to stay unmanned most of the time. I also included a rover arm (i was worried about drag on Eve, it's much more unforgiving) and two small rockets with 100 m/s, just enough for a bit of manuevering and to deorbit on their own.

Again, no name. But they are simple enough, I don't even think I will give them names.

1.6) Tylo descent stage


As usual, whenever isru is not possible, one must include a special stage just to land on Tylo. This time I did the unthinkable and decided to actually attach it to the bottom of my rocket. The advantages of having a rocket with a docking port on the bottom!


This tank should supply 2000 m/s to the main stage, which, in addition to its 3200, should give a comfortable margin. I used 4 darts as engines, mostly because i could stick 4, for redundancy. And I will also be using the Cubs during descent, of course. After the tank is discarder, there is a rover ready to be dropped. Here the operation is going to be complicated, because the rocket is going to land on top of the rover. My plan calls for landing, detaching the rover, doing a short hop - it should take 100-150 extra m/s, within the fuel budget of the mission. But I haven't tested the system, so there's plenty that could go wrong. At least I was careful about the TWR, I learned that lesson.

There are two rovers here, but one is for Vall. they have a seat to bring around a kerbonaut, but i don't expect to use it much. Maybe to collect a surface sample from the closer biome.



And that's all. No mining rig, no Moho stage, no escape capsules. I have a lot of objectives, but still I aim for a simple design.

Edited by king of nowhere
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46 minutes ago, Single stage to ocean said:

How do you activate the radiation decontamination unit @kingofnowhere? Thanks.

there is an option you have to check when starting the sandbox: not really sure how it is in english, but it means "all parts upgrades are applied in sandbox mode"


if you didn't check this option when starting the game, i'm afraid there is no workaround.

alternatively, you can start in science mode, edit the file to give you a few tens of thousand science points, and tech everything manually.

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Part 2: Assembling Nail

The various components of Nail are launched and assembled


2.1) Launching Eve sucks


Launching the Eve sucks on its own fuel would have been too easy, so I made a special launcher to send it to orbit with tanks full. It's quite awkward because the limitation on not attaching stuff underneath the mammoths is quite the problem here. Having a plane attached in the middle, strangely, is not a problem; or at least, not enough of an aerodinamic problem to register on this launcher.


Liftoff! To launch this thing I attached a large mammoth tower at the bottom, and 4 srb at the sides



Liquid fuel boosters separation


Running on the second stage, which comprises a mammoth and the 4 srb


The boosters finally run out of juice and are jettisoned. The final mammoth has enough fuel for circularization

2.2) Launching the habitation module


The habitation module was launched with a single stage mammoth. For all that it looks complex, it's barely 50 tons of payload.


Inside the fairing I included two service probes. They are a slightly refurbished version of the one I brought with the Marco Polonium: they have a claw to grab stuff, a lot of reaction wheels to move it around, and a disproportionate engine. Plus a docking port because the claw does not allow refueling at this difficulty level. They are useful for grabbing parts and moving them around, which I expect I will be doing a lot.


The service probes. I am carrying 2 for redundancy. I later saw fit to include a third one.


Once in orbit, this small RCS stage takes care of docking. I used vernor engines because I could fit them between the fuel tanks and the decoupler. Using engines would have requires a 2.5 m engine, which would have been too big for the task, or a change in diameter which would have messed up aerodinamics.

A thin, long, narrow ship like this requires a lot of autostrutting to avoid wobbling. And autostrutting does not mesh well with kerbalism, resulting in misshapen ships. But I learned by now that those bugs will be reverted between saves and are not fatal, so I'm mostly ignoring them


The ship-scrambling bug strikes already!


First two parts docked successfully

2.3) launching the Tylo descent stage, plus a bunch of rovers


Next is the Tylo descent stage, with the rovers. Since I have room on this one, I also include one of the planes. This thing would be an aerodinamic nightmare to launch, too draggy and in a very complex shape. I actually tried encasing the whole plane in a fairing, but to include the wings it had to be exceedingly large, and the drag was a real killer.

So, since the draggy parts tend to go to the back of the rocket, I tackled this problem by putting them in the back in the first place! I capsize the rocket, put the engines on top on the sides, this way the engines are dragging the offending part behind them and there is no chance of capsizing.


I wonder what would happen to try and launch this thing in real life. It probably could be done, at the cost of reinforcing the trusses to much that the whole thing becomes completely impractical

And hey, this thing actually flew very well! No shacking, no twisting, very stable.


I never noticed it before, but the twin boar engines have a very pretty bluish/purple flame. Perhaps my favourite exhaust. Too bad the low Isp makes them unsuitable as anything but first stage


This module had a small docking module with some Vernor RCS thrusters, just like the habitation module


Docking the various pieces


Nail begins to take shape

2.4) Launching the engine pack


Finally, the engine pack, with the last plane. This is also a very aerodinamically challenging piece, being very large and flat, so I'll use the same strategy of carrying it backwards



I would like to make some witty remark on how this thing should never fly, but words are failing me


booster separation


atmosphere cleared, nose cones separation


I sure hope those exploding are the nose cones, and not my ship



yes, they were the nose cones. The ship is intact

In all this, I am producing quite a lot of orbital debris, of which I take care with the tested-and-true method of deleting them manually from the tracking center.

Ok, it's a bit like cheating. Then again, it's not like it would be actually difficult to perform a small retrograde burn to ensure that those nose cones end up suborbital, before raising orbit again. And for the other rocket pieces, including an okto2 for control and a small engine to deorbit would be trivial. Just a bit of a wasted time. So, as with so many things that can be done trivially with just some expenditure of time, i decided they are not worth my time. I 'll just pretend I have deorbited them manually


Ion engines have a nice blue exhaust. Solar panels are clipping, I will have to fix them with an EVA


And this is what happens when I try to dock the engine module to the rest of the ship without enough autostruts

2.5) Launching the rover base, probes, and various leftover. Assembly complete


Finally the rover base. At this point I realize I am missing an important factor: something to actually detect the anomalies. So I put together a couple of small probes with a rovemate core (the only core with 100% anomaly detection),  an ion engine and a lot of antennas. Being basically spy satellites, I called them get your tinfoil hat.


I also sent a cargo container with a bunch of materials for EVA construction, because I forgot a lot of things: repair kit, EVA experiment kits, docking ports, lights... before that update, I frequently had to scrap whole ships after forgetting some pieces. Now I have the chance to fix them on the spot.


I'm using the reverse rocket for this one too


Docking to Nail


Finally, I run a few calculations and decided i needed additional food, water and oxygen. I launched this additional piece of supply storage


I forgot a docking stage, the service probe is doing its job


Finally, Nail in all its illogic glory. The planes on the side ruin the profile a bit


I plan the trip to last 20 years, so I brought supplies for 30

With this, Nail is ready to start. Of course, since I started assemblying it straight away instead of waiting the Eve transfer window, I have to wait in orbit for over one year...

Edited by king of nowhere
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Posted (edited)

Part 3: Feeding Nail to the kraken

Before even leaving low Kerbin orbit, Nail is struck by a crippling kraken attack. The engine pack must be scrapped, and the ship rebuilt without ion engines


This screenshot shows the engines throttled up, and active, and with plenty of xenon and electricity, yet not working

3.1) Did you get your tinfoil hat?


Since I have to wait one year to launch for Eve, I may as well use the time to explore the moons of Kerbin. I would like to land there, but I cannot get rid of the airbrakes on the command pod; I must land at Eve first. But I can send a Get your tinfoil hat to scan all the anomalies in the meanwhile. This is actually the first time I really try scanning for anomalies. And hey, it actually works! I never got the hang of it in the past, but that's because i was scanning outer planets where there were no anomalies to be detected.


If those anomalies didn't want to be detected, they should have gotten a tinfoil hat!

It's actually a bit sad. There are so many interesting things on Kerbin and Mun. Then on the other planets there's almost nothing. I'd hope they add more anomalies in the future, but it's a bit late for that. I'm not even sure how long they'll keep supporting this game with the 2 in development and close to release

3.2) The kraken strikes again


After a long wait, it's time to launch for Eve. There is only the little problem of thrust.

Nail is around 700 tons, a third of which are the Eve lander alone. Goddamn planet! It has 24 ion thrusters, and it's hard enough to get electricity for them in the outer Kerbol system as it is. This makes it 48 KN of thrust, accelerating the ship at a breathtaking speed of almost 7 cm/s!!!! The 1000 m/s burn should require 4 hours. And for some reason it ends up accelerating even less, because a continuous thrust over 6 days raised my orbit from 80x80 to 3000x3000 (yes, I know, raising the orbit like that is not particularly efficient. I was going to reload and do it again with proper apoapsis raising, except that i had to remake the ship)


why, why did you have to leave us? You were too young, and your exhaust too beautiful

Until, suddenly, the engines stopped working.

But ok, I can reload the game, it generally fixes this kind of stuff.

I reload the game, and the engines stop working again. At exactly the same time. I reload at a more ancient save, and the engines this time work... for a while, then they eventually shut down again.

I run some tests, the chemical engines also don't work anymore. The rockets are just not functional. And nothing I can do seems to fix this.

I also got the same problem with the get your tinfoil hat earlier, but that time a reload fixed it. Then again, that small probe has a burn time of a few minutes.

Long story short, I was able to ascertain that the problem is the persistent thrust mod. This mod allows me to time warp while using the ion engines. Except sometimes it prevents time warp altogether, and some other time it stops the engines from functioning. After more attempts to fix ( they are the primary reason it took me one month from the end of the previous mission to actually posting the new one), I determined that the only way to make Nail work is to remove the mod.

This, of course, would force me to run a several-day-long burn in real time. No, thanks. Even i am not this crazy.

So I resolve to remove the persistent thrust, remove the engine pack, and remake Nail as a nuclear-powered ship.

The persistent thrust mod is looking pretty bad here, but I want to remember that it allowed me the 6-day burn when Dolphin 3 returned from Eeloo, as well as other very long burns when I was rejoining Dolphin 1 with the DREAM BIG. It has its uses, and I am keeping a copy in my hard drive in case I need it again. But it won't work for Nail.

Edited by king of nowhere
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I would do it in real time b/c I’m a lunatic. Poor you, you have to replace the whole thing. Hope you fix it fast with the new nuclear apparatus

And @kingofrandom, you can change it mid game, just go to homescren,where you see the VABSPH, mission control, etc, press escape, then press settings, then search for “All part upgrades are applied”

And adding more ions and solar would actually increase delta-v b/c of gravity losses.

I bet you can increase speed to 21 cm/s

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Part 4: Goodbye Nail, welcome Bolt

The ion engine pack is removed and swapped for a nuclear engine pack. Moar fuel is added. The ship doesn't look like a nail anymore, so it's now called Bolt


4.1) Plutonium for the plutonium god!


Ion engines are not an option, so I turn to the second most efficient engine, the nuclear one. The overall shape stays more or less the same, i still want something large that I can attach stuff on both sides. This is the result


I kept the same general structure of the engine pack, but I attached 18 liquid fuel fuselages, for a total of 900 tons. They can be discarded one by one as they get empty. now the ship is much bigger and it needs more reaction wheels, i added them to the drop tanks so they can be discarded too when they are no longer needed. I attached the NERVs on the sides with trusses, I already tested this configuration with the flying christmas tree and it works really well to apply engine power while leaving a convenient docking port on the back.


I used 18 NERVs; my target is TWR between 0.1 and 0.15, again based on my experience with the flying christmas three and the marco polonium. more twr would require more engines, and the NERVs are very heavy; too many of them, and I lose the advantage of the Isp. But less engines than that would be too complicated to make fast manuevers.

Now I have to launch this thing. It's over 1000 tons, with a horrible aerodinamics. To begin, I start by putting some detachable nose cones everywhere


For the second stage, i attach some liquid fuel tanks and rhino engines. the awkward shape of the liquid fuel fuselages makes things more complicated. I could look for the mod to swap the fuel content, but i prefer to not install additional mods unless i really have to. Especially after the bad experience with the ion engines.


For the first stage I use mostly boosters, because even though i am not keeping track of money, i still like to think of this as a somewhat realistic mission, with some limitations about funding. So I use a bunch of clydesdale, until I have enough for the target deltaV. I strap some additional thumpers for extra thrust at liftoff. In the middle there is a liquid fuel tank with a mammoth, to provide gimbaling control




Thumper separation


Dropping the clidesdales. There are a lot of them, this parts get quite messy




Atmosphere cleared, nose cones ejected


Docking with Nail


I swapped out 200 tons of xenon for 900 tons of liquid fuel. It has 5 times less Isp, so I carry 5 times more fuel, it's going to be enough?

There isn't a good way to calculate the actual deltaV of a ship with drop tanks and multiple landers that are discarded after use, but I think of a guideline to at least make an estimate:

1) calculate the deltaV as if you are not going to drop any weight. You certainly have more than that. I have about 400 tons of payload, including the Eve sucks, the fuel for the landers, the habitation module. with 900 tons of fuel it would give me 9000 m/s. Ok, I know i at least have more than that, but it's not terribly informative.

2) calculate the deltaV as if all your dry mass is the dry mass you're going to have in the end. You certainly have less than that. If I keep only the habitation module, the engines and a few tanks i cannot drop, I am left with around 150 tons. I make the calculation with 900 tons of fuel, and it tells me I have 16000 m/s.

So, my actual deltaV is somewhere between 8 and 16 km/s.

Now I make some estimates on how much fuel I'll need... oh, crap!

Kerbin-Eve 1500
Eve-Moho 4000
Moho-Duna 6000
Duna-Dres 2200
Dres Jool 800
all Jool 5000
Jool Eeloo 2000
Eeloo-Kerbin 3000
total 24500

Now, some of that cost can be reduced. I know I can find some gravity assists from Eve to Moho to save some fuel. On the other hand, with low thrust, I'll certainly lose some efficiency. I need at least 20 km/s to even try this grand tour with some hope of success. 30 km/s would be an ideal margin.

So, I need at least twice more deltaV. And because of the way the rocket equation works, I need about 3 times more fuel.

To think I started with the idea of a small mission :huh:

4.2) Fuel for the fuel throne!


For every fuel tank I have, I need 3 more. The most straightforward way is to attach them directly at the bottom of the tanks I already have.

This will quadruple the weight, so I will need moar engines and moar reaction wheels. I want to drop them too, because I'll top at over 50 NERVs, that's 150 tons of mass, it would be overly wasteful to carry them all the time.

So, here is the drop tank project


18 of those will be joined to the 18 exhisting tanks, bringing the total fuel to 4500 tons. This ship is going to be heavier than the DREAM BIG.

Only problem, there are no docking ports on the fuel tanks. Don't worry, we have EVA construction for this. I only need to send up the docking ports


18 docking ports to be used for construction. Must be one of the dumbest things I ever launched. Do notice the ant engine on the side: The bobcat (indeed, any engine big enough to lift this) can only be used twice without maintenance.



bringing all the docking ports in place. 18 is a surprisingly large number when it's work you have to do

Now I have to launch the drop tanks, all 18 of them. To save time, I'd rather avoid 18 launches. Launching 18 tanks all together would be very complicated, I compromise with launching 6 at a times, so I can get away with 3 launches. This time I can use a standard asparagus stack





First stage separation


Second stage separation


Ejecting the nose cones. This time I had the foresight to include sepratrons to kick them out of the way. The fairing is discarded, revealing the Forklift


Third stage separation


After third stage, the rocket is left with the central tank and a rhino to circularize. The rhino can only be turned on twice, so there are also four wolfhounds for manuevering


After rendez-vous, the Forklift is sent to dock to a tank



And it pushes the tank in place, thanks to its powerful RCS system to move in all directions


Assembly goes on


EVA construction is used to get rid of the remains of the hydraulic detachment manifolds; they are heavy and they increase part count


Stacking the tanks require precision, but the Forklift is up to the task

The shakings are still a problem, despite everything being autostrutted. Many times, upon docking a tank, the ship starts trembling and breaks apart. I can always get by with reloading, but in one case a single engine got broken without me noticing. I only discovered it when I saw an unaccounted-for piece of debris on the map. By then it was late to revert with a simple reload, i decided to keep going; one single engine more or less won't make any noticeable difference out of 54.


The broken piece of engine, floating in space

It was a long, grueling task. By now I had around 1000 parts in physics range, so the game lags heavily. The ships are all very big, and they are slow to rotate. The forklift actually doesn't work all that well, having only RCS it cannot fine-tune the thrust, and it is very overpowered when it's not attached to a tank. Plus it wasn't perfectly balanced, so I had to shut down the SAS every time I used the engines. Overall, it was very good at moving in all directions, but nigh-impossible to control (if you are wondering why I saw fit to only use RCS: RCS engines are the only ones in kerbalism without a fixed amount of allowed ignitions. i needed engines for many manuevers, and it seemed a good thing to not have to worry about ingition numbers). And after I finished docking a tank - which required 30 to 60 minutes of real life time - the rocket with the other tanks had drifted away, so I had to rendez-vous again. With a vehicle with poor manueverability.

After the first 6 tanks, I then improved the whole setup. I put more reaction wheels on the Forklift. I included regular engines on it (ant engines, they have over 100 allowed ignitions). And I put a large clamp-o-tron on the front of the main rocket so I could dock it to Nail; no more drifting in space after every tank is attached.

Well, it took over 2 days of real life gaming  (also because my free time is no longer what it was while I was using the DREAM BIG). But the result was good


997 parts, 4840 tons


some of the fuel tanks didn't align perfectly and were docked hapazardly. But apparently it doesn't cause any problem.


Also, I learned to increase environment light so that the ship is always well lit. No more "sorry you can't see anything, but i was manuevering by night"


Now I am, again, ready to start.

There is only one problem: when I devised the ship, it was called Nail because it had a long, thin body with a large, flat head. That's no longer the case, so I need a new name. My brother came to the rescue: "it has a larger head, so it's now a bolt".


I'm not sure...


That's it!

Bolt it is, then.


Edited by king of nowhere
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I have an idea. Instead of rad shielding, you just put all the crew in rad detox and control it with a probe? When coverage is out and you have Kerbals in passenger pods, they can be transferred, you have limited control, then transfer them to cupola for control.*insert Hal-100 reference here*

Edited by Single stage to ocean
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Posted (edited)

Part 5: Eve sucks, but it's not too bad

In the first part of its trip, Bolt reaches the Eve system and deploys the landers. The monoliths are found on Eve and Gilly. Some difficulties were encountered that forced a ship redesign


5.1) "Think of it as a learning opportunity"


It's kinda traditional that, upon launching a large mission, i barely reach the first major destination before realizing i have miscalculated/forgotten something important and restarting fresh. This mission is no exception. Real life space agencies don't have the luxury of reloading halfway through the mission; on the other hand, real space agencies have hundreds of people working on a project full time. Here I am alone, I can forget things.

In this case, what I forgot was an intermediate cruise vehicle.

On the big level, I have the mothership with all the life support and supplies. That's very expensive to move, and should manuever as little as possible. It reaches a planetary's SoI and gets parked there in the cheapest possible way. You do not want to circularize its orbit, it would be too expensive

On the small level, there is the lander. It needs powerful engines to overcome gravity. In this case it also wants to move on the ground. And it's got to burn a lot of deltaV to go up and down from everywhere. So you want it as light as possible. You drop it from low orbit with minimal fuel. You only give it enough fuel to land and take off from Moho, anything more would be wasteful. You do not want to circularize orbit with it, as that would require extra fuel tanks, those would require extra engines, and to move them you'd need extra wheels.

None of those two extremes wants to circularize. For this you need an intermediate vehicle, one that leaves the mothership in high orbit, brings the lander to low orbit, picks up the lander when it returns to orbit, and carries it back to the mothership. In the previous mission, the Diggers had that role. In the previous previous mission (with flying christmas tree) no ship was deputed to that task, but i had isru everywhere, so i could afford to waste fuel.

Here I cannot waste fuel and I didn't have a taxi. And so I found myself having explored Eve, and coming back to orbit, and needing an additional 500 m/s for the command pod to rejoin Bolt. And I didn't have anything that was up to the task.


The command pod emerges from Eve's atmosphere having heroically spared almost 900 m/s worth of fuel. I tried a dozen times, and I could never again make it with more than 500

Oh, I tried to improvise something as a taxi. After all, the point of a big modular design is that it gives you options. And here I had many perfectly serviceable fuel tanks with engines, and service probes to provide control. Seems like a solution. Go service probe!



The engines are not aligned with center of masss, so i must drive this thing very slowly to let the reaction wheels compensate. Why didn't I think to align them?

Well, and why should I have? It's not like this was ever supposed to be anything but a disposable fuel tank

The low thrust of this impromptu vehicle forced multiple passages to slowly brake (aerobraking is not an option; I tried, the atmosphere destroied the ship before it slowed by as much as 5 m/s). Unfortunately, just as the tank was passing behind eve, it lost contact.

Yes. The service probe has no antennas. It gets piloted directly from Bolt, or it uses it as a relay. No, I never imagined that a service probe would have to be sent away from Bolt, unable to use a radio bridge. And I couldn't take one of the antennas from Bolt and paste it on the fuel tank with eva construction because I didn't have an engineer on Bolt.

So, I decided I needed to scrap the mission, and restart equipped with a suitable vehicle, which I called Taxi


It has 4 engines, 3 reaction wheels and 2 antennas for redundancy. It also has 2 life support modules, again for redundancy; I realized, while I was looking for small improvements to make, that the command pod only has one life support, and losing it would end the mission! The small pod didn't have room for a redundant system, but it's going to spend most missions coupled with rover. So I added a couple spares there too. The only other times it will be on its own will be during Tylo and Laythe descent; and in those cases I'll want to quit immediately for the radiations, and I am sure the crew can survive one hour with the life support offline if needed. But it will take some days (at least) to rejoin Bolt, and giving life support to taxi fixes that need. It also has 2 smaller relay antennas to help bridge communications between command pod and Bolt. Or between a Get Your Tinfoil Hat (GYTH for short) and Bolt.

I also made other small improvements to a few more vehicles, like the planes and the rover. None of those is big enough to be worth "before" and "after" pictures, though.

In fact, most of the mission was similar enough, I decided I can keep using the old screenshots for the rest of part 5. So, if in some pictures you see the plane with a rover arm and in others it's not there, that's the reason.

5.2) From LKO to Eve elliptic


Launch from Kerbin and trajectory are normal. I use a Mun gravity assist to save a bit of deltaV. There are a lot of apoapsis-raising manuevers, maybe as much as 10 of them, but it does not present particular problems




Dropping the occasional spent tank


Sending Bill to repair the engines after the final ejection burn


Performing EVA experiments during Mun flyby

The interplanetary trip was mostly uneventful. The sunshade is doing its job. At first I got some radiations passing that I couldn't figure out, until i realized the planes attached radially are far enough that they are not covered. So I run another batch of EVA construction to mount them on top of the tanks, after that no more problems.

On 4/8/2021 at 5:41 PM, Single stage to ocean said:

I have an idea. Instead of rad shielding, you just put all the crew in rad detox and control it with a probe?

I'm doing just that, but it's no substitute for radiation shielding. Detox is very slow, it took several days to lose the few % of radiation damage they took while passing Kerbin's radiation belts. If I did not try to minimize exposure, they would get damaged faster than they heal. Also, detox consumes oxygen.

200 days later, arrival at Eve. The injection burn for 400 m/s takes 8 minutes, longer than one would like but still short enough to have limited losses.



Dropping more fuel tanks. The whole Eve trip costed 800 tons of fuel. It's going to get much cheaper as the ship becomes lighter.

So far, the ship is doing well. The twr proves to be a good compromise between efficient manuevers and light engines. Radiation shielding works, shedding drop tanks works, draining of fuel and life support nominal. The ship is parked into a high elliptic 100x40000 orbit from where it can leave easily. It's time to look for monoliths



Moving GYTH into a polar orbit where it can scan all of Eve


Here is the monolith, near the south pole. If it didn't want to be found, it should have gotten its tinfoil hat!

Time to drop the Eve sucks lander. The placement of the monolith means I will have to run across the whole planet to reach it from my equatorial orbit, it's time to test whether the Eve plane is fit for its task

5.3) Eve landing


The Eve sucks is detached, the heat shield cover is ejected




I made the deorbit burn before extending the shield. I am not sure it can use the rockets with the shield on, tankfully i didn't have to find out

The Eve sucks is better than its predecessor at aerobraking, but still circularize gradually before it can land.



Eve seen from the cockpit of the plane


I don't like the purple of Eve, but the halo it gets at sunrise is magnificent

Both times I did this I was lucky and the final plunge led me in the middle of Eve's main continent, on a hilly area where I can later leave the planet without the full atmosphere to clear. This time there was no big deal with overheating. Ok, there was, those lateral towers are exposed and they can explode, but rotating the ship on its axis prevents the problem. At 10 km it's time to open the parachutes


parabrakes first


ejecting the upper thermal shields (which were being used as parachutes anyway) to make room for the real parachutes. I don't know what's exploding, the shields are still intact


By the way, it's night, but you can clearly see the rocket because i discovered how to enchance light. Makes for much better screenshots


the parachutes open at a high altitude, giving me more time to land the plane


Removing the top tower, leaving room for the last parachute to open


After the speed stabilizes, removing the rear shield. It floats down gently, barely faster than the lander. Gotta wait a bit until it reached some distance, so the plane won't crash into it by accident


The plane is now on its own. It slams against the boosters going down, but slow enough that it doesn't get damaged


the propellers don't work now, the plane must land as a glider. This one is small and manueverable, so it's not hard.


The plane lands, here you see why it could not use the propellers. This bug strucks when you activate them in vacuum. For the other planes i remembered to turn off the rotors and lock them, for this one it was too late.  I tried to fix it with eva construction, but it was too hard to get a good alignment, so I used the alt-f12 menu to get a new plane. Fixing bugs is a legitimate use of the alt-f12 menu.

The weel instead happened on its own, it's the old bug of ship parts getting misaligned. In fact, the second time I did this mission I remembered to lock the rotors before spaceflight, and here is what landed


But at least the propeller blades were attached correctly!

I tried to use it for a bit, then I gave up and used the Alt-f12 menu this time too. On the plus side, i don't think this will be an issue with the Laythe and Kerbin planes, as those don't have such a harsh reentry and multiple parts and struts to mess up with physics. I'm more worried of those planes getting broken before reaching their destinations, but that's part of the mission.

After landing the plane, I have all the time to turn back to the lander and let it glide down gently.


Just like this! Errr... back after the advertising!

A design flaw of the Eve sucks, it's narrow. This is further compounded by me unthinkingly attaching the engines any way they would, and the mammoths aligning their narrow side to the narrow part of the rocket. I did not detect this problem during testing, apparently I picked completely at random one of the few spots flat enough to keep this rocket upright. I had to repeat the landing a few times until i found another suitable one. I corrected this mistake the second time, by turning the mammoths 90 degrees and adding landing struts to the exit pods.

Of course, landing on Eve is already difficult enough, landing an airplane as glider on Eve while a big rocket is falling by parachute is harder, and having to stop and take pictures of the whole process makes it even worse, so I had no intentions of snapping more screenshots. Anyway, I eventually landed on a flat spot.


Now the parachute towers look like outstretched arms screaming yes, i made it!

By the way, you may notice the decoupler remained stuck on top of the command pod. This is also a problem I fixed the second time, but apparently it didn't affect ascent too much


The improved version, with landing struts


The parachute towers are ejected. Do appreciate the sepratrons on top doing their job of pushing away from the rocket


Finally all is stabilized and I'm starting to breathe again, when suddenly a big object drops from the sky over my rocket! It's the airbrakes tower, that fell in a perfectly straight line


Luckily, it was going slow enough that it did not break anything. When I remade the rocket, I made the parachutes slightly asymmetrical, so it would fall somewhere else.

The plane then rejoins with the Eve sucks, so i can get a nice group picture



The landing sequence scattered debris for kilometers. This whole portion of Eve now looks like the aftermath of a rave party



What part of "smile for the camera" is not clear?


And, of course, eva experiments!

5.4) Flying over Eve


Propeller flight on Eve is really easy, and for once I'm not trying to make some crazy hybrid plane-space-ship-subterranean vehicle. Making a simple plane was easy. Of course, as it was easy, I didn't put enough effort into it, so now it doesn't fly straight without SAS. But hey, it's small and it has some good reaction wheels, that compensates.

This plane uses solar power to recharge the batteries, so I waited until dawn before sending Jeb to soar towards the south pole. I picked Jeb for the mission because Bill and Bob always land, while Jeb and Val take turns standing on Bolt. I figured, since he's missing half the landings, he should be the one to get the opportunity. The second time I did this I sent Val instead.


The plane is really manueverable on Eve, it takes off at 30 m/s, and to land I reverse the propellers angle and it practically stops mid-air. I am flying with the front bay open because kerbalism science measurements take time, and I put the science instruments in there. In the second version I swapped them on the back for more stability. Also, since the plane was doing so well, I included a robotic arm and a second, more powerful, deployable antenna, so the plane could keep relaying science after Bolt left the system.

The first version of the plane did 140 m/s with the cargo bay closed, 110 with the cargo bay open. The second version, with the robotic arm to weight it down, did 110 m/s.


putting that robotic arm to good use


cockpit view



I gathered a lot of science data. I got 8000 science from transmitted data, before counting the ground and air samples (in kerbalism, samples only give science when returned, or when put in a lab)

I am of two minds on the Eve landscape. On one hand, I don't like the color and most of it is dull, with a sort of washed out look. But a few places are surprisingly nice, with great cliffs and majestic scenery. In the end it was a nice trip, I'd recomment flying over Eve.

After a few hours of flying, made longer by a few deviations to get more biomes, I reached the south pole. There, I discovered that what looked like a nice point from orbit is actually a fairly large area, and the monolith was nowhere in sight. I had to fly around in circles for a while before finding it hidden in a valley


The black dot in the center of the screen is the monolith seen from the cockpit


Now it can be seen clearly


Good thing I am using light amplification, because valleys near the south pole are permanently shrouded. Here is how the place would look with natural light. Even fairly close and knowing it's there, I'd never spot it.


The marker is the flag I planted on the monolith before taking the picture

At this point I was near the south pole, and poles are generally interesting, so I went to check


turns out the south pole is a cliff over the ocean


I wonder if there is any pole without terrain glitches?


A stone floating midair


And this is the furthest I could go. Beyond this point, the cliff exhist only partially. Any attempt to move on caused Jeb to fall to his death


As you can see, this cliff exhist only when seen from Jeb's left side. From the right side, it disappears


So I named it Schroedinger's cliff. The cliff is 1500 m high, and it's either perfectly vertical, or close enough as to make no difference


Unfortunately, I couldn't write it on the flag. The tiny motion necessary to plant it was already enough to make Jeb lose his precarious footing. I didn't have time for writing


If the cliff exhists on only one side, the obvious experiment is to drive the airplane through it. It explodes in midair


On the base of the cliff, though, it is possible to drive through the glitch


It's like an entrance to the netherworld. I explored it a few minutes before coming out again. Nothing interesting in there, no damned souls or anything

After visiting the south pole, I took another detour to visit a tiny, elusive biome called Olympus. I figured it would be a big mountain, and I wanted to check it for the possibility of landing there in the future. While I was going there, I had to stop for the night on a small island on the explodium sea. The sunset is really magnificent. I can forgive Eve its ugly color and its horrible atmosphere for this



My hydrogen storage for the fuel cell was more than adequate to pass the night. The next morning I recharged for a few hours before taking off and reaching the biome.

Turns out Olympus is two mountain valleys, while the actual bigger mountain on the planet is a bit further off


So I named it Mount Not-Olympus, of course

It was well worth checking this place. Most mountains in this game are just random bits of tall terrain. Even the higher mountains on most planets are nothing special to look at. This is something different. A big pyramid of rock rising 3 km over a high plateau. It's 7540 m, and as far as I know it's the only mountain on Eve to rise above 7000 m at all.


reaching the top following the steep incline challenged the propellers, but the plane was up to the task. In the second version, barely.


And this is the view from the top. The north face goes down straight to the water, a sheer cliff 7.5 km high. To my best knowledge, it is by far the highest cliff in the Kerbol system. I had some fun driving land vehicles down it. So far, I never managed to survive to the bottom.

Finally I returned to the Eve sucks


I think I actually crashed over it to take this picture

Finally, the full route over eve. It must be close to 3000 km. This is on my second attempt; the first time I landed more to the east, on the other side of eastern sea (the long, narrow body of water in the center of Eve) and my trajectory was more streamlined, not touching it or western sea



Olympus is the easternmost point touched here. Mount Not-Olympus is the one slightly to the north-west

Eve scouted for lots of science, it's time to get back.

5.5) Rejoining Bolt


Transfer all the science data to the command pod. GO

Transfer the 300 kg of science samples to the command pod. GO

Detach the elevators. GO

Wait for the proper orbital alignment to match Bolt. GO


Say your last goodbye to Eve. GO




Experimenting with various orders of turning on the engines, because I don't remember anymore the optimal one. Turns out the central skipper is better not ignited until after the mammoths are ejected

This thing was much easier to fly than the FU Eve, and much more efficient. It weights little more than half its predecessor, and it has a much greater payload to orbit, and a greater deltaV. It's still not perfectly stable, but it doesn't require as much steering. And it can detach the boosters at up to 400 m/s, though it's risky to do so at over 300 m/s. I never took a screenshot at that moment, too fast.

I still failed to reach orbit the first times, which is telling of the difficulty of leaving Eve, since i was starting from 2200 m and i tested this thing successfully at sea level.

The optimal ascent, turns out, is to accelerate up to 350-400 m/s before throttling down the mammoths. I run the boosters dry at around 18 km altitude and 400 m/s, at which point the second stage kicks in. If the boosters don't crash into the rocket, which, at this speed, is a bit of a hazard, the second stage has a TWR of about 1 (and it uses both the Skipper and the Cubs). It will actually slow down a bit for the drag before stabilizing and accelerating again. That stage lasts until some 50 km of altitude and 800-1000 m/s, at which point it is ejected and the last stage has 3200 m/s to orbit. I reach orbit with around 500 m/s. Once I managed it with almost 900 m/s. On the first attempt, the one I scrapped because I realized I had then no acceptable way of returning to Bolt (it takes some 1300 m/s to rejoin Bolt from the low orbit).


Right after detaching the first stage



The second time I was starting from a bit lower, 2000 m, and I had more weight in science samples. And I added an OKTO2 to the command pod because it can store a lot of science data (I had to abandon some on Eve the first time) and an extra hydrogen container, but that was less than 100 kg total. I have a hard time seeing how all that could have caused much difference. And yet I tried a dozen times to orbit again, I could never do it with more than 400 m/s. Which makes me skeptical about actually succeeding at it from sea level. And yet the very first time I tested this rocket, it reached orbit from sea level with spare fuel! I wonder what I did right that time that I could never figure out again.

But this time I have Taxi to come rescue the command pod. It is small and efficient enough that those 500 m/s only translate to a few tons of nuclear fuel


Meanwhile, I also sent the GYTH to Gilly to searc its monolith. Finding a Gilly intercept is always an excercice in creativity. Gilly's eccentricity and inclination are such that if you try to do it by the book, matching inclination and then doing a Hohmann, you always end up spending more than if you just fling yourself in the right direction at the right time.


This time I did choose to intersect it directly from my polar orbit


Reaching Gilly a few days later

Finding the monolith on Gilly was actually much harder. The problem is, Gilly has such a tiny SoI (around 100 km) that it is impossible to have a high orbit. The rovemate is the only core that can detect anomalies at 100%, but it has a narrow field of vision, and with the altitude limit, I could not spot the whole planet. I could look at all the equator by orbiting equatorially, and I could see both poles from a polar orbit. But I had no way to consistently control all the middle latitudes, and the monolith turned out to be exactly there. It took me many orbits to find it at 40° N 140° W.

Having done its job, GYTH is returned to Bolt with another highly creative orbital solution


It's curious, I tried a lot of different orbits, and the cost for rendez-vous is always very similar

After a bit of matching orbits, Taxi has reached command pod and docked to it


A bit more of orbital matching, and it reunites with Bolt


Here I must prepare for Gilly landing, which means docking command pod on the rover base (I still haven't found a name for it). The pod also needs new life support supplies. I previously moved the rover base on the front, in preparation. I'll only have to make this swap two or three times


Now a service probe must grab the command pod, since it has no mobility on its own


The pod is detached


And brought to dock with the rover base


Wasn't a bad grabbing cause i was pushing through the center of mass. Still, grabbing the command pod on the front would have made for easier manuevering


And Taxi, still carrying the pod attachment that I now name Heavy lander, rejoins Bolt from the bottom


The new Bolt, much more compact after losing the Eve lander

5.6) Driving on Gilly


Now it's Gilly's turn. I decide to send the rover alone, it has 2000 m/s which are more than adequate to go to and from Gilly. I also use only two sparks, they have higher Isp and by using two I reduce the risk of failure.


"Standard" Gilly transfer


Detaching rover from Bolt



First visual contact with Gilly


Injection burn


Instead of orbiting, I turn my trajectory into a direct approach for the landing site

My clever landing solution did not take into account the low gravity of Gilly. It took over half an hour from the last picture to actually touching the ground, and by then the monolith had moved. Quite substantially, because Gilly rotates fast. My target was 140° W, and I actually ended up 150° E.


Just before landing

I was in doubt on how to proceed. Wheels are useless on Gilly. Suborbital jumps are easier, but pinpointing the monolith is not going to be easy, and I'm not sure how close I need to be. I can send a kerbal with a jetpack, but it's less elegant than bringing the whole rover there.

Well, first thing first, let's try to put this robotic arm to good use. There is a surface feature just near my landing site.

Of course, to align with it, I must use wheels. And so I set to the task.

At first I stumbled. My instincts on how to drive on worlds with higher gravity betrayed me. I had to be careful of SAS, and of reaction wheels not taking orders from the regular commands.

But bit by bit, I eventually figured out how to drive on Gilly. The trick, of course, is to do everything slowly. Activate SAS, give a gentle push to the accelerator, move at 0.5 m/s. By now you're balancing on two wheels, so now deactivate SAS and let your rover go back to the ground. Now activate SAS and accelerate another bit more.  By the time I reached the surface feature, I was confident I could reach the monolith too



Obligatory group picture. This time I left Val on Bolt, after she did drive the plane around Eve


Obligatory eva experiment. I wonder if that golf ball will end up on an escape trajectory...


Gilly from inside the pod

So I set out to drive across Gilly to the monolith. Obviously you can't drive fast on Gilly. 15 m/s is orbital speed. I reached as high as 4 m/s before I started bouncing on the ground. On the plus side, though, Gilly is so small, I don't need to go fast to reach around it. It took less time to drive around Gilly than to fly around Eve, despite the plane being much faster.

And I am glad I took the time to learn to drive on Gilly and spend a couple of hours on it, because it's truly beautiful. One of the best planets out there, despite its small size. Or perhaps because of it.







Finally, the monolith. Most of those pictures were without light amplification


And the route undertaken

Now I must wait on Gilly a couple of weeks before the orbital mechanics are again good for rejoining Bolt. I take the chance to complete seismic experiments for one biome, as they took 15 days (a gravioli reading takes instead 90 days, and some scanner experiments take years. crew reports, sample collecting and other basic activities only take a few minutes, though). During that time I had to weather a couple of solar storms. After discovering that the monolit's shade does not protect from the sun, I take advantage of the low gravity to cover myself



flipping the rover around to protect the crew pod from solar storms

This time rejoining Bolt was more expensive, over 600 m/s. Bolt was in the wrong part of the orbit, and I had to pay to make up for it. The transfer would have been cheaper if I could wait another orbit, but the command pod has life support for one month, and that's less than two Gilly orbits



Rejoining Bolt

I spent some 60 days around Eve, and I am afraid I may have lost a convenient transfer window to Duna.


Edited by king of nowhere
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But the thing is that oxygen and life support on a ship this large won’t take much away much delta v, so you can detox them and control with probe. And with rad shielding, at max, a few percent taking several days to heal is acceptable enough to keep it at zero even with solar storms, especially aided with active shields, which you have 2 of.

Edited by Single stage to ocean
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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Part 6: tumbling on Moho

Bolt splits in two; the habitation module and lander go to Moho, while the main fuel tanks go directly to Duna to save fuel. Moho is explored


6.1) BolTransformer


According to the alexmoon planner, I accounted for up to 10 km/s fuel budget for Moho. Almost half my total, just for this one planet. But I didn't worry much, because I had a few ideas to reduce that price. And the main one is splitting the ship.

But wait, didn't I say that I wanted to orbit every planet? Yes, and I will. The core of the ship is the habitation module, with all the crew and life support and communication and science instruments, and that's going everywhere. But the fuel tanks? Those are not part of the ship; this is not like the DREAM BIG sending a ridiculously overpowered Trucker to Moho while the rest of the ship and most of the crew went away. This time the whole ship goes to Moho, minus a few fuel tanks that are not needed - because ferrying a lot of fuel tanks all the way to Moho only to cart them back is a waste. And sure, those fuel tanks make up, like, 80% of the ship's total mass, because the rocket equation is a harsh mistress. But they are, nonetheless, only fuel tanks.

I calculate that I will need the habitation module, the command pod and rover base, the Taxi, and two stacks of drop tanks. I'll also keep a service probe.


First thing, as usual, is to run a full maintenance before leaving part of the ship without care for years.


Detaching Taxi and the drop tanks


Service probe is not as good as Forklift to handle fuel tanks, but it will do

Then I try to bind the tank to the back of Taxi... and fail. Of course. Bad design. Those 4 engines are too close to each other and they are leaning out on the back. A new tank cannot fit in that space; it should, but apparently there is a slight bit of clipping so that you can't pass a tank between them. or perhaps you could pass a tank, but only with the most perfect fit, which is not a realistic option. Either way, I can't attach stuff to the bottom of Taxi.

First solution I considered, use eva construction to move the engines in front. But those engines are too big to be moved. Ok, time to get creative. If I can't move the engines, I will move the docking port!


Grabbing parts from the other drop tanks...


And putting them at the bottom of Taxi


Now I can stick more fuel tanks on the bottom of Taxi


Like this


Detaching the habitation module


And docking Taxi to it


And the last fuel tank


Bolt is ready to reach Moho without any extra weight

6.2) Planning the next destination


I have to plan: where do I send the fuel tanks next? This is not something I can improvise later, I must rejoin Bolt with its fuel or I'm toast. So I put quite a lot of work into being sure of my trajectory.

Coming up from the inner system to the outer planets, I will have a huge intercept speed. So there are only two destinations that make sense: Duna, that will let me neutralize some of that speed by aerobraking (Bolt doesn't have any frail gigantor panel, so I'm hoping it can take heat much better than the DREAM BIG) and Jool, where I can get captured by gravity assist.

Then I have to decide a time frame, because that will determine how many gravity assist I can try. The mission is planned to last 20 years; the upper limit is food, I have for a bit less than 30 years, but I'd rather keep 20 as target and have the extra food for safety. I've done the inner system, I need the outer planets, and I know some transfer windows. The critical one is the Jool-Eeloo, because it is the only chance there is to go to Eeloo cheaply and in a reasonable time, and there is only one such window every 30 years. It closes at the end of year 10, so I must be at Jool by then. At Jool I will visit the inner moons one at a time very fast, then retreat and wait to heal from radiation damage. But radiation healing is very slow, it will take me one full year to heal the damage from the Laythe landing, maybe more1. So, I want to reach Jool by the end of year 8. There is a launch window from Duna to Jool in the middle of year 5, so 5:300 is the upper limit for going to Duna.

So, I have to go to Jool by the end of year 8, possibly after having started from Duna before 5:300. I will spend 1-2 years around Jool to heal radiation damage after the Laythe mission, and I will leave for Eeloo in year 10. I will reach Eeloo in year 13 or 14. Then the optimal Eeloo-Dres transfer is at year 14, but it lasts 8 years; I don't have 8 years, but with and extra 1000 m/s I can make it in 4, so, year 18. And from Dres I can get back to Kerbin in two years or I can pass at Duna first in one more year, either way ending with 20 years total.

Then I must decide whether to aim for Duna or Jool. Of the two destinations, Jool is more uncertain; I will have a much greater speed for a Moho-Jool than for a Moho-Duna, and there are limits to how much I can get out of a gravity assist; it may be inadequate. While at Duna I will have, for sure, 600 m/s coming from Eve, and 2 km/s coming from Moho. Furthermore, the only advantage I have in delaying is more time for gravity assists, but I'm still needing more years to reach Jool from the inner system, so I don't have much to gain. Duna seems the safest destination. And from Duna to Jool it is relatively cheap.

Having decided that I will rejoin Bolt with its fuel tanks at Duna before 5:300, I start looking for trajectories. Hohmann transfers are all well and good, but starting on an elliptic orbit changes things. And I am quite happy about it, it makes things interesting

1 And incidentally

On 4/13/2021 at 12:35 PM, Single stage to ocean said:

But the thing is that oxygen and life support on a ship this large won’t take much away much delta v, so you can detox them and control with probe. And with rad shielding, at max, a few percent taking several days to heal is acceptable enough to keep it at zero even with solar storms, especially aided with active shields, which you have 2 of.

this is why counting too much on detox is not going to work. A solar storm would gain me 3-5% radiation, and it would take 10-30 days to heal it. As I get much more than a solar storm every 10-30 days, my kerbonauts would die if I left them exposed, even with healing running continuously. And frankly, I don't understand why you want so much to let the kerbonauts take radiations when you can simply rotate the ship around.

6.3) Eve to Moho


I will keep the trajectory of the engine pack for the next update, where I will bring everything to Duna. Here I focus on Bolt reaching Moho.

The trajectory is a bit underwhelming.


I wait 100 days until Eve is in the right position. Then I make a pure prograde burn to push my solar periapsis to touch Moho's orbit (purple line). I miss Moho completely, but a small burn times me for an intercept on the next orbit.

Yes, complete lack of imagination. I could have gone for an Eve-Eve gravity assist and developed from there. What I made is practically an Hohmann transfer.

There were, of course, many advantages. The thing is, I was quite lucky that when Eve is in the right position for me to burn prograde and exit behind Eve, I touch Moho's orbit very close to the ascending node.  240 m/s get me directly touching Moho, no need for plane changes or other fancy stuff. And while the timing to meet Moho is bad, I can get an intercept in reasonable time for only 160 m/s. 400 m/s total to get there, I doubt I can get any better.

Once at Moho's intercept, I still have 3000 m/s of intercept. But those cannot be avoided, sorry. Those are the minimum intercept speed for coming from Eve's orbit, and once I drop below Eve there are no more planets to use for gravity assists. It should be possible to use Moho itself, but it doesn't provide much kick on a passage. I'm sure @camacju would be able to slow down entirely with 50 gravity assists and course corrections of less than 1 m/s, but I don't have the time to make 50 gravity assists. I must finish with Moho and reach Duna before 5:300. So, those 3000 m/s of intercept cannot be avoided. The rest of my trajectory is very cheap.

And it brings me to Moho before year 4, leaving almost 2 years to reach Duna. I have a much better chance of saving fuel with gravity assists on my way there.


First sighting of Moho


The capture burn will take over 30 minutes. And I must time it well to avoid wasting more fuel. In the end, I had to repeat it three times to find the right moment to start


Dropping tanks


Here I got the first critical malfunction to an engine, fortunately it's one I'm about to drop


who cares about that engine anyway?



6.4) Exploring Moho


I did not see the monolith on my way in, but finding them is very easy once I put a GYTH in polar orbit


The anomaly at the north pole is the mohole. The one on the left at the edge of the planet is the monolith

On Eve I got screwed by my measurement being taken from afar, it was very inaccurate and I had to fly in circles for a while before finding the monolith. This time I won't have the luxury of a fast plane, so I manuever to make a close pass right on top of the monolith. Moho's super slow rotation makes things easier.


It's time to deploy the rover.



And by the way, I found a name for the rover base; it's Stool!


Deorbit burn, once more with a decent twr



obligatory scanning of surface features


Obligatory group picture


roving on Moho

I've been wanting to drive a rover on Moho for a long time. No, I couldn't just alf-f12 there. I did it, but it never lasted; I need an objective to reach, or I get bored in minutes. This was my chance. And now that I finally reached Moho, I have some advice for the rest of you.

Get away from here. Do it now!

Really, Moho sucks. Moho is ugly. Moho is bad and it should feel bad. If Moho and Dres made a contest for the most useless planet, Moho would win - although that's only because Dres is so useless that it can't even win contests, so perhaps we should call it a tie.

The surface is all rough and bumpy and the rover keeps skidding. The surface is also all similar, without anything interesting. It doesn't even have boulders or anything! (yes, ground scatter is activated, every other planet has nice stuff on it). And brown is dull. There are some hilly areas that may be more interesting, but they are on the other side of the planet.

On the plus side, Moho has a nice gravity for rovers and plenty of sunlight, so it's still a better driving experience than Dres.

As a rover, Stool performs better than I was thinking. At first I was going relatively slow (at least compared to what I would do with Dancing Porcupine, taking advantage of its indestructibility), but I have a big advantage that Dancing Porcupine lacks: strong reaction wheels. In the face of a really bumpy ride, setting the SAS to hold prograde worked wonders. I had electricity shortages, two RTG are not enough for the wheels; but I don't want to make this any more heavy, and the energy was adequate, provided I would accelerate downhill and conserve speed for going uphill.


Moho speed record of 52 m/s. I didn't want to go so fast, but once I picked up speed, I started to bounce so that the wheels would not touch the ground. And then  braking would only make me skid. So the only thing to do was hanging tight and hoping to find an upward slope to slow down


The monolith can be seen in the distance


The monolith seen (not very well) from the pod


I landed on the night side and I did drive all the time with light amplification. When I reached dawn, I turned it off to see the real colors. It's still dull, but less so


Meanwhile, GYTH 1 rejoins with Bolt


The path taken. Landing to monolith is 170 km, monolith to goodbye Moho is 240, so a bit over 400 km of driving. Four biomes touched. I could have reached poles by going north a few more kilometers, but I didn't like Moho enough

After coming back to the equator, I can leave this planet. Only problem I have, I don't have enough fuel to return to Bolt, so I need Taxi to come get me. This was just as planned. Unfortunately, orbital alignments meant that by the time of the rendez-vous, Taxi had no communication.

I tried some tricks, including transfering one pilot to Bolt to try and control Taxi remotely, but it didn't work. I could have planned it better, but I felt safe in all the fuel I saved by splitting the ship, and so I was lazy and just slowed all of Bolt on a circular orbit.


Docking Bolt with Stool

This was pretty straightforward. I don't expect any significant difficulty until i reach Jool

Edited by king of nowhere
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But that takes away 1/3 of damage, which could be eradicated with 200 tons of active sheilds, very heavy but doable on an ion ship like I'm doing. Needs 200 ec/s, so you need big solar panels, like Dream Big's. At least Eeloo isn't hellish in terms of radiations belts, and at Jool its pointless b/c it will barely have an effect with the overwhelming radiation.


I apologize for the self promotion but mine can run an ion engine on full thrust in the dark with a little help from fuel cells(just 1/4 of power is fuel cell generated and I can run electrolysis when the engines are off). Just has a TWR of 0.009, but I have nothing to do and can work on other stuff while it burns. Sadly wont work with 4x physics warp, and is unstable. And it lightens as fuel burns off, so at kerbin return I'll have expected 0.013 twr. Still pathetic, but I have ludicrous DV.

I lauched my hab module trying to dock it to the 300 ton engine module before realising it would be easier to lauch the hab module and engine module(the heaviest items) together, so I'll scrap that idea. Luckily, I have a superior service probe, it has high partcount though(32 engines are not going to play nice). They are all twitches and it is 128 tons(two rockomax-64s). After all, I need enough fuel to boost the finished ship to a high orbit. It would be better though to just launch it to the high orbit rather than launch a heavy service probe, so I'll start over and do that. Wasted a day designing and playing. At least it can be recovered on kerbin with a vertical landing, or used as laythe lander(replacing 2 now redundant 64s with just one 32). I can use it for a lot, eg. recovering Eve lander.



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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Part 7: the Duna system

The two parts of Bolt rejoin at the Duna system, and explore it. There are way more malfunctions than anticipated, but the ship is still in good healt. The timing for the Jool transfer is a bit off and will force some extra fuel cost, but a lot has been saved with the previous manuevers, so it shouldn't be a huge problem


7.1) Engine pack goes to Duna


An Eve-to-Duna transfer would require over 2200 m/s of ejection deltaV. Some of that is saved by being on an elliptic orbit, then again, the ellipse is pointed in the wrong direction. But I do have some time to look for gravity assist. I have two options: Eve-Kerbin-Duna, or Eve-Eve-Duna. Kerbin is in the wrong position, and Eve is cheaper to reach and gives better slingshots anyway.

Unfortunately, Duna is in the wrong place and requires an expensive manuever afterwards. But hey, you gotta work with what you have. This is the best I could find:



It starts with manuever 1, 29 days in the future, in Eve's orbit. 300 m/s to exit Eve on orbit a, which is syncronous with Eve's orbit and will bring me back to meet Eve again one orbit later, after a small course correction (manuever 2). This gravity assist will kick the solar apoapsis almost as high as Duna, since I don't have the time to make another Eve flyby I must give it a little help, with manuever 3, an extra 60 m/s prograde to burn at Eve's apoapsis. This gravity assist + burn will kick me on trajectory b, going to the outer system. Here I must stop for a plane change, because the ascending/descending nodes are halfway between Duna and Eve and there's really no way to avoid them. So manuever 4 is the plane fix; though I may end up making it later, it could be cheaper. I learned to not try to plan those long term trajectories too exactly, as they will never come out just as planned; as long as I know they are there, i can always make some corrections. So, this will get my solar apoapsis touching Duna's orbit. Unfortunately, Duna is in the completely wrong place, but time constraints force to meet it at the next orbit. So, to fix the timing, I must make a long, 900 m/s burn in solar space, to raise periapsis and intercept Duna. On the plus side, this will result in a very low intercept speed, so I can probably get away with aerobraking.

In total it's roughly 1600 m/s to enter Duna's orbit at 5:270. Pretty good. I could make it with less than 1000 m/s if I could afford to wait a few more years, but no point crying over what cannot be


Engine pack starts its voyage, still discarding spent tanks like a trail of breadcrumbs


low thrust forces more correction manuevers


The first Eve flyby, with the extra kick manuever. The Eve plane is still there, abandoned behind but still gathering science data (it takes 90 days for a full gravioli scan of a biome, and more to relay the data)


and the subsequent trajectory after the Eve flyby. You can also see the habitation module still en route to Moho


Here is the plane change. I considered waiting, as it should be a bit cheaper after I raise the solar periapsis. But it's a very tiny difference, and making it now makes the planning much easier.

You can also see I have a couple of malfunctioning reaction wheels by now, even though it's been less than one year since the last maintenance


And here is the trajectory after the plane change, before the last planned manuever. The 200 m/s is the intercept, which will be provided by aerobraking

Still 2900 tons of fuel, they will be reduced somewhat after the last manuever, but I can still look forward to reach Duna with well over 2000 tons. My original plan, albeit conservative, included spending half my total deltaV just to get to Moho and back.

On the down side, something went wrong with some of the manuevers, the argument of periapsis is different than its planned value, and I will meet Duna in 5:310 instead of 5:270. Which will force some additional cost to reach Jool, hopefully not too much.


The big prograde burn

Finally it is time for the 900 m/s burn. And here I start to really feel the difficulty level, because stuff keeps breaking up much worse than the previous time. You can see a third reaction wheel malfunctioned, but also an engine broke up. Less visible, a second engine went out, on the bottom right of the ship; this one does not have a red outline because, instead of just malfunctioning, it exploded completely. Which is good, it's less weight I have to carry around. The two broken engines were both on the same side, so I had to shut down an engine on the top to keep the ship stable

It's been only one year since last maintenance, and I already have several critical malfunctions. With the Dream Big I only run maintenance every two years for most of the mission, and none of the components I checked regularly ever broke. None of the engines ever broke for good, either, though that was lucky. And after I finally reunited the ships, and I could run a full check up of the engine pack... most of the systems were reported to be still new! Meaning I cannot repair them. At normal level hardware was new, then it got aging, and then after a while it broke, and if you found it while aging you could service it and bring back to new. Here it seems hardware goes from new to broken without passing through aging.

Still, even though the rate of stuff breaking up is much greater than it was with the Dream Big, I am confident the ship can make it. And it only has 4 crew members that get stressed and break stuff up.


70 days to Duna encounter. Also visible Bolt with its own encounter a bit earlier.


Finally reached Duna! A few more pieces got broken up in the meanwhile. The Kerbin plane, on the right, is almost nonfunctional, hopefully it will hold strong


another angle to appreciate all the stuff that broke up


Aerobraking. I had to lose 250 m/s, turns out the ship can take more. As I mentioned, it was the gigantors that made the Dream Big fragile.


Finally, the engine module is in orbit around Duna, ready to rejoin Bolt

7.2) All roads lead to an Eve flyby (Bolt goes to Duna)


Meanwhile, Bolt - the part of Bolt containing all the essential systems that I sent to Moho - had done its task, and got ready to leave for Duna. According to alexmoon planner it should take 5300 m/s, minus whatever I can aerobrake. This time saving fuel is less important, because this part of Bolt if much lighter and won't consume much, but I'm still looking for gravity assists. No point in wasting fuel.

The cheapest trajectory would be Moho-Eve-Kerbin-Duna, except that would require a very special planetary alignment. I can forget about it. Actually, getting more Moho flybys to raise apoapsis gradually would be even cheaper, but it would take too long, Moho doesn't give enough kick for the manuever to work. So the choice is between going to Eve or Kerbin. I tried both, but it was immediately clear Kerbin was not a good target; coming at it from Moho I had a high intercept speed, resulting in the gravity assist being mostly ineffective. Also, Kerbin's slower orbit makes double flybys too slow, and reaching Kerbin is more expensive than reaching Eve. Eve is the better choice.

Yep. I hate Eve because I have to include a huge special lander just for it, but it actually has a lot of good things about it. This mission made me appreciate the planet a lot better. My next lander will not have a disparaging name.

Anyway, finding a Moho-Eve-Duna trajectory proved impossible, because I entered Eve's SoI from the wrong side. This one was a very hard manuever to plan, but I managed to find a Moho-Eve-Eve-Duna path that would fit in the time limit


The trip starts, obviously, around Moho, with manuever 1: 1100 m/s to reach Eve. Those cannot be avoided, I'm afraid. To counteract the low thrust, I start with an apoapsis raising first. This manuever sends me to an Eve intercept, on orbit a. It includes a small course correction (2). At Eve, things get complicated, because the game does not visualize those flybys well. So here is a more detailed screen


So, during the first Eve flyby, I must make a retrograde burn for 400 m/s (3). As you can see in the picture, to reach Duna I have to raise my solar apoapsis, to do that I have to exit Eve in the direction shown by the arrow, and my first flyby has no chance of accomplishing that. But that retrograde burn lets the planet turn around my trajectory more, and it puts me on course (orbit b) for a second Eve flyby on the next orbit. and this time Bolt will be coming at the planet from the right direction. This second flyby, along with a little help of less than 100 m/s (4), pushes Bolt on an intercept trajectory for Duna (orbit c); Duna is lagging behind just a bit, a small enough difference that it can be handled by a higher solar apoapsis without too much extra cost. The final manuever, 5, is plane change. Not only this trajectory saves something of the 2200 m/s necessary to get a Duna intercept, but raising solar periapsis also reduces intercept speed, to 1300 m/s - still high, but nowhere near as bad as a direct intercept from Moho would be.

Also, along the way I found ways to increase efficiency. At first I was trying to fix the orbital planes, but later I realized that i could use those gravity assist more productively to tamper with apoapsis/periapsis, and come at Duna with a high inclination - the node was very close to the intercept, so it was cheaper to push it on the intercept rather than to reduce it to zero.


Leaving Moho. The bug with part alignment is really wreaking havoc with my poor ship. At least I have good reaction wheels to compensate the shifted baricenter


Eve becomes visible by the naked eye (on the bottom, just above the speed display)


first Eve flyby. I already managed to shave off a bit of cost from this one

And by the way, as I was passing near Eve, I was again able to fly the Eve plane remotely. I took the chance to move it around to a different biome, so it could make some long term science experiments there too. After Bolt leaves the system, the plane has a high gain antenna to relay data to the KSC, but the antenna would break up with wind forces if I tried to fly with it deployed. Those are the last chances to move it.

Yes, it's completely unnecessary for the mission, but going a bit out of my way to perform the extra experiment makes me feel more like this is a real science mission.


Here one engine of Taxi exploded (bottom left on the image). This one actually hurts. On the other hand, I did include extras specifically for this reason. And it graciously exploded, for weight saving

Side note here: I was hoping I could swap out engines as needed with eva construction, discarding broken ones, eventually replacing them with those from spent tanks so I could keep the core engine module and Taxi always functional. That's not the case, as it turns out the bigger engines cannot be manipulated by eva construction, under any condition.

In the future I will plan for that, I will attach engines to docking ports so I can move them around with something like the service probe. The extra mass for the docking port is more than compensated by being able to discard dead mass in the form of broken engines. I'm more worried about the impact of the extra parts on my cpu performance.


Bolt leaves Eve on the right course for the second flyby. This one will already achieve a solar apoapsis over 21 Gm without any need for further corrections


A small course correction to refine the second flyby, and a 110 m/s plane change (could reduce them to 80 later) set the final course for a Duna flyby at 5:270


Finally arrived on Duna. Slowing down to a manageable aerobraking speed. Also, despite constant maintenance, Bolt also lost some pieces.


Aerobraking. The main limitation was the rover wheels


I moved a kerbonaut in a cupola just to snap this picture


As a result of not matching the orbital plane, I entered Duna with an inclined orbit. A couple of really cheap manuevers while far from the planet took care of that.


Going to Ike. Ike is the best parking spot around Duna, as it is cheaper to leave Duna from Ike.

Unfortunately i don't have any chemical fuel left to operate the lander, so I must wait for the engine pack to come along. It sucks, because after 5:300 the transfer window to Jool closes pretty fast, and the extra cost quickly increases by hundreds of m/s. Worse, the cheaper trajectories are the slower ones, and I still need to get there in year 9; I have to pick even more expensive trajectories.

I really don't like having to wait while I'm missing the transfer window, then having to wait more while Stool lands and finds the monoliths. This was so bad, I actually considered leaving Duna system in a hurry without landing as soon as the engine pack arrived, and coming back to it after Dres.

A quick check at the transfer windows between Dres, Duna and Kerbin around year 18 dissuaded me from this course. The deltaV cost for Dres-Duna-Kerbin is no greater than a direct Dres-Kerbin, thanks to aerobraking at Duna getting rid of inclination issues. But the planets are in bad alignment, forcing a long wait for transfer windows. I still want to target 20 years.

I even considered skipping Jool, going for Eeloo first, and then to Jool. The transfer window is actually nice, and Eeloo-Jool is only 300 m/s at the right time. Unfortunately, Duna-Eeloo is over 2000, so, much more expensive than going directly for Jool.

So in the end I'll just go forward with the plan. I will spend at least 500 m/s extra for going to Jool, which sucks. But then, this little stunt with splitting up the ship, and then all the gravity assists, saved me a lot of fuel. Much more than I'll have to spend now. Also, the original plan called for 5000 m/s to explore Jool. Back then, I still had not planned for Taxi, which I added later. I spent much less fuel than I planned, so I can afford to waste a bit extra for Jool.

Meanwhile, I can save some time by preemptively scouting for the monoliths


Detaching Get Your Tinfoil Hat

7.3) Boltransformer 2


Now I am safely in Duna orbit, I located both monoliths, and I have to wait the engine module before i can land. And every day I wait is going to increase the cost of going to Jool. Better to do everything I can while I am here to speed up operations. To save time I reassemble Bolt again in preparation for the next part of the mission; having Taxi and Stool ready to be detached and sent to Duna. Also, it's better to do the manuevers without the engine pack because I have less parts in physics range to slow down the game. It's currently running smoothly.


Dear service probe, what would I do without you?


Step 1: hitch the service probe to the remaining drop tank


Step 2: split all the pieces - Stool, Hab, Taxi, Tank. By the way, look at how the fuel tanks alignment is getting worse and worse


Step 3: dock Taxi with Stool


Step 4: dock Hab with the tank. Also the parts of Hab are getting badly misaligned


Upon docking, the two parts exploded. I assume because of all the tension of the warped parts. So, step 5: reload. Knowing this can happen, I always save the game shortly before any docking manuever


And hey, upon reloading, all the alignment problems got fixed!

By the way, @Klapaucius, this part may also address your question

7.4) Hiking on Duna


Engine module is finally coming, and with it my refueling. As it is already past the transfer window, every day I wait I am losing fuel. So, instead of waiting for it around Ike, I send Taxi+Stool on a fast intercept trajectory. Taxi has much lower consumption than the full Bolt, better to make some expensive manuevers with it than with the whole ship.


I would have liked to meet the engine module at apoapsis, but orbital mechanics prevent that. I have a relatively cheap trajectory to meet it later (the trajectory is cheap, but the encounter speed will be high, because the ships are in different orbits), but it will only be 1 hour before reentering atmosphere, I will have to be fast.

By the way, Taxi lost an engine and has an asymmetrical engine. Of course using it would unbalance the ship; but I discovered even leaving it shut down unbalances the ship, because that engine is still extra mass that's not balanced on the other side. So I put the thrust limiter at 10% on it, and the ship flies fine.

I'm sure I could operate it with one engine at low thrust if I really needed to, but I hope I won't.


Close encounter set. Meanwhile, engine module is on its way to catch Ike on the next orbit without any further correction




Despite Duna looming closer, I still take the time to fix the engines. Less likely I will break some more on the way to Ike


Refueled, Taxi and Stool set for an aerobraking trajectory


I experimentally try to split them in the atmosphere to make two aerobraking in one. Stool, less aerodinamic, will stop on the planet, while Taxi will have enough energy to stay in orbit

Actually, even Stool needed an additional atmospheric passage. I could have set a lower periapsis


the double aerobrake works. As long as both ships stay in physical range, both are braking and none gets deleted


I'm landing just on the side of the canyon.

By coincidence, it's very close to where I first landed a Digger in the previous mission. And incidentally, I still have 50 m/s to rocket brake, despite the 300 kg parachute. That's very puzzling; the Diggers weighted over 80 tons, they had 800 kg of parachutes (1% of the mass), and they fell at 30 m/s. Stool is 15 tons, it has 300 kg of parachute (2% of the mass), and yet it falls much faster. I'll have to figure out why, it will be important for future atmospheric landers.


All landed safely!

Actually, the landing wasn't flawless. When I make low thrust manuevers, I generally turn on only a couple of engines, to reduce the overall chance of malfunction. Turns out, I forgot to reset the settings since last time I did such a manuever. So I activated the rockets, and only a couple of them started. I could have recovered by pressing 5, which turns them all on, but I wasn't ready for it. A few seconds later I slammed into the ground at 30 m/s. The sturdy wheels took the impact, though a couple of them broke.

I decided to keep the save as it is, because I also forgot to save since before atmospheric reentry. But I'm running out of repair kits (Moho was a real wheel-killer), I will have to be more careful in the future.


So, this is my landing position, with the various anomalies marked. I didn't try to aim for a landing close to the monolith because I am using this mission partially as an excuse to drive. I like driving rovers, if I have an objective. As the monolith is in the souther ice cap, it will be quite the trip. I will also get a chance to visit the mast cam along the way.

Duna has a comfortable gravity, perhaps a bit too much because going uphill was difficult. To climb mountains, I had to frequently stop to recharge, and I couldn't accelerate on slopes past 10 degrees (I wonder why wheels are so weak? This is still a low gravity world). The terrain is varied without being uncomfortable, there are high mountains and deep canyons and rolling plains. The atmospheric drag is virtually unnoticeable until you go past 50 m/s, and at that point you're likely dead anyway.

Overall I had fun driving on Duna, enough that I often took detours to visit additional biomes (I got 9). I spent 3 real life days driving - and also 3 kerbal days. No, it does not mean I played 6 hours each day, I had to pause to recharge the batteries.

Most of Duna is not much to look at, but there are highlights


I'm taking one of those scanning pictures on every planet.

By the way, speaking of surface features, beware blueberries. They are small and hard to notice, and they will break your wheels!


I miss the IVA panoramic view of Dancing Porcupine (I actually considered putting a cupola, but it would have required a complete redesign). Still, here I got Ike through the window



Going down the canyon at full speed enables some really cool jumps. And also some cool explosions. Eventually I had to give up and go down slowly


I don't like Duna's sky color. The night sky is much better.


the mast cam sticking out of the ground




I don't like Duna's sky in daylight, but it is beautiful in twilight. It's blue like... like Kerbin's sky. In retrospect, if I wanted to see a blu sky, I should have stayed home




I also appreciated the gradual shift between regular land and ice cap, so that the boundary is visible at a distance, but up close I can't tell where it starts

Meanwhile, engine module rejoins with the rest of Bolt. At Jool I will want to release the Tylo descent stage and the disposable rovers, so I assemble it in a way that would make it easier to disassemble later


The small thing in the middle is the atmospheric ascent stage, used on Eve, which will be used on Laythe and Tylo



Bolt reassembled. Except it doesn't look much like a bolt anymore. I wonder if I should change its name again...


Back to Duna, finally I reached the monolith. It's twilight again because I've been running eastward


Going northward

My original plan was going to the equator before orbiting again, to have no inclination. But I suddenly decided to cut short my drive to minimize the time spent at Duna (remember, I am losing fuel eveyr day I delay going for Jool). I need the right position of Ike to launch, and it happens every 3 days. By some handwaved calculation (and gross overestimation of how long I'd need to visit Ike) I decided to leave in a hurry. Probably I was also getting fed up with Duna. After all, I traveled an estimated 700-800 km over it.


The path taken over the planet


Leaving Duna. Stool's aerodinamics is awful, I spent 1400 m/s even launching from 5000 meters of altitude


Rendez-vous. I spend a few extra to force an immediate encounter with Taxi. By now the ship is so light, it manuevers very cheaply


And a creative trajectory to intercept Ike, and Bolt, at the first occasion. It's actually rather cheap, because I left Bolt parked on a high orbit where it's easy to make plane changes


Finally, Taxi+Stool rejoins with Bolt. But only long enough to quickly get new fuel (only half tanks, Ike doesn't need much deltaV) and to refill the nitrogen tank (I lose some at every EVA, and I didn't think to add a nitrogen tank to the command pod. If I run out of nitrogen nothing too bad happens, I lose pressurization and the kerbonauts have to stay inside the suits, gaining more stress, but the effect is small over a few days. Still, I prefer to get a refill.

And then, onward to Ike. Or, more appropriately, downward.

7.5) Racing across Ike


Landing on Ike is easy, no need of detailed explanations.

Once on the surface, I started driving. I wasn't expecting much; My only previous experience driving on Ike was with the lander/rover of the Marco Polonium, and that was an absolutely crappy craft made to be lightweight and cheap. It was barely capable of moving to the nearest surface feature to take a scan before leaving again. Still, I did drive the Dancing Porcupine across Mun, and while I liked it a lot, I also skidded a lot and crashed a lot. Which is all right, Dancing Porcupine is armored, crashing it around is part of the fun. Stool is not armored.

Turned out, Stool's reaction wheel is even better than any armor. I didn't even want to put it there at first, it was just a convenient part to provide thickness between the two docking ports, to attach the other parts. And ok, a redundant reaction wheel is always good, those are pretty fragile and in my past experience they are the first pieces that break (I already have the command pod wheel and a small backup wheel in the cargo bay). But if I could have skipped that large wheel in favor of a lighter part, I would have.

It was a fortunate accident of engineering. On Moho and Duna the reaction wheel was barely adequate to keep Stool upright. But on this low gravity world, it shines.

Bumps along the road are inconsequential. Skidding is inconsequential. I can drive as recklessly as I want, my reaction wheel will keep me pointing prograde. Even when I go flipping, I stop and reassert control well before I touch the ground again. Factor in that the gravity is low enough that going uphill is not a problem - Ike is FUN

On this little planet, I cruised at speeds averaging 50 m/s, going as high as 70 m/s, with only a single unfortunate accident. 

I can definitely recommend driving on this planet. Bring extra reaction wheels.


A cool jump


Another cool jump

P.S. I have the reaction wheel selected because I need to toggle it on/off frequently. When I accelerate i want no input from the reaction wheels, as they are powerful enough to flip my rover. But when I drive I want it turned on, to keep prograde.  And when I suddenly start spinning, I must know immediately if my reaction wheels are turned on or off.

P.P.S. You may wonder why I don't set the reaction wheels to SAS only. Very simple, SAS keeps you prograde but does nothing for roll. A correct front/rear orientation is no good if your wheels are pointing towards the sky.

P.P.P.S. If you're wondering how I can keep prograde on this rover that's build vertically, there's an okto2 probe core underneath one of the trusses connecting the central body to the fuel tanks. I put it there for this specific reason, one of the small improvements I did after the first failed run.

P.P.P.P.S. No, I actually put the core there just because I didn't want to have to grab the Stool base with a service probe every time I wanted to move it. That it was also useful for pointing prograde was merely serendipitous. This rover is the most accidentally successful vehicle I ever built!



:DLots of cool jumps!:D


A cool panorama. With its high mountains, Ike has dramatic scenery. I loved it. Everyone, go land a rover on Ike already!


Those little boulders have been my major killers in this drive. The first one, I thought I could pass over it, but it collided with my docking port. The second one, I landed on it after a jump


This monolith is flying, so I parked underneath

The monolith was 60° N. I landed on the equator, because I wanted to drive around - and I'm very happy I did. It also took little time, maybe 1 hour, because Ike is small and I could go fast. I raced maybe 150 km, including some detours to visit an extra biome. In all this time I had a single accident, the aforementioned collision with the surface feature, but it happened shortly after I saved. I generally stop to save every 20 km, but this time I felt so safe, I went as far as 80 km without stopping - also because, when you're pushing past 50 m/s and going downhill, you're not much driving as bouncing on the surface in a sequence of suborbital jumps, and braking is kinda hard.

I reached the monolith and I could have come back, but I wanted MOAR IKE! I decided, instead of coming back to the equator, to take the long way and pass over the north pole, and reach the equator on the other side. And then who knows, perhaps even pull an Elcano?

So I started north, racing again


moar cool jumps


look how high and how fast I am jumping this time!

.... this is very high and very fast. Am I sure the wheels can take this impact?


yeah, pretty much

Yep, I pushed this rover a bit too much, in the end the wheels couldn't take it anymore. I was at 75° N when this happened, en route to the pole. No harm done. I reloaded from the previous save, the monolith.

And here's what happened


Puzzled, I tried again. And again. And again.


Yes, the game is kindly giving me warning that breaking open my command pod has depleted my nitrogen reserves. Thanks, kerbalism. It may be as high as fifteenth place in my list of direst problems right now

Turns out, parking underneath the monolith was a mistake, because the game was glitching me inside the monolith upon reloading.

At this point I had to go to the previous save. Which was over 50 km before.

Well, I actually cheated my way back to the monolith with alt-f12. I already reached there fairly, not my fault the save got glitched. Anyway, this accident dispelled the magic of Ike. I lost interest for making extended tours, I just wanted to get back to the equator and move on.

Of course, I still had 150 more km to return to the equator. I could keep up with cool jumps some more


On the way south, I passed over some of the highest mountains on the planet, reaching as high as 11 km altitude. An 8 km climb between my highest and lowest points.

At some point, checking the map, I saw this


Taxi is reaching periapsis in 30 minutes. Can I catch it there before it passes? Can I race Stool against an orbiting vehicle? Sounds fun, let's try.

Being 30° N, I need to cover 1° per minute. More, to reduce the gap. At first I had to go uphill, and I couldn't gain on Taxi. Then I passed a crest, and it was downward all the way to the southern emisphere.


70 m/s, and this time I survived


Pushing Stool more and more recklessly, I gain some time


Exactly 1° per minute to make it


I'm making it! I'm doing more than 1° per minute! I think I should I start thinking about breaking too, if I don't want to end up all the way to the south pole


This jump is very high and very fast! It's very similar to the one that killed me earlier :0.0::0.0: Will I survive? Will I have to reload the last 30 minutes?


The rover is safe, but the front right wheel broke. A broken wheel also fixed my need for slowing down, though it is a half miracle i didn't break anything else in the process

But I am still 3 degrees from the equator. I have time, but I must race the last distance


Bill will attempt some high adrenaline engineering there


Done! Fixed a wheel of a racing rover, while wearing a space suit and hanging for your life from a ladder! Bill, you are an engineer with balls of steel!


Victory! I reached the equator 30 km ahead of Taxi, which translates to about 1 minute. Just the time to plant one last flag before the rendez-vous.

I thoroughly enjoyed racing over this little world. I wonder if I would have still enjoyed it had my rover broken in that last jump, though.


The path taken, slightly over 300 km. I was much faster than at Duna, with less time spent reloading accidents, and did all this in a saturday afternoon. Only 3 biomes, though.

With this, it was time to move on. I spent enough time around Duna. Now I will finally see if my calculationshandwaving about radiations at Laythe are correct. I will finally see if my landers perform well, if at all. The truly dangerous part of this mission begins as soon as I reach the gas giant.

Bolt has still almost 2000 tons of fuel left. I expect at least feeding the NERVs won't be a problem

Edited by king of nowhere
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Posted (edited)
On 4/4/2021 at 1:19 AM, king of nowhere said:


A thin, long, narrow ship like this requires a lot of autostrutting to avoid wobbling. And autostrutting does not mesh well with kerbalism, resulting in misshapen ships. But I learned by now that those bugs will be reverted between saves and are not fatal, so I'm mostly ignoring them


This is an amazing undertaking. I just came over after seeing it posted on Thread of the Month.  I'm learning a lot reading about your process and design decisions.

Question: in the case above, is there a reason not to use rigid attachment?  I never use it on planes or landers because it makes things too brittle, but I do use it from time to time on rockets and orbiters.  

Edited by Klapaucius
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16 minutes ago, Klapaucius said:

This is an amazing undertaking. I just came over after seeing it posted on Thread of the Month.  I'm learning a lot reading about your process and design decisions.

Question: in the case above, is there a reason not to use rigid attachment?  I never use it on planes or landers because it makes things too brittle, but I do use it from time to time on rockets and orbiters.  

i tried using rigid attachment in the past, and as you said, the ship was brittle and broke easily. i didn't even try in this case.

it may even be that it could work better. but it would be very hard to gauge. i tried rigid attachment with my previous ship Dream Big, which also had problems of structural stability, and I didn't notice any visible improvement. The problems only happen occasionally, so to compare the better way to handle them, I'd have to try both versions with and without rigid attachments, for prolonged times, and run detailed statistics. A lot of boring work. On the other hand, autostruts alone reduce stability problems to a manageable level; parts spontaneously detaching, after the initial assembly phase (where i always forget to autostrut some key component), are extremely rare. parts getting misaligned are ugly, but they revert spontaneously and they cause no lasting harm.

Overall, improving the stability would require too much work for too little gain

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            Part 8: the Laythe horror picture show (alternative title Laythepollo 13)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             "Kerbin, we've got a dozen problems!" Jeb, to flight control room

The trip to Jool seem to go fine up until reaching Laythe.

There, a combination of kraken attacks, insufficient foresight, and plain bad luck quickly turn the mission into a survival horror where the poor kerbonauts got alternatively fried with radiations, stuck on Laythe, fried with radiations, doomed to float in space until starvation (after spending all their fuel to escape radiations), can't find a way to reunite with the mothership before their food supplied run out, got fried with radiations, reunite with the mothership only to find jeb dead there, got fried with radiation.

They also have to fly a plane that can't take off.

Oh, and they get fried with radiations.

Only after extreme hardship - and a lot of swearing - this obstacle is overcome, with the barest of margins


8.1) Leaving Duna


As I mentioned, I am slightly too late for the proper transfer window. I can reach Jool in a Hohmann transfer within a reasonable fuel budget, but it's more expensive than if I had started 50 days earlier. And to further complicate matters, the only cheap transfers left are those that take too long for my purpose of catching the Jool-Eeloo window


this would be a fairly cheap transfer. Unfortunately, it reaches Jool too late, after year 10. I need time to heal from radiation damage, I want to reach Jool by year 9


And this is a transfer that reaches Jool at the right time. It's almost 500 m/s more expensive :/. And there's no way around it

500 m/s aren't even the main problem. The real deal is that I must perform a real big burn, with a ship with low thrust. Cosine losses will be harsh. And the engines tend to break if used for too long consecutively.

That last picture also has a recap of the ship situation: still 2600 tons, most of them fuel. Water and oxygen are close to maximum, the water recycler and CO2 recycler are working wonders. I could have saved some weight on water storage. Monopropellant, needed for EVA, will be enough to run maintenance until the end of the mission. Food storage is doing as predicted.

In order to perform the burn, I must start the rockets while well away from periapsis. I am pointing 45 degrees away from prograde, efficiency is awful, but i can't find ways around it.

This burn was quite complex to execute. According to calculations, I should spend 430 tons of fuel. Make it 500 to include the weight of the drop tanks, the ship should weight 2050 tons in the end.

The first time I tried, I ended at less than 2000. So I reloaded the manuever and tried it again, changing when i started and whether i would point prograde or towards the manuever. I ended with 2030, which would be good enough, but a kraken hit and and forced me to reload the save.


Kraken 1: the ship apparently exploded in dozens of pieces upon exiting time warp


Kraken 2: I... really have no idea what happened here... it's like all the planets disappeared...

Then I tried again, and again I ended at less than 2000 tons. It took me 5 or 6 attempts before a successful one - but i managed to keep almost 2050 tons, meaning that the manuever was fairly efficient. Very efficient, considering the circumstances.


Situation of the rockets

The manuever was also harsh on the rockets, especially at first. After half an hour of burn, rockets started to fail. You can notice that some engines are shut down, that's to keep thrust balanced with the failed engines on the other side. You can also see, on the bottom left corner, how the reaction wheels are working hard to compensate for asymmetric thrust caused by failed engines.

Two tricks allowed me to make this manuever effectively. The first was to regularly delete the manuever node and make a new one. I learned to do it quickly, and it really helped to keep the ship pointed in the right direction after the actual trajectory started to diverge significantly from the planned one.  The second was stopping the manuever after passing periapsis - when the course was set and there was no particular haste to keep burning - to run a quick maintenance of the engines. Thanks to this, I didn't lose any engine the last time.

To reduce risk to the engines, for the plane change manuever I only used the drop tank engines, those that are supposed to be discarded eventually. I spare the 18 main ones, trying to keep as many as possible fully functional until the end.


The plane change manuever


And the planned arrival at Jool. Periapsis raising will be necessary to park Bolt outside of the radiation belts

8.2) It's not such a long way to Jool after all


The previous time I traveled to Jool with kerbalism, it took me a couple of real life weeks. That's because of some lack of knowledge on my part, and some engineering limits on the Dream Big. With the Dream Big, I had to turn around the whole ship every time there was a solar storm, because the orientation that let me protect the crew would also turn the solar panels away from the sun. And then I was limited to x1000 time warp during solar storms. Which was most of the time.

But I learned. Bolt has no problems with solar panels to be oriented. As for the time warp, I learned there's actually no problem if you go to the tracking station and time warp from there. As long as you leave the ship in the right orientation, you'll be shielded from storms all the time, and you won't have problems with time warp over x1000 during storms. So, the trip itself took just an hour or two. Most of that time was spent, of course, in maintenance trips. I run a tight schedule, doing a full check-up of the ship every year. I still lost some parts by space weathering, and some more by crew breakdowns. So here's a gallery of stuff that broke


Command pod backup reaction wheel. Lesson: I should have swapped the okto and the wheel, to change the wheel for a new one if needed. I can't touch the broken wheel because I can't move the food containers


The reaction wheel onHab can't be removed. The engine on Get Your Tinfoil Hat 2 hasn't even been used, but it has been smashed by a stressed kerbonaut. I'm removing it, more for reduced part count than for weight


This reaction wheel on a drop tank is rather bening, i'm going to discard the tank eventually anyway


Spectrovariometer from the Kerbin plane. I may recover the one from the Laythe plane before leaving, or I may skip atmosphere analysis on Kerbin. Anyway, it doesn't compromise the mission


A Cub engine from the Laythe rocket. Well, it has 12 for a reason. It will keep working


The various discarded pieces floating away


And a bunch of other broken pieces that could not be fixed

Those losses are annoying, but none of them compromise the mission. The broken reaction wheel on the command pod is a bit worrying, because I only have 1 left for the Laythe landing. Well, let's hope the second will survive as far as Laythe and Tylo. Afterwards, the landings will be conducted by Stool, which has another backup reaction wheel.

Those 3 years went fast enough; it's time to plan the arrival at Jool

8.3) Approaching Laythe


Laythe is the most difficult target here, because it will require to spend more time exposed to radiations. It's also quite far to reach from my planned parking orbit. So I decide to tackle it first, it will be cheaper to reach from my Jool injection trajectory.

Of course, this requires some change of plans. Originally I was planning to move the GYTH around Laythe, find the monolith, then move in the Laythe plane, land it, and finally land the crew. Of course I can't land the crew and leave them there exposed to radiations while I bring in the probes. I must send the GYTH earlier.


I detach GYTH 150 days before arrival, with an additional manuever to reach Laythe 10 days earlier. Should be enough to find the monolith. I still use a Tylo assist, like I did with the Dream Big


To Jool! Jool is barely visible as a green dot in the center of the screen


It's my 5th or 6th mission to Jool, but I'm still not tired of snapping pictures


Tylo flyby. I take the chance to look for the monolith too, but I only found the cave complex


A final course correction puts me in a polar orbit. Try as I might, I could not find a cheaper way to do it earlier. But I accidentally loaded much more xenon than I needed, no worries there.


Arrival at Laythe

Like Gilly, Laythe is difficult because the SoI is too small and I can't see the whole planet. Unlike Gilly, though, orbitng Layhte is fast, while Laythe rotates slowly. This ensures that, keeping the same polar orbit, every part of the surface will pass underneath. I found the monolith in two days, near crescent bay.

Now it's time to send the crew. The Command Pod has supplies for 30 days, I'm sending it 10 days in advance. I must again move pieces of Bolt around, which deserves its own subchapter.

8.3.1) Boltransformer 3


The purpose of the manuever is to remove Stool from the ensemble


First step was sending a Service Probe to grab the pod


Splitting the various piaces. I had a bug that prevented some docking ports from working, but restarting the game fixed it


Then the command pod is docked to the unnamed Laythe/Tylo rocket


Like so. Service probe has done its job, it can be moved away



And finally joining the rocket with Taxi


Stool is placed back with Bolt. Temporarily, until I need the Tylo descent stage


And what about the Laythe plane? It doesn't have much capacity to move on its own. Solution: attach it to the lander


EVA construction to move the docking port


And put it on the command pod


To dock the plane

It looks ugly, but it's rather functional. To keep thrust correctly oriented, it was enough to reduce power on one of the opposed engines on Taxi to 80%. And during Laythe atmospheric reentry, the irregular shape will help aerobraking. The plane will be undocked in the last part of descent, to land on its own, more or less like it happened on Eve.

At first I was thinking of also sending the command pod to Laythe with a Tylo assist. But then I realized it would take longer. Taxi doesn't use much fuel, so I used a direct, faster trajectory. I also spent some extra fuel to reach Laythe faster, spending less time in the radiation belt.



A few hours after crossing Tylo's orbit, 9% radiation damage


Two and a half hours later, already 26%. But I'm almost arrived.


Interrupting a tense action sequence with some scenery porn


9 minutes to Laythe periapsis, 30% radiations. It's low enough to leave safely afterwards.

When I did this with the Dream Big, I took over 60% damage. This time I'm at 30%, despite the shielding being three times less effective. Why?

I could fix a few mistakes I did last time. Namely

- Digger 3 took the Tylo assist, which saved fuel but was slower. Every hour counts!

- My kerbonauts were already a bit irradiated, because I didn't have the radiation decontamination enabled in that mission.

- Most important, I still had the silly notion of aerobraking at Laythe, and I did one full orbit before looking at radiation levels and realizing I was being silly. That's 3 hours I spent in Laythe orbit, getting irradiated

- While a kerbonaut landed, the rest of the crew remained in orbit. Laythe's atmosphere greatly reduces radiations, but two kerbonauts remained outside, getting more irradiated

Having removed all those imprecisions, I could spend much less time in the death zone.

After arriving at Layhthe, I discover that I accidentally left two chemical rockets active through the orbital insertion. Now I don't have enough rocket fuel to return to orbit, so I had to reload. And this time Taxi broke an engine immediately


At least the two engines remaining are symmetric

For a moment I considered reloading to fix the engine, because I already did this manuever, and it went well. But then, I made the Duna ejection burn many times too, and i broke many more engines on the first attempts, but it only mattered the last. And in the last, nothing broke. Here I am paying for that bout of luck. The important thing is that I am not reloading to change malfunctions, but for other reasons. I must accept the bad with the good.


Arriving at Laythe. The biggest island is just underneath the periapsis. To avoid spending more time in space, I will try for a direct landing, without orbiting first.

8.4) Flying on Laythe - the first time


Even though I am coming straight over the main island, I am coming too fast and I need some rocket braking first. And then I need to separate Taxi and leave it in orbit, so I can't do too many fancy manuevers. Ultimately, landing on that big island proves impossible. But there is another island a bit ahead, and after a lot of save scumming to find the right periapsis (which must be accurate to within 100 meters to land on the island) I manage to land there.

I generally dislike spaceplanes, but I'll give them this: they can land on Laythe without worrying about finding an island.


The approach manuever





Falling from the sky engulfed in a ball of fire must be a unique emotion. I'd like to try it


More aerobraking

During all those aerobraking manuevers, i always kept the plane pointing retrograde, in an attempt to make my trajectory more reproducible (for the purpose of figuring out the correct periapsis to hit the island). It worked, somewhat.

Of course, it's gonna be impossible to land straigth with a plane attached on a side of the rocket, so I must detach the plane first. Like I did on Eve, the plan is to detach the plane, land it separately, and then go back to land the rocket.



So I released the plane, flew it downward, just like I did on Eve, and then at the last second I pulled the controls upward...

and crashed into the ground. The plane barely moved.

yeah, of course. This is not Eve. The atmosphere is much thinner, the plane does not respond to controls in the same way. After a couple of tries, I figured that I had to increase the maximum angle of the elevons AND to start pulling up earlier. So now I approached the ground gently... and crashed.

this is much harder than Eve, where I could practically stop in midair just by changing the propeller angle. I am touching the ground at 50 m/s, with limited control. And I have to be fast, because the rocket portion is falling down and i must control it to finish landing with rockets.


Having the front wheel turned on a side and other pieces misaligned for the well-known glitch also didn't help. Here I tried landing on water, thinking it would be easier

I also consider flying the plane levelly - it keeps altitude for a while before falling - and landing the rocket first, so i can land the plane without time pressure. It has some advantages; unfortunately, after i first fail the rocket landing and reload the game, the plane is no longer loaded in physics range, and is instead put on a suborbital trajectory. I can't even go control it, because i can't swap vehicle while i'm in atmosphere.

But finally, after several more reloads, I get the hang of landing this plane. So I save the game, and I go to control the rocket.

Which, of course, crashes. Yep, it's not particularly large. It needs a level surface to stay upright.


So, it's reload again, from before I open the parachute, in the hope of ending up on a level surface.

It took much trial and error, but eventually i was also able to land the rocket consistently, and I found some flat ground. Finally!

All those pictures are done wity light enhancement, by the way. It's currently night.


I remove the docking port of the plane, it's dead weight now


The plane has landed safely. the wheel got fixed on its own, the propeller blades are still misaligned. I used the time-tested method of using the alt-f12 menu to bring in a new one


Obligatory group picture. Jool on the background makes everything better


The new plane takes science. You can see the missing propellers, they are actually clipped inside the fusolage. No, I have no idea why they moved like that when i teleported it on Laythe

The surface of Laythe is shielded from radiation, it's still not safe in the long term but I can stop for upwards to a few days with negligible ill effects. So, instead of controlling the plane remotely, I can send Vall to pilot it.

Ok, so I got the new plane to fix the alignment problems. Now I can use it to fly to the monolith. At least, I would like to, but I can't seem to make it, you know, fly...

It is notoriously difficult to fly on Laythe. Too thin air. I only tested it on Eve, which is definitely not the same thing. Also, on a plane this light, radiation shielding alone accounts for 20% of the total weight.

As a result, the plane is seriously lacking. Ok, it's not so bad, once it reaches 60 m/s it can actually fly consistently. The problem is that it can't move any faster than 40 m/s on the ground. And even at 30 m/s it has a strong tendency to skid or flip (which I improved by manually reducing friction on the front wheel). It can briefly hover at 40 m/s, but it loses speed quickly, and falls back on the ground.

So at first I content myself with using my plane as a car


Somebody tried building a rocket car. I wonder if anybody did a propeller car?


But as I took small jumps to conduct atmospheric science (it is sufficient to not touch the ground to get the "in flight" condition for experiments), I gradually learned it. At 40 m/s I get airborne, and sure, if I try to fly straight, i lose speed until I stall. But, if the terrain is sloping downward, I can fly downward. If I point downward enough, I can accelerate while staying in the air. Eventually, if I can go fast enough, I reach the point where the plane is capable of level flight. This happens between 50 and 60 m/s. From there, the plane can even climb, at a maximum sustainable rate of almost 3 m/s. It can reach 5000 m of altitude and 100 m/s of speed. It's actually very stable, I can activate SAS and leave it to fly alone for minutes without needing any correction. It even has good manueverability, as long as I understand that doing any kind of turning will make me lose speed and altitude, and I perform one when high enough that I can recover from it.

So, the Laythe plane is not total rubbish. Just mostly rubbish.

I've been strongly tempted to use the cheat menu to swap it out for an improved version. Unfortunately, while swapping out the plane for an identical one to fix the alignment bug is ok, swapping out the plane for an improved one is cheating, and no doubt about it.


It flies!!!


A picture in real colors. Much better with light enhancement

To recap:

- to take off I must launch from the top of a hil

- once the plane takes speed, it needs several minutes to reach a high altitude

- it cannot turn around if it has not reached a high altitude

All this means that, once I manage to take flight, I don't want to land, ever. On Eve I stopped regularly to plant flags. On  Laythe, I didn't, to avoid landing and having to take off afterwards. I still landed on a few biomes to get ground science, though.


Like here, when the plane kept moving on water and Val remained stuck between the wing and cockpit


The green monolith, barely visible in the middle of the screen

By the way, I often crash the plane when snapping those pictures at low altitude, Darwin-award style. But I make sure to save the game first.




Once I manage to take flight, the plane is fast enough, and the monolith near enough, that I can quickly complete the tour. Then it's back to the rocket


The full path taken, basically a line

8.5) Trying to get away from Laythe



Climbing the ladder...


And flying to orbit!

Except, the rocket does not reach orbit. By, like, 400 m/s missing. What the hell? According to the deltaV map, it takes 2900 m/s to leave Laythe. I have 3400, should be enough to go ssto on Kerbin! The rocket looks sound. It is a bit low on thrust, at 1.4, because it lost two engines. It has some drag behind, because of that big clamp-o-tron, but it shouldn't be huge.

Yet drag is the main problem. In fact, this rocket loses more efficiency to drag than it does to gravity, to the point that it's better to launch it straight upwards until it reaches 200 m/s.

I will discover later that it was caused by a bug. But more on this later.

In this moment, though, I assumed it was faulty design. And instead of trying to fix a bug, I tried to improve the rocket. First thing: remove all unnecessary weight.


The solar panels are not needed, and this far from the sun they are doing no good. 50 kg *2.


With one broken engine, its symmetric must be shut down. May as well take it off. -180 kg

The backward docking port is needed, but I have spare ones on Bolt. -200 kg. Each kerbal can manipulate 70 kg in this weight, with my crew of 3 helping I can barely remove it.

I removed almost half a ton from my rocket. I can't remove much more. I have 150 kg of science samples, but they are the reason I came here in the first place. Other players may be content with landing a minimalistic thing, planting a flag and leaving, but my sense of immersion requires me to pretend this is a science mission. and this means that I must gather samples and try to carry them home.

I could remove the parachute, but it's too heavy to manipulate in this gravity. I could remove a couple oxygen tanks, but they can't be manipulated in eva. I could remove the antennas, but they are only 10 kg.

With this I still can't orbit, but I can go suborbital. Maybe I can have Taxi grab me


trying to get intercepted

I've done this manuever on Mun, Minmus, even on Moho. But Laythe has higher gravity, and forcing an intercept is much harder and expensive. Taxi also has low thrust. The problem is, it's difficult to set up an intercept, because if I actually get one with distance 0 and speed 400 m/s, I must start braking well in advance, and that destroys the intercept.


Still, after much more save scumming, I got a good timing


I did it! almost...

And this is the best I managed. Rendez-vous completed. Now I have to send out Bill, get one docking port from Taxi and put it on the rocket, because i remove the docking port to be lighter. And then I get back inside, perform the docking, and then I have to make a 300 m/s burn - remember, with low thrust - to circularize, because I am suborbital. Oh, and I am already at 56 km, I must hurry up before returning in the atmosphere.

Yeah, I'll never make it. I probably wouldn't make it if I was already docked at this point. It's hopeless.

My rocket cannot leave Laythe, and I have no other backups for it. I have one chance before declaring mission failed: try to start from a higher altitude. The big island has a high plateau. So I'll reload from before landing, I will circularize my orbit around Laythe (spending 30 minutes in orbit will cost me some % more radiations, but I got only 30%, I can take a bit extra) and I will try to land on that plateau, at no less than 4000 m. The reduced atmosphere will vastly reduce the drag problem, and maybe i'll manage orbit. I hope.

This marks the start of the horror section. Before this, all the problems encountered were either well planned for in advance, or anticipated and manageable with the resources available. I had to worry about conserving resources for the full mission, but I didn't face any single huge obstacle. Now for the first time the whole mission is at risk at a single point of failure.

8.6) Flying on Laythe - again


Ok, so I'm back to Laythe approach. This time I enter a circular orbit. I don't have time for a direct landing. I also don't have time for a gradual aerobraking, so I spend 1000 m/s worth of fuel to enter an orbit that's as fast as possible, to minimize my radiation quota.

Finding the right periapsis was very hard, because my final orbit - which was still quite elliptical because the burn had gone long - forced me to enter atmosphere quite far from the target landing area. So I had to make a slight skim in the high atmosphere, pass periapsis around 43 km and start rising again, only to stop at around 47 km to fall back down. And this kind of trajectory is extremely sensitive. 100 mt more or less in the periapsis would make all the difference.

And at some point i almost found the right periapsis, and then for no apparent reason the rocket landed in a totally different area and i had to recalibrare again from start. I don't want to know how long I spent repeating the Laythe insertion with slightly different periapsis. But I finally landed. And I got fairly lucky; I would have been happy with anything above 3000 m, and the first time I hit the island I landed at 4500


Actually, the first time I hit the ravine and capsized. But I saved he game shortly before opening the parachute, and changing the rocket attitude was enough to move my landing spot


I got quite the dramatic landing zone, on a high plateau overlooking a valley

This time I was better prepared. For start, I preemptively got rid of the asymmetric engine. I stuck it on Taxi, I will lose more engines and I can use it as a spare part


I considered also removing the solar panels and docking port, but i decided against it - unless it proves necessary

The plane had a small "Dumpling" fuel tank since I was thinking it would go deorbit on its own. I forgot to drain it before landing, but I used EVA construction to recover its content. Every unit of fuel counts!


After being drained, the tank was detached and used as a volleyball

Then, before I embarked into another lenghty and potentially pointless exploration trip, I immediately sent the rocket to orbit, just to make sure it can.

Indeed, it does. To my extreme relief, it reached orbit with 500 kg of fuel. Which also safeguards me on the weight of science samples. It's surprising how much clearing a few kilometers of atmosphere can do. I wonder why real space agencies don't put more effort into building spaceports on high plateaus.

I already showed a bunch of pictures from my Laythe flight. Well, the planet is beautiful, and light amplification actually works well on it. I took a few more pictures that deserve special mentions


A spectacular geyser just below water. You don't normally get surface features underwater, but in some places the "shore" biome extends a bit into the water


The geyser, seen from below water


I didn't knew Laythe had a canyon. I called it Val's canyon, both because of the name of its discoverer, and because it is shaped like a V


A striking image of Vall in the night sky


And a map of the trip

While I was annoyed for having to repeat this part of the mission (which took a few real life hours), I actually got to fly over some of the most beautiful parts of Laythe. And this time I had a better idea of how to fly my crappy plane (by the way, craplane could be a nice name). I even managed to fly up high to 5000 m to pass the crest on the western side without having to land. It involved spending, like, 20 minutes climbing up from sea level.

I was finally ready for trying to get away from Laythe! - again.

It was at this time that I decided to inquire, for the purpose of a learning experience, what exactly was causing that ridiculous amount of drag. Well, the aerodinamic data is telling


So, the pieces actually exposed at front - command pod, parachute - are causing very little drag. The radially-mounted engines, while small individually, are actually giving a sizeable contribution when one considers all 10 of them. But those are all small amounts. By far the greatest contribution to drag comes from the docking ports. All three of them!

I was expecting the one at the back to be draggy. But the two in the middle should be fine. No, they count as if they were fully exposed to the wind. This practically triples drag on my poor ship. It would have reached orbit from sea level easily otherwise. My poor little ship, slandered and gaslighted, it was a good ship all along ;.; But now daddy is here, and you'll never be called a crappy ship ever again.

And it's not an accident of how the ship is docked. I experimented a bit, and I discovered that if I teleport the rocket from orbit directly to laythe's surface, it doesn't have this drag problem. This seems related to the misalignment bug, it often manifests when the ship is subject to strong forces.


Here I am pretty high and the atmosphere is thinner, yet I still have huge drag on one of them docking ports. As that was dependent strongly on orientation, I suspect there's something like a magic wing at work here, except instead of being magic it's cursed.

I tried to fix it, but it was a cumbersome process. First I tried teleporting the rocket to space, undocking the parts, docking them again. which can't be done easily because the command pod has no engines and the rocket has no probe cores, so I took a puff engine and fixed it on top of the command module.


Docked, undocked, alt-f12 back to Laythe on the same spot. Result: one of the two ports was fixed, the other wasn't.

Then I tried to disassemble and reassemble them back again. Again I alt-f12ed to space. Again, I undocked. I was able to detach and reattach the port on command pod. I could not touch the port on the rocket because it was the root part. Then I realized to dock the parts again i'd have to move a rocket on the command pod or a probe core on the rocket, and I gave up. I can orbit anyway, I'll hope I won't need to save a couple tons of fuel.

8.7) The Jool Radiation Massacre



Goodbye Laythe

The Drag bug makes orbiting much harder than it should be, but from this vantage point I can do it reliably. I have to get the right timing to catch Taxi immediately, as any time spent for rendez-vous is time not spent getting away from the death zone. I also have to spend some fuel on Taxi to fix orbital inclination, but Taxi has plenty of fuel


So, here are my resources: 2200 m/s, 60% more radiation damage that can be sustained before death, and food for 22 days.

The food is a planning mistake. Command pod has food and water for 30 days. It's not intended to be used for more than a few days on a planet to chase the monolith, so 30 days are a very abundant supply. And it's a lander, so it must be light. But Taxi could totally afford to add a food container for negligible mass. I did not think of it when I made Taxi, so I'm now stuck with 30 days. Taxi is not supposed to be on its own for long, and on any other planet 30 days are overkill, but around Jool they would be useful indeed.

So, the plan is the same of the last mission: a big prograde burn to get away from the death zone fast, then use the remaining deltaV to figure out a way to rejoin the mothership.


For example, this would be a good trajectory: a long burn to get away from Laythe, gets out of the death zone fast, then a course correction to rendez-vous with Bolt, using the 2200 m/s available.

It only has the minor flaw of taking 38 days. My crew will be starved well before then.

And of course, a faster trajectory will be more expensive, and I don't have any more fuel. So, let's try with a slower push away from Laythe


This trajectory would cross the orbit of Tylo in 11 hours, and it would be much cheaper. Let's try.


Out of Laythe's SoI, now at 50% damage


Crossing Vall's orbit 4 hours later, at 75% damage. Gonna be close


94% damage, but radiation intensity is going down already


99% damage, but it STOPS THERE! I'M OUT OF THE DEATH ZONE!

It's done. Now I only have to rejoin Bolt... No, not really.

For start, without an active shield I am still exposed to some radiations. It will take months to get a single 1% damage at this level, but with 99% damage already dustained there's no telling when it happens. Maybe next year, maybe tomorrow. But ok, I could replicate the manuever with 10 m/s extra to get out faster. The problem is, as much as I try, I can't rendez-vous with Bolt in 20 days. Not ever.

For you see, after I raise periapsis outside of the death zone, Taxi and Bolt will be on opposite sides of their orbits. If I wait until one overtakes the other, it would take many months. If I raise apoapsis with Taxi to let Bolt catch it, it's gonna be very slow - one single orbit would be more than 20 days. Digger 3 made it work because it had 150 days worth of supplies. And if I lower periapsis to quickly catch up with Bolt I can grab it in 20 days, but I'd get back inside the death zone.

I tried, but I could not find a solution. After narrowly escaping death by radiations, I can't escape death by starvation. Like a sadistic killer giving their captive the illusion of a chance of escape, only to pop up just when the victim is starting to feel like they made it.



I'm back on Laythe. I can't just orbit and get out in a random direction. I must be in a good alignment to rendez-vous with Bolt. On the plus side, radiations are low on the surface of Laythe, I can afford to wait a few days.

The best place to make the rendez-vous is apoapsis: because of orbital mechanics intercept speeds are lower there, and the ships stay more or less in the same place for a couple of days so even if the timing is a bit off you can fix it. Bolt will be in an 18-days orbit, so I have one chance to catch it at apoapsis. I wait until Laythe is in the right position that the escape burn will send me in that direction


Like this. I wait 9 hours to leave Laythe, I get a nice apoapsis relatively close to Bolt. With the right correction manuever at apoapsis I will be able to grab it shortly afterwards - I'm not planning it because Bolt still has to make the periapsis raising manuever, but with 1500 m/s left i will have no problems.

Let the death race start!


I broke a third engine on Taxi! But the beast can STILL WORK!


Out of Laythe at 50% radiation, all normal.

By the way, I have a bit more deltaV this time, due to having made it to Laythe's orbit with a bit of fuel left


Crossing Vall's orbit at 75% damage. I am a bit further ahead than I was last time, I may get away with 90% or so


For a moment I really thought I could make it

Ok, I was a bit of a dumbass here. I considered Tylo as the end of the radiation belt, but the death zone actually is oblong and it goes well past its orbit on one side. The first time I was lucky to get out on the direction closer to the border, so I was effectively out at Tylo. This time, not so much. I must remember this when I'll go on Vall.

On the plus side, I get to revert the engine malfunction. To think I was so mad when it happened, like, of all the times i tried this manuever without breaking anything, i must lose another engine right just the time I actually succeed? Lol, I can be so naive at times.



But the plan was sound. I only have to accelerate more, get out of the death zone faster.

I did not take more screenshots there, but I made a few more attempts - I lost count of exactly how many. The bump of the death zone that's outside Tylo's orbit is angled in such a way that going faster pushes me towards the tip, so I keep getting killed. And if I go fast enough to escape, I don't have enough fuel to rejoin Bolt before running out of food





At some point I was about to make it. Then, on Bolt, Jeb died too.

Yep. Same mistake I did earlier, I planned the trip as if the death zone was only inside Tylo's orbit. Like a man walking close to a chained tyrannosaurus, heedless that the beast maw can reach farther than the chain. And for a mishap of bad luck, the death zone is oriented in such a way that it maximized Bolt's exposure. With the DREAM BIG I was equally heedless, I took a similar trajectory, and I took 30% damage. Which would equate to 90% at this setting. Luck.

All this time I was worrying about saving Val, Bob and Bill, utterly clueless that Jeb was already doomed. Much like a man narrowly escaping the serial killer's death trap, only to discover, upon returning home, that the killer just wanted him busy while his family was slaughtered.



I had a moment of despair. For a while, I was even thinking that I may have to go back to before the Jool insertion - and replay AGAIN all the parts of Laythe's landing and take off. AGAIN fly that horrible craplane. Then i realized I was still in time to tweak the path of the Tylo gravity assist at a small cost

8.8) Escape from Laythe's islands


Ok, new flight plan for Bolt: instead of aiming for an apoapsis between Bop and Pol, I'll let it stay higher. This will reduce the time spent on the death zone. And who knows, it may even make departing for Eeloo cheaper.


In purple the old trajectory, in red the new one. You can appreciate how it has a higher periapsis to spend less time in the death zone. 80 m/s for a course correction are a lot, but i'm almost at Tylo's doorstep

After running the course correction - and of course fast-forwarding a bit to make sure that, indeed, Jeb will survive, because I learn my lessons - I can plan the trajectory for Taxi. The high Jool apoapsis also make it easier to get a rendez-vous there, because there will be an interval of many days where Bolt moves slowly and is more or less in the same place.

Thinking about it, a lot of players would consider it very hard to rendez-vous on an elliptic orbit. Even in the days of the Marco Polonium, when I was already a pretty experienced player, I could not do it. But once I got the knack, it simplified multiplanetary missions a lot, because they are generally the faster, cheaper trajectories.


And here is the planned trajectory of Taxi. It starts in 7 hours, so of course I had to reload from before I launched from Laythe (by the way, I read an older entry and discovered that I dubbed the rocket base the Heavy Lander, so I will use that name a bit more) and again launch from Laythe, with all its load of misery. No, launching from Laythe is not difficult, but it becomes so with a bugged rocket, and needing a good timing with Taxi to get a rendez-vous within a few minutes of orbiting is not easy. Also made worse by Taxi losing control when passing on the night side of Laythe, guess where is the most convenient point to place an intercept?

Anyway, the Heavy Lander does its job, Taxi grabs it, ejection burn away from Laythe, all regular


I find this intercept in 22 days. Still a bit far, but with such a high apoapsis it can be fixed easily enough. It's 2 days after I run out of food, but the kerbals should be able to survive. And a course correction may also move up the time table.

The only uncertainty is whether the crew will survive, since Taxi will pass straight through the longest part of the death zone


No, of course they don't, you dumbass! Every time they tried a similar path they always died horribly. Why bother asking? What did I say about learning my lessons?



What? did you think the horror part was over?

Ok, let's get back to Laythe's orbit. At least this time I don't have to launch again. I'll make a much bigger ejection burn to clear the death zone faster. At least that failed experiment gave me a good idea of how much time I have before death: 8 hours. Though that's not an accurate count because the radiations start decreasing after Vall's orbit, and they also get lower on the night side of Jool


Maximizing the chances of escaping the radiations while minimizing the chances to go in the right direction

1000 m/s may do it. Of course, then I'd be in a Jool escape trajectory and there's no telling whether I'll be able to reach Bolt. Well, I'll try, and if I fail I'll try with more fuel, until I can get out. And if I can't find an intercept afterwards, I will really have to reload all the way to before Jool insertion and try to plan this better.

Or perhaps I can try to use a service probe to drop an extra fuel tank for Taxi to use. Service probes don't have large antennas, but I can maybe solve this by docking Get Your Tinfoil Hat 2 to the service probe docking port (which is used for refueling, not that they ever needed one), while it uses the claw to grab a fuel tank... As desperation increases, the complexity of plans devised tends to infinity.

But the first phase is a success, Taxi gets out of the death zone with the crew still alive!


At 90% radiation damage, so I may be able to save a few tens of m/s on the ejection burn if I REALLY need them

But wait before celebrating, you already made it out of the death zone once, only to discover you could not dock before running out of food. And you had more deltaV than you have now.

The first part to try and get a rendez-vous is to make a big retrograde burn. I don't want to escape Jool, this means slowing down. As I approach again a closed orbit, I find that my apoapsis is pointing away from Bolt's orbit, so I also need a radial component to turn my apoapsis around. I'm far enough from Jool that it's not too expensive, but not too cheap either... let's see how much will that cost...


1150 m/s for the rendez-vous, plus 50 of intercept speed, within my fuel budget, and only one day after running out of food! YES! IT CAN BE DONE!



Later course corrections increased cost by 50 m/s, but reduced time by 4 days. My kerbonauts won't even get hungry


During this time, a stressed kerbal destroied another Cub. I remove it, and swap it for the one I removed earlier. I will borrow two engines from Stool to land on Tylo

I'm wondering how, exactly, he managed to break that engine. I guess, in a moment of rage, he put on a spacesuit, went in the airlock, got out for a spacewalk, and kicked the engine, before coming back.


Finally rejoining Bolt

I started with 25 tons of fuel for Taxi, and I finished with 10 kg, worth 3 m/s. I also had 150 kg of mixed fuel left in Heavy Lander, out of 20 tons. The liquid fuel part of that is the remaining 21 m/s. 3 kg of food out of 33 seems a comfortable margin compared to that.

Now, before docking, I want to put the ship in the right configuration to land on Tylo. I'll land on Tylo first because it will also require the command pod to be docked to the heavy lander - which can be discarded afterwards. But I need to dock the heavy lander base with the Tylo descent stage, and that goes docked to Taxi.


First thing: Stool, with a disposable rover, must get out of the way


Then the heavy lander docks the Tylo descent stage, with the other disposable rover in between


Stool and Taxi grab each other; Stool will be docking directly to Bolt


Then the whole Tylo lander assembly is detached, so that Taxi can be placed at its base, as it is needed to carry it to Tylo


Finally, the whole thing is docked back on Bolt

Then I refill all the tanks, restore the food/water/consumables stock, and place the kerbals in their room with the radiation decontamination units until they are healed.

It was really hard, but this obstacle is cleared.

All is ready for Tylo, I only have to undock Taxi and send it on its way. Radiation levels at Tylo are much more survivable, and the death zone can be escaped quickly. On the other hand, I did not test the lander. It has 5000 m/s, which is 500 more than should be needed for a Tylo landing, and the thrust is acceptable, at least on paper. In theory it can do the job even without one engine, but in practice I have my doubts.  Then there are the small rovers. I am afraid those wheels are leaning out a bit too much, and they may interfere with rocket exhaust. I can try to fix that with EVA construction, removing the wheels first and putting them back after landing. But I could not fix propellers in this way, I don't know how confident I can be regarding wheels.

And then there is Vall, at least it should not have deltaV problems, Stool made it to Moho which is harder. Vall is not as deep as Laythe inside the death zone, but still radiations reach maximum level there, and I won't have an atmosphere to protect the crew on the ground. It will have to be handled carefully.

For a moment I had a big scare about running out of oxidizer, as refueling the heavy lander drained all the big tank and I only have 2 drop tanks left. Then I remembered, those things where i attached the nerv's clusters? They are fuel tanks too, and they store oxidizer. I have more than I need. I may even vent a few tons of it to make the ship lighter.

Above all, there is the time factor. We're already in the second half of year 9, I will have to spend a long, long time waiting for my crew to recover from radiation damage, and I have a transfer window to Eeloo to catch. The best time is the start of year 10, and I knew I'll not make it. The cost is reasonable (500 m/s more) until the end of year 10, and as you can see, I still have a big bunch of liquid fuel. After Eeloo I only have to make Eeloo-Dres, which can be achieved with as little as 1700 m/s, but with 8 years travel time, and I may not make it in time for the transfer window anyway. I'm looking at the transfers from Eeloo, and they are really bad, all the low energy trajectories to anywhere are very slow.

Well, I will have food for 10 years and spare fuel, I'm sure I will manage somehow. I'm sure it will involve a lot of swearing, moments of utter desperation, follow by success achieved by the thinnest margin. Like Mark Watney, except that nothing will be set on fire.

But one problem at a time. I got away from Laythe. Now I will take the time needed to recover. Then I will run some more hardware maintenance. And then Tylo.


Edited by king of nowhere
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Part 9: Jool's remaining 4

After the Laythe scare, and taking advantage of what was learned from it, the other four moons of Jool are visited without too many unplanned problems. Nothing that could not be fixed with some mild swearing, a small amount of resources, and a couple hours of fiddling around, certainly.


9.1) In the meantime


healing the crew is a long process. Also, it consumes oxigen, but fortunately the recycling system works, else i'd have run out long ago.

radiation poisoning decreases by about 1% every four days, it took 330 days to nurse the crew back to  healt. Bill still had some 10% left, but it's a safe level. For now I wanted to land on Tylo and then see how I am for Vall. I'm still in a hurry for the Eeloo window closing. I spent this whole mission chasing transfer windows, it seems.

Meanwhile, I use the time to do some useful things. First, I finish locating the other green monoliths in the Jool system


Just a small nudge...


to get a Vall encounter

Get Your Tinfoil Hat immediately located the Vall monolith as soon as it entered its SoI. So instead of stopping there, I went on, with a small course correction I got a trajectory for Tylo. Where I also found the monolith immediately. All in all, I got quite some nice trajectories, touching all the moons without ever stopping, with only some occasional course corrections. Was some pretty flying, if ultimately it was completely unnecessary: I have a crapton of xenon more than I need. I only did it to amuse myself. For this reason I'm not posting pictures.

Then, as I filled the heavy lander for the last time, I could more accurately gauge how much fuel I'd need for Stool. Turns out, even under very careful assumptions, I still had more than needed. So I vented some 3 tons of oxidizer.


I should also vent some xenon: GYTH get their 8000 m/s of deltaV with 340 kg of xenon, and I somehow found appropriate to carry 5 tons.  but I can't bring myself to waste them because xenon is expensive. Well, I can still burn it. As long as I don't mind trying to push a 1800-ton ship with 4 kN of thrust.

Then, just randomly checking that all systems were doing fine, I did an important discovery:


I have an internal pressure of 0.3 atmospheres inside Bolt! The ship is not pressurized! This is messing up with the kerbonauts!

Well, I tried some stuff, and I eventually asked on github, and it turned out that just having a single unpressurized part makes the whole ship unpressurized. I have the plane cokpit still for the Kerbin plane, and that depressurizes all. I was given instruction to edit the save file to disable habitat, and pressure went back to normal.

That's why i was suffering far more stress-related accidents than nominal! All this time I've been crippling my missions. Even the Dream Big had the same problem, because the FU Eve had a Mk1 pod. I even noticed that I had a marked reduction in breakdowns after sending the FU Eve to Eeloo, but I assumed it was due to crew reduction.  Well, now I fixed the problem, and I know to avoid it for the future. As the next mission I'm planning will likely take a couple centuries, reducing malfunctions will be invaluable.

Finally, at the end of the 300 days, I did another maintenance round


with a couple more nice screenshots

And since I was there, I took the chance to remove the parachute and solar panels from the command pod, making it 400 kg lighter.


No, I did not throw them away. I attached them to Bolt's core fuel tank. They may turn out useful later, especially to land on Kerbin

And that's it. Nothing else to do in those 300 days. All is ready for the Tylo landing.


With the most complex lander setup yet: Taxi + Tylo descent stage + small rover + heavy lander + command pod

9.2) Crashing on Tylo


I need a trajectory for Tylo that steers away from the death zone. But since Taxi has a large payload, I would also like it cheap. Having food for 40 days, I also want it fast.

To stay away from the death zone, I must approach Tylo when it's away from the elongated part of the radiation belt. Bolt's orbit has the apoapsis more or less aligned with the aforementioned belt. This puts me in a conundrum: the best time to leave would be apoapsis, just skimming Tylo's orbit. But Bolt is in a high orbit, and leaving at apoapsis would mean 20 days spent with Taxi. Too long. On the other hand, leaving at another moment requires a high energy trajectory, resulting in a much greater intercept speed


One such high energy trajectory. Notice the unreasonable capture burn at Tylo. And that's just for the elliptic orbit, add 800 to circularize

And Taxi is heavily loaded, it doesn't even have that much deltaV when coupled with the heavy descent stage. At some point I even attached an extra drop tank to Taxi.

Then I came to my senses: I was hitting Tylo head-on. Intercept speed is much smaller when you skim the orbit. Finding a trajectory that starts after apoapsis but still let me touch Tylo's orbit gently requires some careful radial burn, but it's hardly the most complex manuever I attempted so far. In fact, I'm ashamed I didn't see it earlier.


150 m/s of radial burn let me leave 10 days after apoapsis but still come to Tylo from the same trajectory. Now deltaV to get captured by Tylo is only 40 m/s. And it keeps out from the death zone until the end

Travel was uneventful; I wasn't even inside the radiations until I circularized.

The monolith is around 40 degrees north. I considered entering in an elliptic orbit to land closer to it


the monolith is the green marker. The yellow ones are the cave

But I decided it was too expensive. More important, I did not want to have to deal with inclination when leaving. For all the complex manuevers I've done, I still have surprisingly little experience dealing with inclination. So I circularized in a nice equatorial orbit before attempting to land.


Didn't work. At some point the lander would start pulling to the side, as if the thrust was not aligned with the center of mass. What the hell?

The rocket is perfectly symmetrical, so it can't be mass distribution. The darts are perfectly symmetrical. The only possible problem is with the cubs. So, first suspect, maybe one of the wheels is blocking the exhaust from a rocket. So I try to clip them inside the rover body


But the rocket keeps tilting. So I try to remove the wheels entirely, to reassemble them with eva construction


But even that does not work.

I start an in-depth research, looking for thermal data that may point to a blocked exhaust, until I discovered that even after decoupling the rest of the rocket, the heavy lander is still not flying straight. So I moved on to shutting down the engines in pairs, trying to figure out which pair is misaligned. I replaced a couple of them with eva construction after they broke, it's reasonable to assume that they may have been attached incorrectly. I spent a couple hours trying to carefully align them. But every time i repeated the experiment, I got a different pair of engines causing problems.

Eventually, I realized there was something wrong with the whole setup. The cubs have high gimbaling, they could fly straight even if they were unbalanced. So I used alt-f12 to get a new heavy lander.


attaching the replacement heavy lander

And now it flyes perfectly straight. Even the attached rover at the bottom does not create any problem. I'll pin the blame for my previous problems to the alignment bug. Now I can proceed with the landing.

Which is quite complicated in itself. The descent stage lasts until I slow down to 500 m/s, though it is better, for thrust, to keep it for a bit more.


After jettisoning the descent stage, the heavy lander gently glides down, stopping a few meters from the surface.


It releases the rover.


Then it moves on a bit, before attempting to land.


On the plus side, I was considerate enough to pack 500 m/s of extra deltaV, so I don't need to worry about hovering time

One important part I discovered is that I also must get rid of the docking port and the rest of the decoupler to which the rover was attached. Without them, the lander touches down with the cubs engines. With them attached, the lander touches down on the docking port, which has a narrower base. Of course I don't want to drop it on the rover.


So I must keep hovering, moving some more, until I clear the landing zone


With its high gravity, Tylo is already a complicated planet to land on. The heavy lander does not have a particularly wide base, making landing difficult. The whole business with the rover means you have to land three times - once for the rover, once to drop the docking port, and finally for the lander proper. And to top it off, my target landing area - just south of the monolith - is one of the most mountainous on the whole planet.

At least, when I did drive the Dancing Porcupine rover across half of Tylo, I never found so many mountains. Which is lucky, because that rover could not climb steep slopes on Tylo.

I have tried that landing at least a couple dozen times before getting it right, probably more. Sometimes I executed all the manuevers perfectly, only to find myself landing on top of a steep slope. Most often, I just moved the commands a bit poorly on the howering manuever.




A few failed attemps

But eventually I managed to find a small flat field among those mountains, and get a saved game with my lander aimed there. Then it was just a matter of getting the sequence right.

In all this I had absolutely no time to snap pictures, but I left the video recording on. Then I took some snapsnoths from the video recording.

Group picture time!



As I decided to ditch the heavy lander, I remove the docking port for reduced weight before ascent

Now it's time to reach the monolith. I'll have to go north 30 degrees of latitude, way too far to send an astronaut on the seat. I included a seat on the rover so i could move around to collect samples, but I landed in the middle of a hill area. If I could drive a few kilometers and find a new biome I'd go there to collect surface samples, but this is not the case. So, the crew will return to orbit immediately, to minimize radiation exposure. Maybe i'll take small enough damage that I will be able to land on Vall immediately afterwards.


Rendez-vous with Taxi


Heavy lander is discarded, but I'm still draining all the remaining fuel from it


And I take back the engines I loaned from Stool. Plus a couple extra as spare pieces


Time to say goodbye to the heavy lander. Farewell, sturdy rocket! You did well. Or, at least, you would have done well, if you had not been riddled with bugs.

As I spent little time on Tylo, I have a convenient trajectory to rejoin Bolt cheaply. The 850 m/s are mostly to escape Tylo's gravity.


And now it's time for some driving. While the crew wait to reunite with Bolt, the lonely rover left on the surface of Tylo goes looking for the monolith.


Start: a small strip of flat land surrounded by mountains. Notice the elevation; the previous time i circled half the planet without finding mountains so high


Just north of the landing site is a deep gorge with steep canyons. I dedicate it to the spent rocket: Heavy Lander Canyon

Tylo is treacherous. It's hard to drive rovers on it. It has large flat expanses, with comfortably high gravity, to lull you into a false sense of security. Then, just as you have been accelerating for a while and are now pushing at dangerous speeds, it throws you down a ravine. Here is what I had to say about it the previous time

On 12/11/2020 at 2:30 PM, king of nowhere said:

Tylo itself has a varied landscape. Half of it is flat featureless plain, devoid of anything interesting. Boooring.

The other half is killer mountains that will have you look fondly at the boring parts.

To emphasize this, while on Vall I was giving names to every feature I encountered, here I didn't even try. With a few notable exceptions like "el camino de muerte" and the "valley of fear" bestowed to some particularly difficult mountain passages, i named every other stop as "empty expanse", "the great void", "crappy hills", "more emptyness", "more hills", and so on.

the only feature that actually looked good is the sky, at least from the right angle

The previous time I was mostly confined on flats. This time I saw many more mountains, and I have to say, they look quite good. There are nice parts on Tylo. Only, you know, make sure you visit them with an appropriate rover.

Speaking of which, I realize this is actually the first real rover I ever drive. Always before I had crewed bigger crewed things. Often meant to also launch to orbit and do other cool stuff on their own. No, this little thing is just a rover, dropped by a lander, without any plan to ever recover it.

The good thing about it is, one third of its mass is wheels. This gives it a great acceleration and a great climbing capacity. Which turned out very useful as I had to navigate 30 degrees slopes. On the down side, with no reaction wheels or armor, any kind of mishap resulted in rover loss.

I spent an embarassingly long time crashing in Heavy Lander Canyon before realizing I needed to actually slow down. Once I found the right rythm, driving to the monolith was just a matter of a few hours.

At some point I also lowered GYTH orbit to get a better reading of the monolith; the only position I had before was taken from very high altitude, and subject to a large uncertainty.

So, time for a picture gallery. Tylo looked nice this time, I took a lot of screenshots



I never realized checkerboards were so big. The difference between having a large or small rover for comparison


There was some very steep terrain along the way


And majestic mountains



Poking from behind the mountains, Jool looks even better than usual



Going down some steep inclines


Speed record, set on one of the few flat parts of the trek. But as a rule of thumb, 50 m/s is the highest safe speed on flat ground, dropping to 30-20 on inclines


Sawtooth ridge! Those sort of crenellation in the ground were a real killer for my rover. I wanted to avoid them, but I kept getting disoriented and falling through one


Sawtooth ridge, seen from the other side


I did most driving by night, with light enhancement. This is the only picture I took in real light, during a Jool eclipse.


The black boulders littering the terrain make it hard to tell, but yes, that black dot in the distance is the monolith


Monolith found!


Obviously I could not plant flags to mark the path, but I went basically straight

A few days later, Taxi brought the crew back to Bolt. Good spaceship. To think I didn't even include it at first, but it's been the backbone of the mission.

Well, no. If we want the similitude to be accurate, Bolt is the backbone, Taxi is the arm, and the landers are the hand. Because the hand is the one doing the actual grabbing, but it won't grab anything without an arm to move it around, while the backbone holds the whole thing up, but doesn't do much on its own. Meh. I'm overthinking this.


The best part is,  the crew took only 4% radiation damage in the mission, so I can send them immediately to Laythe. It's 10:188, and I want to catch the transfer window to Eeloo - which ended at year 10, but it's still reasonably good through year 11.

Again I have to reassemble my spacecraft, but this is likely the last time


Undock everything


Taxi docks with the second small rover, which was previously placed underneath Stool


Then the command pod is docked to Stool, where it will stay until the return to Kerbin


And back on Bolt

Having to rebuild the ship multiple times like that is a bit of a nuisance, and I'm not sure it justifies the few tons saved in having a single command pod. But it sure is cool.

Tylo is done; landing there was difficult, as usual, and made worse by bugs and having to drop a rover from underneat. But all those difficulties were expected and could be overcome with some patience.

Now I will have to pass apoapsis (Bolt is in a 44 days orbit) and then I can take care of Vall

9.3) Make Vall great again!


Vall lies deep inside the death zone. Though not as deep as Laythe, but unlike Laythe it does not have an atmosphere to protect on the ground. It has the potential to be just as dangerous. Luckily I learned a lot of things from my previous misadventures. Sometimes I read old entries in those mission diaries of mine and I am often surprised by how much I actually learned, routinely doing things that I once didn't dare to attempt.

So, this time I learned to check the actual death zone and not just Tylo's orbit, and plan accordingly. Just like with Tylo, the trick will be to come in from the descending part of the orbit, starting some 10 days after apoapsis and skim Vall's orbit. I may want to push a bit to reduce time in the death zone, but I also have more deltaV available, on account of not having to cart around a big Tylo descent stage. So, this was my best bet


Starts 6 days after apoapsis with just 160 m/s, reaches Vall 13 days later, spends less than one day in the death zone before reaching Vall.

Before I go, I also wanted to restore on Stool the engines I loaned for the heavy lander. I had a bit of a problem when I discovered I could not


Not sure why I'm not allowed to stick the engine on the reaction wheel. I guess those docking ports are slightly larger and the game sees clipping

The problem is quickly solved; I don't need those engines to be in those exact positions, I only need them to be symmetric. So I move them on the fuel tanks


Of course, the opposite one is the same

And guess what, despite moving the engines around, I have no instability problem whatsoever. To further show the only problems with the heavy lander were caused by krakens.


Just about to enter the death zone, 10% radiation damage on Bill (the 20 days spent on Bolt more or less compensated what he got at Tylo)


Nice view of Vall eclypsing Jool


Orbiting Vall, with 32% radiation damage

I got 22% radiation damage from this whole trip. Feels like a comfortable safety margin. So, considering that

- I can spend a few hours at Vall before I'm at risk

- Changing inclination around Vall is relatively cheap

- the monolith is not too far from the equator

- i have much spare deltaV because of lighter lander and cheap manuevers around Vall

I decide I'd change my inclination to land close to the green monolith, and reach it with Stool.


I have comfortable margins all around, I can sacrifice 400 m/s to the cause. I could have done it more efficiently, but I'd have had to wait another orbit to land

There is a large, flat area just north of the monolith, I'll land there.


Stool, it's your turn


Dropping the docking port


Skimming the mountain tops along the way


On one hand, having all the cryovolcanoes erupt simultaneously like this is not particularly realistic. On the other hand, it looks cool

The lower gravity and the better lander makes landing on Vall much easier than on Tylo. Of course, since it's so easy I take it lightly, I screw up the manuever and hit the ground at several tens of m/s. Luckily I don't need to reload, I still have a few repair kits.


I broke one wheel on the big rover and one wheel on the small one. I'm not exactly sure how



According to orbital scans, the monolith is just behind that ridge


So let's start climbing...



And climbing...



And climbing some more...

What the hell, 6000 meters and I'm still far from the top? What kind of crazy cliff wall did I found? I don't remember ever climbing any surface so steep with Dancing Porcupine (goes check old pictures) ok, I did, but since I could turn my rockets backwards, it didn't bother me. I'm having to go up zig-zagging because this cliff is too steep for my rover. And I bet the small rover could climb this surface easily enough, too.

(goes to try - no, it cannot. It is so powerful, when i accelerate the front wheels pull up and it capsize. The lack of reaction wheels is more relevant in lower gravity)


0% water? Really? Isn't Vall supposed to be an ice ball?


The view is spectacular, though


Finally reached the top, but climbing up is also difficult! See that kind of crenellation, similar to that on sawtooth ridge on Tylo?

As soon as I try to climb up, I end up on one of those ridges. They cover all the top of the wall. And so I start to jump. Jumping, the wheels have no grip, so I fall down the wall again

Man, this place is built like a fortress! I called it the Castle.

I would not want to be the foot soldier attacking this place. But then, considering the radiation levels, I would not want to be the soldier defending it either


I took a small detour to reach the top of this impressive mountain. 7830 m! Higher that anything else I climbed on Vall with the Dancing Porcupine. Just 100 m shy of the highest elevation on the planet.

I called the mountain chain the Great Wall range.


It's not clear at all from the picture, but one of those black dots on the rop left, just on top of the steepest part of the ravine, is the green monolith


From here it shows better. Actually reaching it is an hazard, because of the extreme verticality of the situation


And here is the picture with the monolith. I spent some 90 minutes on Vall, and I took 14% radiation damage for it.


The path taken

Time to return to orbit and get away fast. I'm glad I got another chance to drive on Laythe, it's one of my favourite worlds for rovers.


By the time I reach orbit, I took another 7% damage. Now pushing past 50%. the manuever is just an experiment

So, I have some high energy trajectories to get away from the death zone, but they are super duper expensive. I'm gonna try something cheaper first, and see if it works.


This manuever will spend 7 more hours in the death zone. It will also give me a cheap intercept. Let's try, at worst we reload


Leaving Vall, 58% radiation


74%, but now the radiation level is gradually starting to decrease


89%, out of the death zone!

Now all that's left is rejoining Bolt. Then resupply, and then onward to Bop and Pol.


At least I won't need anymore to disassemble and reassemble the whole ship

9.4) Pol does not cooperate


I'll start this subchapter with a completely random picture of a visual bug that struck Bolt. It reverted upon reloading, no lasting harm.


To finish with Jool, i must tour Bop and Pol. Possibly in a single round, to save fuel and time.

But no such luck. Bop is unavailable in the current orbit: Bolt will cross its orbit a few days behind it; the only way to catch up would be for Taxi to make a retrograde burn and pass closer to Jool, to go faster. Unfortunately this would land it straight in the death zone. If I can't go immediately to Bop, I can try Pol, at least it has a good trajectory right now. But from there I cannot reach Bop, there isn't a transfer window between the two for the next 50 days.

No, I have absolutely 0 guarantees that in 50 days there will also be a good trajectory to reach Pol. Or that I'll be able to make a Bolt-Pol-Bop-Bolt trip within the 40 days limitation of the command pod's food supply. Sure, I could send a single pilot and stretch it to 120 days, but the self-imposed challenge says 3 pilots, and I'm not going to back down on that just because it makes things more complicated. I pick up those kind of additional requirements exactly because I want to make things more complicated.

On the plus side, Taxi is cheap to operate, so even if I end up spending one more km/s of deltaV, it only translates to less than 10 tons of fuel. Out of over 1200 still available.

Did I already mention how marvelous Taxi is?

So, Pol is the target


I can get there with 900 m/s.  A bit less for more travel time, but I have no idea about the return trip, better be safe.

Bolt orbit was good to get to the inner moons, a small retrograde burn near apoapsis did the trick cheaply. But for those outer moons it's terrible. Having the orbits cross in that way makes for a huge difference in velocity. I could still minimize that by manuevering close to apoapsis, where the cost for "lateral" manuevers is lower. Except, those trajectories are slow, and I have the 40 days limit. It's like a perfect trap.

I actually considered lowering the apoapsis, which should be doable cheaply with a well-timed Tylo assist, barely skimming the death zone. And then another small periapsis raising. But as I said, Taxi is cheap to operate. Better to spend 1000 m/s on Taxi than 50 on Bolt.

To further reduce consumption, I load half fuel on Stool. There's no need for 2000 m/s to land of those small bodies.


So, after 13 days of traveling, the crew reaches Pol, and immediately prepare for landing


the waypoint is, of course, the position of the monolith

I could have landed straight on top of it, but I decided to do it some way away. The reason is that part of this mission purpose is to try and drive rovers on all planets, because I like driving rovers, but only if I have a target to reach. And another reason is to run a survey of resources in preparation for my next mission, which will involve extensive isru. Except that part is not working very well, because I unthinkingly left the default settings for hard level (excepting, of course, allowing save and reload), which strongly reduces resources. Now I can't tell if I can't find water on a planet because there is no water to be found, or because there should be but the hard level curtailed it to nothingness. Also, the normal resource scanner does not find nitrogen, I'd need to carry a drill for that, and I didn't.

Connoisseurs of kerbalism may wonder why I want to find nitrogen, when it's easy to carry stockpiles for decades. But I plan to operate greenhouses for centuries, and that will require more nitrogen than I can reasonably carry.

So, back on Pol. Pol, as I already mentioned, is beautiful. Can't tell my favourite between it and Gilly. I also confirmed Pol has water and uranium, making it a good mining spot. If it also has nitrogen, I'll name it best planet ever.








But it's kinda annoying that those surface features are only loaded at short distances. The effect destroys immersion. Makes the whole thing look fake. Only by looking backwards, at places already visited, I can get a good view


If only the planet would always look like that! I'm almost tempted to find a mod specifically just for this


view from below ground is also interesting

Driving a rover on Pol is a unique experience. After Gilly I'm no longer put off by low gravity; I know to move slowly and use the reaction wheels to control steering when i don't touch the ground. It's no longer a frustrating experience of trying to accelerate and capsizing all the time. On the other hand, though, Poll has such a rough surface. You can't move more than a few seconds without bumping onto something. Would actually be a killer, on a higher gravity planet. Here, you just bounce around harmlessly. If you keep yourself pointed the right way with reaction wheels, you can move around bouncing for a while.

It's different than driving anywhere else. I'm still not sure whether I liked it or not. The view is well worth it, though.


Speed record was around 20 m/s. Though here I was more falling than driving. Actual record without falling involved is closer to 12 m/s. Which is still a respectable fraction of orbital speed

Here I find a problem, though. I'm where the monolith is supposed to be, but there is no monolith around. That's what I get for marking an anomaly from high orbit on the edge of the visible emisphere.


But don't panic! This is a small planet, it's probably within a few kilometers even if I missed it by 10 degrees. I just have to pull away the camera and rotate around.


Case in point

Suddenly I'm glad the surface features aren't loaded at a distance. Finding the monolith like this amid them would have been nigh impossible. Those rocky pinnacles have the right size, and unless seen with direct light, a close enough shade to imitate the monolith. Even when it's relatively near, like in this picture


The monolith is in good view. If I didn't knew already where it was, I would have likely missed it. Can you see it? Solution under the spoiler



Nothing left to do but the group picture



And the path taken. The monolith was quite far from the original marked spot

Now I have to get back, with 27 days worth of food. As always, it is cheaper to intercept Bolt near apoapsis. Except in this case, where I won't reach it in time unless I spend a lot of deltaV. Actually, it turns out - non surprisingly - that returning to Bolt is cheaper if I take more time. And I still have to wait well past apoapsis to leave again for Bop. So, seeing as I have 27 days of food, I plan an intercept in 27 days.


The second manuever is a plane change. I find matching orbital planes to be an uninspired, crass way to make rendez-vous. But when the node is too far from the intercept, it's the better solution

But it says I only have water for 21 days?? Yes, but I have hydrogen in the fuel cells, and plenty of extra oxygen. I can make more water. It's only mildly inconvenient because the fuel cells don't have a "dump electricity" setting, and the rtgs are more than adequate for the ship's power supply. To actually consume electricity and force the fuel cells to work, I had to start spinning the ship madly. It spun so fast it broke! And so I had to reload and spin it madly, but changing direction every few seconds.

Meanwhile, now that I dropped all the expendable landers, I decide to restore Bolt in its original configuration, with the habitation module on the opposide side of the fuel. It offers better cover from storms, in that the alignment doesn't have to be so accurate.


Splitting the ship


After some jostling...


...the drop tank does to the back. I'm gonna save this one in case I need more backup engines for Taxi


And the Hab to the front


Now the ship is back to its intended configuration

During the 27 days of travel, a stressed kerbonaut smashes one of the fuel cells. Irreparably.


the broken fuel cell is now discarded as dead weight. It would be nice if I had an option to "dismantle for spare parts" that would remove the piece and generate a few repair kits in its place

Those things are 50 kg each, and I never broke one - barely ever needed to service one - in the whole mission with the Dream Big. But I keep a strict "no single point of failure" policy for those missions, and it pays at times like this. Those fuel cells are necessary to turn hydrogen into water; even discounting power generation (and the extra electricity is actually useful when running the rover uphill in moderate gravity), losing both would reduce my life support supply to 30 days.

The Eve landers had single points of failure, because I wasn't good enough at designing them. But I already have a new lander for the next mission without any weakness.


About to rendez-vous with Bolt. The food has run out completely, but the kerbonauts haven't started going hungry yet. They finished rations with lunch, and were back on Bolt in time for dinner.


Finally back on the main ship. But only for a few days, as the transfer window for Bop is near.

9.5) The Bop redemption


Just like Pol, Bop is expensive to reach because of the way Bolt's elliptic orbit is pointing away from it. This time with the additional cost of 15 degrees inclination. It would be relatively cheap if I could manuever at apoapsis - which is also one of the nodes - but the travel time is too long for the command pod's food supply. So, one more, I have to spend a lot of deltaV.


150 m/s to leave Bolt, 600 for plane change, and 1000 to enter Bop orbit. But I could not find anything better.


Bop has a small radiation belt of its own. But it's tiny and weak, I won't get more than 1 or 2%  damage from occasionally passing through it, so I ignore it entirely


Like on Pol, I could easily land on top of the monolith, but I want to travel a bit by land

I was not sure about that. I used rovers twice on Bop: first, traveling with the Marco Polonium in what became my first big mission, I decided to go find the kraken. Trying to stay upright and move in this low gravity, irregular world was such a miserable experience, after a few kilometers I decided to just send the pilot with the jetpack instead. The second time it was during the Jool 5 science record; that time I had a great rover, and the porcupine armorTM protected me from any damage. But still I wasn't driving as much as bumping around, I had no control, and the landscape sucked. Bop was my worst driving experience aside from Dres.

But this time I had two new weapons: first, I learned to drive on low gravity with reaction wheels. Which actually is a lot similar to the miserable experience I had at first, bumping around with no real control over your trajectory. But this time I'm doing it on purpose, so it's all right. And incidentally, I'm getting better at braking in low gravity too: you just turn the rover around 90 degrees: you will skid and capsize, but the reaction wheels can take care of that, and it's the fastest way to lose speed. No, there is no turning. If you want to turn, you have to brake, and then start again in a new direction. Anyway. Second improvement is that I found the way to amplify light, and perhaps Bop will look better this time if I can actually see something.


Bop in natural light. Bleh


Bop in amplified light. Actually looks nice.

And I'm glad I did, because this time, driving on Bop wasn't bad at all. I wonder if I will also appreciate Dres?




I like mountains and hills, and Bop has a lot of those. So, once they are no longer this super-annoying obstacle, of course I can enjoy them


Speed record is 30% of orbital speed. That's a record in itself

Bop is probably the planet where I managed to move faster, compared to the size of the planet. In fact, I could run all the way from 10° S to 44° N in little over one hour. The reason is the mountains. On high gravity worlds, mountains are obstacles. It's hard going up, and you risk exploding going down. But on low gravity worlds they are much better than flats. Going uphill you have better grip than you have anywhere else, and you bounce less. Without much gravity to slow you, they are the perfect place to accelerate. Going downhill, you are going to lose control and bounce around immediately. But a smart use of reaction wheels will keep your wheels pointed downwards, and the low gravity ensures that you won't reach truly dangerous speeds. You'll just keep going, at high speed.

The upper speed limit seems to be close to 25% of orbital speed on all small planets I visited so far, from Gilly to Ike. There may be a special significance, in that below that value, your jumps are still small enough that you don't lose speed with them. Or maybe it's just a coincidence. No idea.

Anyway, I soon reached the waypoint, and I have again a problem, just like on Pol: the monolith is supposed to be here


I can't help noticing the lack of monolith-shaped ground features

Unlike Pol, monoliths should really stand out on Bop, at least with this level of light amplification. There is nothing to provide confusion, and their color stands out. But I can't see it anywhere.

Well, eventually I had to declare defeat and resort to a bit of cheating: I brought a GYTH to check the location again. Turned out I missed it by over 10 degrees of latitude. That's gonna be a lesson for the future, about trying to pinpoint them from high orbit. It also means all my early work finding the anomalies on Mun and Kerbin is completely worthless and I have to do it again.


Here I first see the monolith. Even though it's just a bunch of pixels, I saw it easily because it's much darker than the surrounding terrain.

You'll probably won't appreciate it without magnifying the image a bit, though


A bit easier to see


Finally there


And the path taken. I did some zigzagging to grab biomes.


Skimming the mountain tops on the way back to orbit

Setting up a rendez-vous with Bolt was less complicated, and less expensive, than I feared. This time I could aim for apoapsis. It would have been much cheaper if I didn't have to point outward to lose time, too.


And that's it. All the moons of Jool are done. After one year of game time, and a few real life weeks - made longer by real life giving me less time for this game - I'm ready to leave the gas giant, heading for the ice dwarf. 10 monoliths found, 5 to go, including Kerbin. None of the remaining worlds present particular difficulties, though orbital mechanics and food supply will give some problems. The ship lost some pieces, but it's overall healty. Food and fuel are good, everything else is plentyful. I'd actually vent some water and oxygen, but they weight very little. And I'm fairly sure the Kerbin plane won't work; just like the other planes I brought, the alignment bug is a real killed for propellers. But just like the others, the challenge is not to fly it (well, on Laythe it was) but in bringing it to the planet after the long interplanetary trip with enough functional parts. Worst scenario, I will use the cheat menu to get a fixed one, again.

I don't expect any significant obstacle to completing this tour. But this game has surprised me in the past, and it may do so in the future as well.

Edited by king of nowhere
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Why not ditch some of the goals you plan b/c of the descent stages woes, send Taxi to Tylo, and remove the 1 excess aerospike, and everything but a pod and probe core To save weight. You can assemble the rover on site. Maybe deactive the upper stage cubs or aerospikes on the lower stage, they could help. Set an action key, and aerospikes in kerbalism have way to many ignitions. assuming 8 cubs, proving 24 tons of thrust in total vs 64 of the aerospikes, it sucks, but not too bad. Maybe use eva constrcution and insteall more r wheels.


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Posted (edited)

Part 10: Eeloo promises but does not deliver

The most complicated part about getting to Eeloo is the orbit, especially with the additional time pressure. But Bolt has still plenty of fuel to take care of those.

I was especially looking forward to driving a rover on Eeloo, a planet I always liked but I never got a chance to visit for long. Now I did, and it's nowhere near as good as I was hoping.


10.1) Hohmann transfers, supplies, and other inconveniences


I finished Jool in time for the Eeloo transfer. But I have to plan accurately the next part too. Transfer windows between outer planets are once every several years, I can't afford to miss them.

So, while I know that Bolt can reach Eeloo easily, I must also plan the next part, the Eeloo-Dres. Once I am at Dres, I will have a window for Kerbin every year or little more, so there will be no need to worry anymore.

Unfortunately, the Dres transfer window is not in a convenient position


deltaV costs for Eeloo-Dres, starting year 13

It seems all right; a nice, comfortable, long transfer window, at a very cheap price. Starting at year 14, so I have all the time to get to Eeloo.

Unfortunately, that trip would take over 8 years, leaving me on Dres well into year 22. From Dres it takes a couple more years to reach Kerbin, plus waiting for a window, let's say I can comfortably take that window and be back home in year 26.

Food supplies last until year 28. So... yay?

No. Not enough. Because when a kerbal get stressed, one of the possible outcomes is dumping 10% of stored food. It already happened once.  If it happens a couple more times, my crew would starve. It's a small risk; especially now that I discovered how to not accidentally depressurize my ship, stress accidents are much less common. If I had no better options, I would definitely go for it. But I do have other options.

I currently have over 1200 tons of fuel and 1600 tons of total mass. It translates to roughly 11000 m/s of deltaV, a bit more because I will be dropping empty tanks. And all I have to do is Eeloo-Dres-Kerbin. So, the deltaV graph shows that if I start from Eeloo in year 13, with 3 km/s I can reach Dres in 4 years, in year 17, which would translate to returning on Kerbin no later than year 22. Very safe, and the extra 1.5 km/s is well within my fuel budget.


This picture of Bolt ejecting from Jool is also conveniently used to showcase remaining resources

Unfortunately, after year 13 the cost for a fast transfer to Dres increases horribly. So the question is, how expensive it will be to reach Eeloo in 2 years?

Turns out, not at all. I actually found the right trajectory by accident before figuring out I could expand the Jool-Eeloo graph to see faster transfers, because the tool was only showing trajectories lasting 4 years or longer.


DeltaV costs for Jool-Eeloo, starting year 10. It shows there are relatively cheap trajectories lasting as little as half an year

After some time trying out manuevers, I end up with two candidates: one faster but more expensive, the other slower and cheaper


The cheap manuever: 1650 m/s to each Eeloo in 1.5 years


The fast manuever: 2300 m/s to reach Eeloo in slightly over 1 year

I pick the cheap manuever; getting to Eeloo faster will save deltaV on the Dres transfer, but not enough to justify an extra 600 m/s.

The exact costs of those manuevers are not comparable to the values of the planner tool, because the tool assumes circular orbits, which is not my case

10.2) The trail of tears (actually, it's spilled motor oil)




Ditching a few more drop tanks while leaving Jool

The Jool ejection burn went all right. Bolt's orbit is slow enough to not worry about cosine losses, and I got no critical malfunctions to any engine.


An engine did broke, but could be fixed

The trip was entirely another matter.

I run a maintenance tour before going for Tylo, so, 150 days ago. I was originally planning to run another shortly before reaching Eeloo, but I had to revise my plans in the face of continuous and repeated failures on the reaction wheels. Always the reaction wheels. Yeah, I get that they are supposed to be more fragile than other parts, but this looks positively bugged. They are high quality, they should last for 15 years! Most of my life support is low quality, with a duration of 7 years, and it's not giving any problem! This feels like a bug.

Then again, I have no other parts on Bolt to compare. Sure, some life support, but only a handful of modules, not enough for a statistical comparison. And I have dozens of reaction wheels. Some of them low quality, I put them low quality on the drop tanks. And then I used some of those to repair other things, most notably Taxi.

I also just noticed that high quality reaction wheels are twice as heavy as regular ones. I wonder if they are worth it. Then again, with how often they are breaking up, perhaps they do.

Anyway, I ended up running THREE maintenance rounds in the 600 days voyage, and I still broke lots of reaction wheels.

And some of the solar panels on the service probes, but those are not important. The next iteration of those won't even have power generation in the first place


A log of parts breaking, malfunctioning, being repaired, malfunctioning again. Virtually all of them reaction wheels


three out of four wheels in Taxi broke. No, I did not forgot to service them. Yes, those were low quality wheels scrapped from the drop tanks

Before I reached Eeloo, I decided to make the ship lighter by dropping all the broken pieces. In the case of Taxi, it involved some work undocking it and taking new wheels from the opposite end of Bolt as replacement.


I also take the chance to remove all the free docking ports on the drop tanks. They have no further purpose and they weight 200 kg each


I have no idea what this part is supposed to be. It's not part of a NERV, I can't even detach those

No, wait, I got it. WHen I was moving reaction wheels around, I temporarily placed them wherever convenient. Including stuck to a NERV. And this generated a cover for it


The long list of discarded pieces. Most are docking ports, but then, I did stick several wheels together while I was dropping them, to reduce cluttering

I also wonder if the radiations are contributing. At this difficulty level, this far from the sun, solar storms last for three days, while still being almost as strong as they were in the inner system. The way they are modeled makes no sense.

But finally, after much wailing and gnashing of mechanical parts, Bolt arrived to Eeloo.


First sighting by the crew


I'm going to end in an eccentric, inclined orbit. Happens when you approach the planet away from the equator


Eeloo fast rotation and large SoI made finding the monolith easy already during the approach. No need to detach a GYTH. This time I made sure to get the position right and accurate


10.3) Eeloo's motorways



Undocking Taxi. I never realized it was so small compared to the main ship before this perspective


For once, I managed to time the suicide burn right the first time, stopping some 200 meters from the surface

Finally I get to drive around Eeloo. I've been waiting this for a long time.


Turns out, while Eeloo has a beautiful surface, and its network of channels is great to look at from orbit, when it comes to driving on it it's really quite dull


See that picture? Looks good, right? Yeah, I took others, but they are all the same. Eeloo has no mountains, no features. The channels are good from orbit, but from the surface they are too big to really appreciate. You occasionally find a slope downward, then a new slope upward after a while. Driving on Eeloo is about as exciting as driving on the motorway. Except for ice chunks threatening your wheels.

You can't even go very fast, because you lack slopes. On flat ground you stop accelerating between 40-45 m/s. I reached 60 going down one of the channels. Ike was much better.


Obligatory scanning of surface features


An interesting bug. I have no idea what it is, but it didn't seem to have had any further ill effect

Took me a few hours of uneventful driving, where I only managed to have a few accidents because I would accelerate, set SAS to hold prograde, and then put the game in background and do something else for a while. Yep, not very exciting. In the end I reached the monolith, right where I marked it



And the path taken

By the way, three biomes visited, never found more than 0.2% water in any of them. So much for the ice ball. I suppose the guys who make the mod assumed nobody would ever try to mine the outer planets.

Rejoining Bolt presented some unique difficulty because of the high inclination - I never tried to launch into such an inclined orbit before, and I know of no way to do it accurately barring mechjeb or other electronic helpers. But I managed just 3 degrees of inclination over Taxi, and even though I started the landing with 75% fuel, I had a generous extra.

So here I am, back to orbit and looking for an unconventional Dres transfer.

Bolt is currently weighting 1390 tons, with 1020 tons of fuel. Even discouting the dropping of tanks, that's 10500 m/s. I still have food for 16 years, water and oxygen almost forever thanks to recycling. I lost many reaction wheels, and I will lose more, but I also have lots of them, there should not be huge problems there.

The main worry still left is that the Kerbin plane, after being in space so long, may lose its second solar panel and become unusable. In which case I may have to actually try to land Stool to find the Kerbin monolith. And hope I don't have to carry it across water. Better to patch up the Kerbin plane with solar panels salvaged from the service probes.

The mission looks like it will be an easy success at this point.

Edited by king of nowhere
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I’ve had that bug too, occasionally the EVA construction move/rotate widgets would appear in the sky for no reason and clip through the camera plane if I zoomed in or out. No harm done as far as I can tell.

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Posted (edited)

Part 11: Dres exhists - and it still sucks

Went to Dres, found the monolith. Again, no particular problems.

This time I have a rover adapted for low gravity worlds, and a lot of experience driving everywhere. I can thusly confirm that no, the problem is not inadequate rover or driving skill, the problem is Dres.


11.1) The first step is getting there


Let's look again at the deltaV graph already shown in 10.1:


The cheapest transfer is in year 14, costing only 1700 m/s. Unfortunately, it arrives on Dres in year 22, which is too late for comfort. On the other hand, I can take a high energy transfer for an extra 1500 m/s and arrive on Dres in year 17. I still have a lot of deltaV, both because I brought a lot and because I've been efficient with my flight plan (for all my moving around, the main mass of the ship, the one really using up lots of fuel, has only manuevered for roughly 5000 m/s by the time I was ready to leave Jool; everything else was handled by Taxi).

It's actually rather cheap to get a Dres intercept, but the intercept speed is prohibitive


less than 800 m/s to leave, but 3500 m/s intercept. Bad

That's clearly caused by the poorly matching orbits. A solar periapsis of 26 Gm will obviously produce a large intercept speed for Dres. I must try to set up an encounter on the opposite side of the orbit. This means away from the node, requiring a higher cost in plane change. Still nothing compared to 3500 m/s, though.

If I make a normal Hohmann orbit I will arrive behind Dres (the reason why I'd have needed to lower periapsis to catch up), but the same speeding up effect can be achieved with some radial component - make the descending part of your orbit faster by raising solar apoapsis. This far from the sun, it's by far the cheapest option.


Getting closer...

The breakthrough happened when I resigned myself to matching orbital planes at the node. That's generally the most expensive options for planetary transfer, and I already referred to it as uninspired. But this far from the sun it's cheap enough, much cheaper than trying to include a normal component in my ejection burn from Eeloo to try and push the node where I need it.

Also, with the low thrust of Bolt, long injection burns are inefficient.


600 m/s of plane change and course correction, but intercept speed is down to 1250 m/s. Good enough.


Even better!

2600 m/s is a lot for a planetary transfer (one not involving Moho, at least) but it's already cheaper than the alexmoon tool told me was possible. There are some differences because I am not launching from an equatorial circular orbit, but ultimately all those differences become moot once reaching the edge of Eeloo's SoI, and that's not very expensive.

Also, the 1100 m/s of ejection from Eeloo happen halfway in my elliptic orbit - I'm not getting much Oberth effect, not that I could get much from Eeloo anyway, but I don't have to worry about cosine losses either.

So, convinced I got close enough to the minimum price - at least, the minimum price for reaching Dres before year 20) I set to execute the manuever.


Also, I finally realized I can remove the nose cone where an engine exploded on Taxi. It's still worth 75 kg


What's left of Bolt's fuel tanks


Ignition! as usual, some engines are shut off to keep the ship balanced. I learned to optimize that by looking at the indicators on the lower left corner of the screen


I finally realized my balance problems are caused by having a broken engine on one side, and having discarded more tanks on the other side. With this, I finally equalize the tanks again

11.2) No more tears (actually, they were spilled motor oil)


This time I have 4 years of travel time, by far the longest in this mission. Less than two years to reach Eeloo costed me many of my remaining reaction wheels, so I was a bit afraid when I finally pressed time warp. In fact, at first I had a smattering of extra accidents.

I don't remember if I realized this shortly before reaching Eeloo or shortly after leaving it (probably the former, seeing how the picture of leaving Eeloo has a yellow solar panel), but noncritical malfunctions are actually my best friends here: a part with a malfunction won't get any more broken, so those nice yellow parts are parts that will stay functional forever, as long as I refrain from using them.

That's especially important because I finally lost the last solar panel on the Kerbin plane. The long range antenna too, but that was caused by a stress breakdown


That antenna has quite some story to it. It is completely useless for a plane that will stay on Kerbin, of course. I added it as an oversight. But when I separated the ship for Moho, with the engine pack going without crew, turned out the antennas on the engine pack were too small. I did not plan to send it alone. Fortunately there were some good antennas on the planes. Without those antennas I could not have controlled the ship....

No. Without those antennas, I'd have had to perform a quick EVA construction to move a small docking port on the engine pack, then place a Get Your Tinfoil Hat on it. GYTHs have 2 redundant antennas of the higher grade, and having two GYTH I could have sent on to Moho to find the monolith, and one with the engine pack. Pity. It made for a good story.

Then again, it's the story of how the mission was saved by using something in ways that were not originally intended, so it's still a good story

But I have 3 surviving small solar panels on the service probes, and I can stick them on the Kerbin plane

(the service probes, in turn, have enough batteries that they can perform their tasks without problems. Not that they should be ever needed again, I have no more fuel tanks to move around. I could drop them if I was short on fuel. But after dropping the first prototype on Laythe with the sole purpose of getting the splashdown achievement during the Marco Polonium mission, I get emotional about those little probes and the thought of leaving them back)

I don't know what kind of performance I'll be able to get with a plane, but it's something. It's more elegant if I don't have to salvage an RTG.

Anyway, that was the last low quality, short-lived part. And with that, malfunctions ceased immediately. To the point that I was able to time warp a whole year without getting interrupted by emergency messages, not ever. I did full maintenance rounds every year, and every year I would find some parts that needed servicing, but I never had any single malfunction.

Which shows that high quality reaction wheels, though twice as heavy as their counterparts, are still better, in the long run, than two lower quality wheels.

And this in turn reinforces my decision of using high quality nuclear plants for the next mission, even though they add 60 tons to the ship.

Also, the stress counter was remarkably low; in 4 years most kerbonauts only gained a few % stress. Despite lacking a gravity ring, and having less than the ideal living space. My next planned mission will require at least a couple of centuries, and this makes me quite optimistic on my chances of pulling it.

After 4 years, finally Dres appears on the cupola


Once more, I moved a kerbonaut there just to get a picture


Last maintenance round was made in Dres SoI. It was also a convenient time to get EVA reports and experiments


Dropping the last double tank

11.3) I keep hating Dres


I got a glimpse of the monolith during approach, but when too high in orbit to get an accurate position. Then the planet rotated it out of view. So I had to send a GYTH to find it. All the while biting my nails for the precious time I'm losing for the transfer windows... wait.

I don't have any expired transfer window to catch! Actually, while the optimal Kerbin transfer window is right now (lucky coincidence), it's still open for 20 days, and there's still a reasonable cost for 150 days! I am not chasing any transfer window! I am in no hurry whatsoever! I don't even remember the last time it happened in this mission! (it was on Moho, I spent some 20 days orbiting it waiting for the window to Eve).

Crew, let's throw a party!


Monolith located. Stool goes doing what Stool does best


Tanks half empty for this mission too, Dres does not require much fuel. It's Val's turn to drive

Once more, I land on the equator and reach the monolith by rover, because I want the chance to drive. My previous driving experience on Dres was bad, but Stool is much better suited to driving in low gravity than Dancing Porcupine, and I have more experience. After liking Bop - which I previously hated - I wanted to see if maybe this time I would like Dres too.

I was even ready to enunciate a law for driving rovers:


king of nowhere's postulate on driving rovers: (work in progress)
there are no bad planets on which to drive a rover. Merely bad rovers and bad pilots

I landed on Dres full of optimism. All the better for Dres to trash them.

Ok, it's not such a miserable experience as it was last time. With the reaction wheels I'm not flipping every time. I'm not exploding pieces. I did drive with no major accidents.

And there are some good sights on Dres



almost as beautiful as Mun...

Although I had to use light amplification because, in its natural darkness, Dres sucks


A nice panorama, with light amplification


The same place in natural light. Depressing. And you can see from the shadow, it's actually day.

The problem, as I already found out other times, is that Dres is extremely bumpy. And it's not obviously apparent from a wide image. But you can' find any flat terrain. There are bumps, clefts, furrows everywhere.


look closely at the terrain; what looks like a flat table until the nearest crest is actually interspersed with ridges

For this reason, it was impossible to pick up speed. I never reached 40 m/s, not even going downhill. Somewhere between 20 and 30 was the average. As soon as I would get faster, I'd bump into a corner with the wrong angle, sending the rover spinning. I always managed to land upright, but the rover was severely slowed.


I also broke a wheel twice, despite the low speed. I have exactly 2 repair kits left

So, I'm now ready to finalize my fully comprehensive law for driving


king of nowhere's postulate on driving rovers:
there are no bad planets on which to drive a rover. Merely bad rovers and bad pilots

Lemma: Dres does not count. It's not a real planet.

At least Dres is small, so it didn't took long to reach the monolith




And the path taken. I landed near the crater, I took a small detour to get the biome. It was 95 km total

The original plan was to then return to the equator to launch with no inclination, but i disliked Dres so much, I launched from the monolith and spent 200 m/s on plane change.

Yes, i did it on Bop too, but on Bop the plane change was practically free.


Stool rejoins Bolt. In natural light, courtesy of the lamps installed


Get Your Tinfoil Hat 2 rejoins Bolt. I took no pictures of it going, I felt I had to take pictures of something

11.4) Ship status


Just as I was running the docking manuever for GYTH 2, I broke an engine


Yay for redundancy! Those little probes don't even have enough power to run one ion engine at full power, much less 2. I put in a second one only for redundancy, and now it pays off.

But it's the second ion engine lost, out of 4. I take the second one out of GYTH 1. Never used, it was there as backup, it ended up as a source of salvage.

On the other hand, GYTH 2 still has only 1 reaction wheel. Original plan was, if the wheel fails, I can send the second GYTH to dock the first. But now it's impossible.

On the other hand, those probes are only sent in missions for a few days, it's highly unlikely for a wheel to break right there. But I'm thinking to have a service probe grab GYTH on the next mission anyway; with empty tanks, a service probe only adds 500 kg, and it has 2 extra wheels to add.

I also discarded the last drop tank with engines. Mostly spent during the Dres injection, its last drop of fuel was used to replenish Stool.


I still have that last module docked in the center, but I'm saving it as backup for Taxi, which has been down to 2 engines for a while. I also have the option, after running out of other fuel tanks, to discard the whole rest of engine pack, with its 18 heavy Nerv engines, and scrape a few thousands m/s from just Taxi and that last tank. Probably won't be needed, but backups are always good.

I also took the chance to swap - again - the broken reaction wheels on Taxi.


Those wheels are high quality, should not break again. I also removed that inner docking port, it's no longer useful. It's actually never been useful, but I now have less compunctions about vandalizing my own ships.

I have not done the same for the broken wheel on the Taxi backup because in that case the game reads the docking port as the root part, and I cannot remove it to grab the wheel.


Full status of Bolt

And here we have a complete review of what's left of Bolt. A bit over 600 tons of fuel on a total mass of 890 tons gives a figure of 9200 m/s.  But there are 70 tons of drop tanks; if we remove them, we get over 11 km/s. So the actual figure is somewhere in between. Around 10 km/s, with the chance to maybe stretch it a little bit if I drop the engine pack. All I have to do is return to Kerbin and let Taxi ferry Stool to the moons. Still 11 years of food. The other consumables are almost untouched. I still have backups for everything; I run out of some backup's backup, but that's acceptable when the mission is almost over. The only thing without backup is the Kerbin plane reaction wheel, only 1 left, but 1) It should be able to manuever in the atmosphere with just the control surfaces, and 2) I can dismantle a service probe to get another.

Having fuel left, I'm thinking to take a longer detour and go visit an asteroid too. Perhaps get an A class and tow it back to Kerbin. Let's see

I'd like a comet too, but rendez-vous with a comet close to Kerbol would be too expensive, and far from  Kerbol would require too much time.

Edited by king of nowhere
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