Dave Kerbin

Mod Virgin - Career playing with "Better Than Starting Manned"

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What is the part under the Mk1-2 pod? They look like stretched Oscar-B tanks.

Very cool series, keep up the good work! :)

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What is the part under the Mk1-2 pod? They look like stretched Oscar-B tanks.

Very cool series, keep up the good work! :)

That's the life support recycler (I can't remember if that's the exact name or not). I tested it out on Uniform 3 after unlocking it with the science from my Mun mission. It must be attached directly to the pod it will work with and it will extend life support by recycling consumables (ie water, oxygen). When it is operating it consumes an extra 3.3em/min but it also reduces the life support being consumed by the pod by 80%.

So for example my Mk1-2 pod consumes 18 life support per hour for each kerbal (it also consumes 12.5 em/min to operate the life support, regardless of the number of kerbals). With the 1300 life support on board it can support 3 kerbals for about 24 hours. 3 kerbals x 18/hour x 24 hours = 1296. If you reduce the number of kerbals in the pod you extend life support, a single kerbal could survive for 3 days but that's not really long enough for a practical Minmus mission.

The recycler reduces the consumption rate by 80% when it is turn on. So instead of 18 life support per kerbal the pod is only consuming 3.6 per kerbal. That means the pod can now support 3 kerbals for up to 5 days, long enough for a Minmus mission.

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Apple 1

With the manned Minmus mission complete I can return to unmanned exploration of other planets. I've already tested the new sensor nose cone in Kerbin's atmosphere and I've unlocked bigger and better heatshields for high velocity reentry along with an improved probe core. This one reduces power usage down to 2em/min (which turned out to be very helpful in the circumstances I encountered in this mission) but it also includes it's own SAS processor which was important in being able to design the Apple lander the way I did. Apple 1 (and an expected Apple 2) both use the same design and are intended to perform exploration of Eve/Duna's atmosphere and surface. Since it's one design fits all some of the systems may be a bit redundent - Duna may have worked with a smaller heatshield and different layout, while Eve would have definitely worked with fewer parachutes and had no need for the shock absorbing legs. The whole thing will be carried into orbit by the standard 30 ton lifter which performs perfectly on its first real mission (the 60 ton lifter seemed to have some issues its first true mission in Zulu 1).

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It is currently a very bad time for a transfer to Duna but an Eve transfer is viable though not ideal. After seperating from the booster the probes interplanetary transit module tales over for the injection burn. It has the engine, fuel and solar power that will be needed for the trip to Eve. Orientation and control is left to the lander itself. A plus of this probe being designed for both Eve and Duna is that it carries enough solar power to work at Duna's orbit. That is critical for this non-optimal transfer to Eve which will take us farther then Kerbin's orbit in order to swing around hard and catch Eve without spending massive amounts of delta-v to take the shortcut below Moho's orbit or attempt to plan and time a multiple orbit transit.

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At the PE point above the Sun (far left) the probe is nudged with the RCS thrusters to drop the expected Eve PE down to about 150 km, ready to be finalized once we enter Eve's SOI. I've always thought that Eve was the best looking of the planets. Unfortunately I won't get to see as much because my course will take me into the night side (some screenshots may be too dark and require some brightness enhancement which will wash out details).

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As I descend below 175 km and prepare to enter the upper atmosphere I begin burning all the remaining fuel I have to help slow down before the face melting aerobraking starts. I'm not burning directly retro-grade, instead I'm adjusting slightly upward and switching back and forth with map view to maintain my projected PE while reducing my overall surface speed. Orbital speed is reduced by about 300 m/s but that doesn't take into account the fact that I was accelerating at the time, so I probably managed to shave off closer to 500 m/s or about 10% of my velocity. The transit module is ejected and the lander aligns for aerobraking. While I have weight balanced the lander I choose to use active stabilization (RCS & SAS with manual input) given the speeds and temperatures involved.

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As the probe hits the heavy atmosphere the extra large heatshield warms up to a maximum of 1522 C. I'm actively maintaining stabilization to make sure everything stays neatly tucked behind it. Several design choices where made to minimize the vertical height of the probe to keep it well within the cone of the heatshield (the built in SAS helped with this). Things don't go entirely according to plan. While the probe avoids breaking up it also doesn't bleed off enough speed to maintain the descent. The probe begins rising again with a projected orbit of 2000 km and requiring about 90 minutes before it will come back around for another pass. That will put a strain on the batteries since I calculated how much would be needed to transmit and then added time for descent. A quick recalculation shows that with a conservative estimation of how long it will take to land the batteries should have about 30 minutes of power to spare after all the readings are transmitted. In the meantime the probe is in the upper atmosphere so readings are taken with the sensor nose cone, 2Hot and PresMat and immediately transmitted (the smaller instruments are transmitted using the 2nd dish). The probe has 2 communications dishes, not just for weight balance but because during a single descent it would have allowed the lower atmosphere nose cone readings to begin transmitting while the high atmosphere ones where still going out on the the first band. The good news is that Eve's atmosphere has a 6x multiplier so I'm getting some good science.

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The next pass isn't as hard as the first, the heatshield only briefly goes up to 1200 C. The lander slows down to 350 m/s at 25 km. Looking ahead in the twilight I can see a large lake ahead and I don't want to land there since I can't use my best surface instrument, the Double-C, on the water. With my velocity low enough I decide to deploy the parachutes now (they won't fully deploy until 500m) to slow my horizontal speed and keep me over land. Deploying the parachutes involves the heavy heatshield being discarded. I've used a seperator for this instead of a decoupler because of the vertical size advantage (a decoupler would make the probe 50% taller, raising the center of mass and putting critical components that much closer to edge of the heatshields protective zone). The number of parachutes is overboard for Eve but is estimated to be barely enough for Duna. That's why there are also landing legs that deploy to help absorb the shock instead of taking the hit on the batteries (far fewer parachutes are needed to slow down to 9.5 m/s for the legs then are needed to slow down to 5.5 m/s for the batteries).

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Safely descending to the surface the lander transmits data on the lower atmosphere. The legs are descended for a soft landing (under 4 m/s on Eve) and then the ground sensors take over. Eve has a 15x surface multiplier, so my best instrument the Double-C collects 1500 science alone. With everything transmitted the lander has 288 of an original 6400 em left after which it will die since the solar panels where discarded and burned up on entry. In total the probe has transmitted 3108 science which combined with my existing store gives 4035 (enough to unlock 2 items plus Miniaturization if I wanted it). For now I'm going to leave it unspent at least until I complete the Duna mission. Then I'll decide how to move forward.

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Apple 2

This is the same design but going to Duna this time. I've waited 60 days from the end of the last mission to line up a good transfer window to Duna. It's not the best transfer burn but it works. Half way to Duna a course correction brings the PE to under 500 km. Arriving in Duna's SOI another burn is made to lower that to 60 km in preparation for a powered capture.

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I won't be aerobraking. Duna's atmosphere is so low and thin I'd need to come in really close to slow down enough and I don't see the need to test how well that works with deadly reentry when it isn't too expensive to just capture like any other planet or moon without an atmosphere. After capturing I almost immediately begin burning to lower my new orbits PE for a landing (10km). The reason for this is that in low Duna orbit I don't think I'll be making a net gain on electricity - each time the probe passes behind Duna it will lose charge and it won't receive enough excess charge during the daylight period to recover. Since I braked on the dark side my intention is to land as soon as possible on the light side rather then risk reducing my battery stores below the amount required to complete the mission.

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My velocity in orbit is less then 900 m/s so it's not a big surprise that there was very little heating on entry. Upper atmosphere transmissions start after I've passed 40 km and are finished before there is any real drag. It appears the Duna atmosphere has a multiplier of 4x which is not the same as Eve, dispelling my theory that the inner planets would have the same multipliers and confirming that there is no relationship between orbit/atmosphere/surface multipliers other then the fact they go up the further you go down (with the exception of Kerbin itself). My main concern is how fast I'll be going when I reach the surface, so one thing I do is try to bleed off as much of my remaining monopropellent as possible by making an upward lateral burn which both depletes the fuel and slows the drop of my PE even as I lose altitude (essentially flattening out my approach so I'll travel through as much air as possible before landing). As the sun comes up I'm entering the lower atmosphere at 10 km, still traveling at almost 800 m/s.

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At 6 km the ground is getting close enough to see ground scatter (very little of Duna is actually at sea level, the rest is mostly at 2-4km). I'm still transmitting lower atmosphere data and moving at 550 m/s but I need to slow down now and the atmosphere has done most of what it's going to do. With the parachutes semi-deployed and landing gear deployed my speed drops to 330 m/s and I see if I can slow it down further with RCS thrust.

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The parachutes fully deploy 19 seconds later underscoring how close I was to the surface. I heard a bad sound when they deployed but a check revealed nothing was broken on the lander (I thought one of the cords might have ripped). The violent stop has brought it down to 15 m/s almost instantly and that settles down to 11 m/s as it settles into a soft vertical descent. I apply some RCS at the last moment to help cushion the landing as much as possible.

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The landing damages 2 of the legs but that's ok, absorbing shock is what they where there for. The surface has a 9x multiplier so I can still transmit some good science.

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After completing its work the probe has 3.5 hours of life left before it loses power. The 4 working legs are retracted so it can be buried by the sand. The probe has transmitted 1948 science. At this point I thinking about what priority I should place on manned flight vs. probes. Based on the larger then expected but uneven returns it might be better to put off manned flight until I can explore further with one way missions. I'm right at a good transfer window for Eve so I will be designing and launching a probe to Gilly next. I'll have to see how much science I get from that mission and crunch some numbers for what a manned Duna or Gilly mission would bring (with the Science Jr being a big unknown) before I decide. If I go with unmanned then I'll be unlocking 4 techs: Experimental Rocketry, Meta-Materials, Advanced Unmanned Tech and maybe Not Potatoes though I'd want to review the specs for those parts first. My current banked science stands at 5983.

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With my data from Duna I can start calculating the actual returns for manned missions and I think this will affect my plans. While a manned mission to Duna would bring in some good science it wouldn't really bring in enough to justify the early expense of the Advanced Field Science tech (it would cover it but I wouldn't be making a very large 'profit'). Instead I think I need Composites and Advanced Science Tech so that I can gain access to those manned experiments which will likely boost the return of a manned mission beyond Kerbin. I'm not sure how the life sciences lab from Advanced Science Tech will work yet so it may not work on an initial Duna trip (do I have to be in orbit of Duna for a certain amount of time?). However that tech might also lead to orbital EVA reports which would be a big boost. The Science Jr is probably also a good source of science however using it on a manned mission and then returning it safely to Kerbin poses its own challenges, for which it would probably be easier if I had a few of the other techs handy.

From the looks of it I really want to unlock most of the 1800pt tier before I start investing time on manned missions. Meta-Materials is still at the top of the list since it will unlock access to planets beyond Duna. From there I may instead buy into the convience techs - Experimental Rocketry, Advanced Unmanned Tech and Not Potatoes. I think I may have enough science for those 4 after a Gilly mission. It will make going to Moho a lot easier.

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I just want to say that i am following this thread with great interest and couriosity, since i play this mod with increasing joy (Big thanks to FlowerChild here and now!). In my game i am a little behind you, what means a bit of spoiling, but i like your stile of presentation and gameplay, what makes reading your story joyful in itself. Go on!

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I just want to say that i am following this thread with great interest and couriosity, since i play this mod with increasing joy (Big thanks to FlowerChild here and now!). In my game i am a little behind you, what means a bit of spoiling, but i like your stile of presentation and gameplay, what makes reading your story joyful in itself. Go on!

Thanks. I've made an edit to the last part of the Zulu post where I dumped a big spoiler about the tech. I can't avoid spoilers obviously but anytime I'm going to jump far ahead instead of incrementally revealing stuff I'll try and mark it ahead of time.

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Bagel 1

This is a mission to Gilly which I haven't visited yet. Since I've already got enough information to firm up my tech tree plans I decided I might as well go and unlock what I can with my current science. I'm unlocking Advanced Unmanned Tech, Not Potatoes and Experimental Rocketry. I know that Meta-Materials was at the top of my list but if I'm sure I'm going to unlock all 4 before going beyond Duna then I might as well grab what I can to make my missions to Gilly and Moho easier.

The probe fits on the 30t booster. With fuel lines it can carry a pair of drop tanks to extend range without adding stages. This probe does have a new feature, a reaction wheel. It's not a lot but it will let me orient the probe for solar collection / fine course adjustments without throwing off my course with RCS thrusters, something that's become a bit of a bother while transiting to other planets.

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Arriving at Eve I'm not going to do an aerocapture. Instead I'll be braking with thrust and coming into an orbit with an AP close to the path of Gilly (this costs about 1240 m/s from my current transfer angle). Of course Gilly's orbit is heavily inclined and elliptical so I won't be able to do anything precise from an interplanetary transfer. I do make a mistake with my capture (which I've done before, see Dust 1 from my .23 career), I come into a retograde orbit of Eve after braking on the wrong side of Eve.

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To reach Gilly I first correct my inclination - I'll need to set it to 180 degrees since I'm actually orbiting in the opposite direction of Gilly. Next I need to wait for a couple of orbits of Eve for an encounter opportunity. It's only a 4 minute encounter but that will be enough. These two burns have cost about 160 m/s.

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When I reach my encounter with Gilly I apply the same principle as docking. I want to match Gilly's orbit so I turn around and point at the retro-grade indicator (with Gilly as my 'target') and just burn. My orbit around Eve begins to change, reversing and morphing into a copy of Gilly's orbit without any additional input. When I stop I have a nearly exact copy of Gilly's orbit and from here I now have plenty of time to burn at the new PE with Gilly to easily capture. This has cost about 550 m/s.

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From high orbit things are not promising. Gilly only seems to have a 2x multiplier much like Ike. I was hoping it was a bit more since I think that even experienced players will have a slightly harder time reaching Gilly then they would Ike. In my opinion less experienced players would have a lot harder time reaching Gilly because of the orbit and then the low gravity making the landing a completely new experience. From a science perspective Gilly would also seem more important - Ike is much like the Mun but Gilly is a captured asteroid so it's development and composition would be different especially at the surface (heavy elements wouldn't have sunk to the center). I lower one part of my orbit to 5700m, enough to reach low orbit (but also a bit dangerous because Gilly is the only body where you can hit a mountain in high orbit). Things go really slow from this point because as soon as I get under 8km (close to where some of those mountains are) I am reduced to 1x time warp. It's very slow going to reach low orbit.

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In low orbit mapping data and other readings are collected and transmitted. My plan was to wait and recharge but at this point I really don't want to wait through a whole orbit so I start moving toward the surface with 1700em in my batteries (I'll need about 1900 for operation and transmission). My worst case plan is I'll land on the surface, store data and then take off into orbit to recharge and transmit. Upon landing I'm still getting power so I settle in to recharge enough for the Double-C to transmit. Unfortunately the surface of Gilly is only worth 3x just like Ike. I don't think there will be much reason to make a return (ie manned mission) to the Eve/Gilly system given the cost/return.

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While I'm waiting the sun comes up and I transmit. At the moment the only thing preventing the probe from basically launching off Gilly thanks to the incline is a small amount of RCS correction. Rather then keep using that until the probe runs out and falls down the hill I launch it back into space on an escape from Gilly (I want to get it moving fast so I don't have to sit around long). Once outside Gilly's SOI I make a small normal and then a pro-grade burn to alter it's orbit so that it hopefully won't come into an accidental encounter with Gilly. I turn the probe around to what I believe will be an optimal position to hopefully collect sunlight year round. Since the probe still has a good amount of fuel left I'm leaving it in Eve orbit ready for future use.

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This mission brought in just under 800 science, not enough to unlock Meta-Materials but I still have the surface of Moho to visit (in the worst case scenario Moho will still provide enough to get me to 1800 science). Even if that where not true I've got some back science missions (there is always more soil samples from the Mun or Minmus) and I have the basic outline for how a 1500 science Goo mission to Duna/Ike would work.

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Found out about your thread from your posts and FlowerChild's shoutouts on the BTSM thread. Extremely interesting, as you are a strong contrast to myself, as I'm new to KSP and mostly learning through playing BTSM.

I know you've started a new naming sequence after you ran out at Zulu, but perhaps you can get inspiration from what was done with variable star designations.

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Carrot 1

This is an unmanned mission to Moho which will provide the science needed to unlock the basic nuclear reactor that I will use to reach the outer planets. If I had to I could skip this mission and instead return to Minmus or the Mun for more soil samples but I want the data from Moho (which will almost certainly be much more then one of those missions) and I want to know Moho's multipliers since it could be a target for a manned mission. In stock play Moho isn't such a great manned target because of the delta-v required (in fact I've never sent a manned mission there before), but here it might become a more viable target due to the short travel time (less life support required), distance to the sun (cheap solar power) and potentially high science reward.

The probe weighs in at 53 tons so it will be going on the 60t launcher. The specs tell me I need 4600 m/s to reach Moho, my own margins told me to use 5300 m/s and the rocket has almost 5800 m/s (all of these are in addition to the landing stage). While some initial napkin estimates suggest I can reach Dres and even Eeloo with the 60t launcher, for Jool's moons I will either need to figure out an aerobraking stategy or build a heavy (120t) launcher. This mission to Moho is testing one system I intend to use in exploring the outer planets which is a seperate battery operated landing stage. The probe will enter orbit and performs science (in which at least 6000em battery capacity is required to transmit from the mapping instrument) and then uses a power generator on the transit stage to recharge. From there the transit stage, along with its power generator, extended battery system and the mapping sensor are discarded. The lander itself should only need about 2000em from batteries to descend and transmit from the surface.

The booster doesn't give me any issues this time. I'm not using the big cargo tie downs in part because the cargo isn't very big. Launching into orbit I belatedly decided to go to 100 km instead of 75 or 80 km (I was coasting toward the AP so I just burned to raise it a bit before the circulization burn) which became a very fortunate descision when my long injection burn required me to basically burn toward the ground, taking me down to 75 km before my course started peeling away.

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After burning 2700 m/s for injection I'll need 250 m/s for correction (when planning I never actually had an encounter, just close enough that I felt I could correct). Preparing for the correction burn I get rid of the extra fuel tanks which should have been ejected during the first burn; that will have cost me some delta-v. As I get close to Moho I mde another 30 m/s in corrections to lower my PE to 40 km. With the angle I'm coming in it will cost me to capture, I'm not 100% sure I'll have enough.

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At Moho it will cost 2500 m/s to capture into low orbit, I'm not entirely sure I have that much. I start burning anyway and once I enter low orbit I start transmitting from all the small instruments. With the solar panels recieving lots of power and the engine alternator running at full the batteries recharge quickly from those little transmissions (effectively making them free). I hold off on transmitting from the mapping sensor. If I don't have enough fuel to capture I'll eject the sensor and transit stage and instead use the lander (which has spare delta-v) to capture and land. That way I'll get most of the science (the double-c is the most important experiment) and I can redo the mapping sensor scan using another probe in a low orbit flyby.

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The capture succeeds and I shutdown the engine with 16 L in the tank. I transmit the mapping data and line up to try and circularize. I'm 10 m/s, resulting in a 30 x 50 km orbit but that's just fine (I could have landed from the original 30 x 190 km orbit too). I'm keeping the transit stage for several orbits in order to recharge. I confirmed for myself that turning off a battery doesn't just stop it from being drained it will also stop it from being charged. I transfer all power from the large battery in the transit stage to the lander and then turn it off. I only need to recharge the landers batteries. At my AP on the dark side I eject the mapping instrument (getting rid of it here helps slightly lower my orbit without having to turn the ship). Once fully charged the lander seperates and immediately starts to land, there is a limited supply of power for probe operations at this point.

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Landing isn't hard though I am challenged by a lack of any real debris on the ground (ground scatter). I have to judge distance by altitude above sea level and by how rough the terrain looks (as I get closer the textures resolve more gritty detail). Fortunately I have a good amount of TWR and lots of fuel. I'm able to spot my shadow after which I can land without worry.

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On the surface I find a 12x multiplier (I already knew orbit was 3x from the previous mission that passed in high orbit) which is good. I get about 2000 science, enough to unlock Meta-Materials and almost enough for another. With Experimental Rocketry also unlocked I can confirm the contents of another tier 9 tech (the nuclear symbol was a bit of a give away) that provides the LV-N. I have learned some things in this mission. One is that the Poodle, while powerful, isn't really powerful enough to move the kind of weight I will be moving. With the move to nuclear power I have a plan for a different kind of transfer stage built around a nuclear reactor and multiple LV-909s. My lander concept also works, though I may lower the amount of fuel since most missions don't require that much to land (and landing is all it's good for, I can't use that fuel seperate from the transfer stage without a pump and that's just wasteful to store it that way).

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David, I'm really liking your playthrough and it's helping me a lot. I do have one suggestion.

Have you tried balancing your RCS around the CoM to avoid getting translation errors when you change attitude and attitude errors when you translate?

After having a real bad experience with my first Mun lander due to unbalanced RCS, I use the mod RCSBuildAid in the VAB as it shows numbers and balance cues to help realign the mass and RCS, as well as Centre-of-Dry-Mass as a red ball (like CoM yellow ball but with the lowest stage empty of propellants).

But even if you don't want to use a mod, you can do so roughly by eye. I usually start by putting the batteries on the bottom of a lander/probe between the engine and the tank to balance off the instruments and command pod on top and reduce the distance between CoM and CoDM. Then put 1 or 2 sets of 4 RCS in a balanced way around the vertical centre of the tank.

Edited by Jacke

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I used to balance my RCS thrusters but I don't really bother anymore unless something calls for it. The advantage of balancing them is that when a thruster is fired to turn your ship it will have the minimum possible effect on the ships lateral motion and the opposite is true, lateral RCS burns won't cause the ship to rotate much.

There are two reasons I've stopped. One is that on some ships it's just very difficult to fit everything in. While the game physics allow you to essentially block RCS thrusters with no negative effects (only thrust from engines is checked for obstructions) I try to give at least some space around most of the outputs. You can see on the lander that I'm getting short on space to mount things radially and its Dres/Eeloo successor, Donut 1 (which has flown to Dres and I'll report on sometime soon), has even less space to mount all the same items.

The other reason is that in terms of maneuvering I've gotten used to off center thrust. Much like with planes there are advantages to stable vs unstable designs. The stable design is easier control and keep in check but the unstable design can be more powerful. With unbalanced RCS it's easier to turn large, heavy ships without having to plan or place multiple groups of RCS thrusters (which also cuts down on weight). The disadvantage as I've talked about is that on interplanetary voyagers there are places in your orbit where even a tiny amount of thrust (0.01m/s) will change your course by a 100 km. The reaction wheel on the transit stage has solved these issues. Not only do I save on monopropellent but I can rotate into position for a small correction burn without creating additional unintended corrections.

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I used to balance my RCS thrusters but I don't really bother anymore unless something calls for it. The advantage of balancing them is that when a thruster is fired to turn your ship it will have the minimum possible effect on the ships lateral motion and the opposite is true, lateral RCS burns won't cause the ship to rotate much.

There are two reasons I've stopped. One is that on some ships it's just very difficult to fit everything in. While the game physics allow you to essentially block RCS thrusters with no negative effects (only thrust from engines is checked for obstructions) I try to give at least some space around most of the outputs. You can see on the lander that I'm getting short on space to mount things radially and its Dres/Eeloo successor, Donut 1 (which has flown to Dres and I'll report on sometime soon), has even less space to mount all the same items.

The other reason is that in terms of maneuvering I've gotten used to off center thrust. Much like with planes there are advantages to stable vs unstable designs. The stable design is easier control and keep in check but the unstable design can be more powerful. With unbalanced RCS it's easier to turn large, heavy ships without having to plan or place multiple groups of RCS thrusters (which also cuts down on weight). The disadvantage as I've talked about is that on interplanetary voyagers there are places in your orbit where even a tiny amount of thrust (0.01m/s) will change your course by a 100 km. The reaction wheel on the transit stage has solved these issues. Not only do I save on monopropellent but I can rotate into position for a small correction burn without creating additional unintended corrections.

I noticed the same thing about RCS not being affected by obstruction, as well as the problem putting all those bits on landers and probes. (Almost makes me want a more general editor so we could put some of them inside, as in real life, but that would be so complex.) As well, I do use unbalanced RCS, though in launch vehicles. In them, the upper/mission stage RCS provides the pitch and yaw, while RCS on the lower stages with wider diameter provides most of the roll, being the ones with the longest distance from the CoM. Similarly, I usually mount fins as low as possible on the 1st stage to maximize the lowering of the CoP from the CoM so when the launch vehicle gets up to speed (needing initial TWR at least 2) they have bight as well.

I really don't know a lot about KSP as I've just been learning it while playing BTSM. (Just learned I could solve my debris irritation problem by just "Terminating" pieces in the Tracking Station. :))

Edited by Jacke

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Donut 1

Donut 1 is a mission to Dres. On paper the ship was designed to be capable of reaching Eeloo too but I have some doubts and may have been too optimistic about the transfer delta-v. It will probably undergo an upgrade before any Donut 2 mission is launched to the farthest planet. Like my napkin calculations showed a Dres probe mission can be done on the 60t launcher, trading fuel for power generation and growing to 53 tons. The design takes several of the ideas tested and lessons learned from Carrot 1. The transit+lander+mapping nose configuration is used again to good effect. This means the lander doesn't need to take the power generation or storage systems required for transit and usage of the mapping sensor down to the surface. The lack of thrust in the transit stage has been handled by converting from a single Poodle to a cluster of LV909s producing 400 kN. This cluster is built around a nuclear reaction which takes over for the solar cells used previously. A drop tank is built into the lower stage of the ship, an upgrade could increase range by dividing the engine cluster into pairs that can be dropped asparagus style.

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I wasn't entirely sure how wise it was to have all those engines with the drop tank only a few feet away. To reduce risk the gimbals where all disabled, as long as the thrust travels in a perfectly straight line the tank shouldn't be subject to much if any heat. The burn is to a flat orbit below Dres, I'll be making a mid course correction to take me down to Dres's inclination and make contact. For visual flow (because of the tiny decoupler) I moved the reaction wheel up to just below the mapping scranner but I found it was a bit more sluggish then on Carrot and may move it back to its original position to give it more leverage.

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Arrival and capture at Dres is uneventful, there is plenty of fuel and once you get experienced with the initial Kerbin orbit burn into the empty space above/below Dres I find the rest of the trip is relatively easy to plan and execute. Like Moho the probe takes orbital readings including the use of the mapping sensor. Dres has the same 3x multiplier as all the planets I've visited.

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After orbital readings are done it's time to discard the mapping sensor. With all the fuel left the orbital stage is used to begin the descent and it's then dropped as a sounding stone so I'll have a better idea where the ground is.

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The lander is almost identical to the one used on Moho but with less fuel required so components are squeezed together more. Landing on the surface I find another 12x multiplier, making Dres identical to Moho from a scientific return perspective. I've almost got enough to unlock 2 more techs. I'm unlocking Composites so that I can perform some trials with the Science Jr which will provide important information about how much science I can gain from an interplanetary manned mission.

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Egg 1 / Zulu 2

Technically the main mission here is Egg 1 but it could only work with the support of Zulu 2 which also has the opportunity to pick up some science. After unlocking the Science Jr I want to see what it can do. From the description it only works on the surface of a body and will require a kerbal to operate. After that the module will need to be returned to Kerbin intact to receive science. Egg 1 will deliver a Science Jr to Minmus where it will be operated by a crew member from Zulu 2. After that it will return itself to Kerbin. The ship is designed to be able to complete a journey to the surface of the Mun as well (so I can do a follow up Egg 2 mission without a redesign) and even with that the weight is low compared to many previous missions. For this reason it easily fits on the old Quebec launcher and even then the booster is able to provide the entire injection to Minmus. Egg 1 uses a flower pedal solar panel arrangement that I haven't used in BTSM. The reason is that to get full power from the array it must be kept precisely aligned while the wing arrangement can track the sun across long distances. With the reduced power requirements of the probe core the output of 4 flower pedal panels is enough even when not at optimal alignment and more importantly the flower pedal arrangement can continue to provide near optimal power after landing, something that is difficult for the wing arrangement. Egg 1 enters orbit around Minmus and then goes into standby mode.

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Zulu 2 launches with a 2 man crew that includes greenest recruit, Johncan Kerman. He's flown only one mission as CM pilot and this time I want him to fly a lander. Zulu 2 enters Minmus orbit and as luck would have it the previous landing sites are on the night side which places the unexplored Greater Flats on the daytime side. With a landing site picked Egg 1 is signaled to descend. The LV909 is a little underpowered so the landing is a bit faster then planned. It deploys in the Greater Flats and awaits Johncan.

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Johncan heads down in the lander (it has not been upgraded to use newer battery technology, like a lot of things in manned spaceflight you use what you know works) and sets down about 70m from Egg 1. Before he makes the walk over there he needs to plant a flag and take a soil sample since this area was not explored by Zulu 1.

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Johncan takes a walk over to the probe to work on the Science Jr. While he makes his way over there I'm noticing that his pack is using up life support very fast - the lander carries 75 units of life support for 4 hours of operation and he has transfered 45 of that supply into the suit for his EVA (when he boards the lander again the suit will transfer the remainder back). The suit seems to be using it up at a rate of about 1 unit every 20 seconds which is 3/min. By the time he reaches the probe he's already used the equivalent of 20 minutes of lander life support. Right now this EVA looks like it will deplete nearly an hour from the landers reserves so I need to keep it moving.

Performing experiments in the lab produces a whole lot of science. Working from my baseline the Science Jr has a value of 400, more then double the next best experiment. This will go a long way to making my manned mission calculations work for getting tier 9 techs. After collecting the science Johncan returns to the lander and takes off. With the life support drained a bit more then expected by the EVA and any potential landing sites in the wrong direction I direct him back up to the mothership to dock.

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Since it hasn't been very long since leaving the CM it's possible to plot a shortcut that will allow the lander to catchup to the command module before it completes an orbit. The lander is able to dock just as they are coming back over the landing site.

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From here Egg 1 is commanded to launch into Minmus orbit. While Zulu 2 will be the first to return to Kerbin I don't want to leave the probe on the surface for hours where the sun will eventually set and the batteries may not be enough to last the night (the flower pedal design was in fact used to help augment the battery reserves while the probe was on the surface, it was assumed it would be draining some power at all times while landed). Egg 1 is placed into stable Minmus orbit with the solar panels setup to keep it charged before Zulu 2 then departs and returns to Kerbin with its crew and the Greater Flats rock samples. Due to the timing of the launch Egg 1 gets relatively close to the Zulu 2 and its discarded lander (which has not drifted very far away at this point).

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From here Egg 1 plots a course back to Kerbin. Near the atmosphere the payload seperates and I need to change focus - I don't need to return a probe core, I need to return the Science Jr so the probe core and the craft it is still attached to will get burned up in the atmosphere. The payload lands near some interesting lakes I've never really noticed before (they are almost invisible from orbit on the large continent).

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I've unlocked the tech for the one man long range pod and for the life sciences module. I think my next mission will combine a second egg run to the Mun with a use of the life sciences module on the Zulu portion to see what it does.

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Not sure why you need a separate probe lander for the Science Jr. Wouldn't a single manned lander be more efficient?

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With the need for a heatshield and other recovery elements, and the need for the lander to support docking - up to this mission my kerbals didn't have jetpacks so they needed to transfer from command module to lander through the docking port, and only a few parts support kerbals moving through them - meant that integrating the lander and the science jr would be a large engineering task. The Science Jr would need to be setup in such a way that the kerbal could still board and unboard without going on EVA, and yet could also somehow be seperated from the lander and brought back to Kerbin with a heatshield for reentry. I will likely do that eventually but it will be using the technology that I will have for interplanetary manned missions. I just didn't want to design a totally new, much more complex lander system (and risk live kerbals on it) for the sole purpose of testing out a new piece of science equipment. Since it was a trip in my backyard it was just easier to make the Science Jr a seperate payload that got itself to Minmus and back.

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You can't transfer samples into capsules? I thought you could do that.

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You can't transfer samples into capsules? I thought you could do that.

It does not appear to be the case in Better Then Starting Manned.

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I've read through the whole thread and it's really awesome. Makes me want to try the mod out myself at some point. Though right now I'm really enjoying a play through with Remote Tech 2 and it would make BTSM impossible I think.

I also wonder if it's compatible with FAR.

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I've read through the whole thread and it's really awesome. Makes me want to try the mod out myself at some point. Though right now I'm really enjoying a play through with Remote Tech 2 and it would make BTSM impossible I think.

I also wonder if it's compatible with FAR.

Common consensus in the BTSM thread is that adding RT2 would block most unmanned missions beyond LKO until you get solar panels, which is quite late in the tech tree.

There's also been discussion of FAR. FC has tried to see if he can make it work but it doesn't right now. Short version is FAR gives you initial problems (stock rocket designs' drag being so low they accelerate to such speeds DRC friction burns them up before they get too high) and then makes it much, much easier. FAR has problems in stock Kerbal sandbox and career too. Usual solutions are to use Real Scale Solarsytem and/or Kerbal ISP Balancer to fix this.

A total career mod like BTSM and a drag fix system like FAR both have to do a lot to work. Together it's hard to make them cooperate. KSP desperately needs a better drag system, especially for aircraft, but it's hard to get it right with a mod. Squad needs to step up to deal with this. No sign yet that they will soon.

Edited by Jacke

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Zulu 3 / Egg 2

This flight will be a return to the Mun using the kerbal's second generation manned spacecraft the Zulu series. This flight has two goals. The first is to test the new Biometric Sensor Array and to perform experiments with an Egg module that will land there. As I said in the last mission report I don't want to mess too much with the design of a manned spacecraft. To add the biometric sensor I removed the bottom 4 batteries from the lander (the side fuel tanks are 'attached' to the 5th so removing that one would start to disassemble the structure of the spacecraft) and replaced them with 2 more modern batteries and the sensor. This retains the same dimensions but slightly reduces the weight and power. The new battery configuration has just enough now to match the life support supply.

Egg 2 launches first. It is identical to Egg 1 and it flies out to Mun orbit which is starting to get a little crowded.

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Zulu 3 launches and operates the biometric sensors on the way to the Mun. The description said something about long term effects but it seems like readings can be taken right away. I'm not sure if they somehow change after a period of time but it seems like it operates like any other instrument. On my scale the sensor has a value of 100. It is not biome sensitive but it does appear to be usable in all areas including the atmosphere and orbit. While it doesn't equal the return of the Science Jr it's probably the second most powerful experiment I can use thanks to the versitility. I also was able to use the cut off 'transfer...' command to move readings from the sensor into the command pod for storage.

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With both ships in orbit of the Mun a landing site can be picked. Close to the night time teminator is an unexplored crater (it was just into night when I visited with Uniform 2). Since the days are longer on the Mun I figure I can land there and complete the operation before it gets dark. Egg 2 still has the booster but it isn't good for very much additional thrust (less then 20L of fuel). After that the small LV909 engine must be used which means I had to burn for quite a while to ensure a safe landing.

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Nedvan departs from Zulu 3 in the lander to meet up with the egg. On the surface he uses the biometric sensors before getting out and taking a soil sample from the Farside Crater.

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Egg 2 is not far away and Nedvan uses the new jetpacks to fly over. The experiments are done and he can return to the lander and take off for docking.

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It's not possible to line up a docking in a single orbit so Nedvan flies low to catch up on the second rotation. He passes low over some old landing spots.

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The rest of the mission is a repeat of the first egg mission. After docking the probe lifts off and enters orbit to ensure solar power. The manned spacecraft returns to Kerbin followed by the probe. Science is recovered from both pods.

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I've used the science to unlock the inflatable heatshield. This also leads to a 20,000 node for advanced aerospace but I don't see anything there that would interest me. I have 1627 science left so I should have enough very soon to unlock the node with life support containers which may lead to another end game tech. I still haven't unlocked the 360pt tech that provides the last antenna and I probably won't unlock the 1800pt aerospace tech that gives the aerospike engine. My next mission will probably be a cleanup to Minmus, taking the modified Zulu craft over there to collect biometric readings and another soil sample.

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I will be sending out a science wrap up mission to Minmus and during the last mission (Zulu 3 to the Mun) when I was quickly selecting my kerbonauts I realized I wasn't sure who was up to fly. So I've gone back and worked out what my current kerbonaut core has done so I can keep them all roughly equally experienced.

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Echo 3, first to survive a launch

Mike 3, carried up goo containers into high orbit but goo did not survive reentry

Sierra 1, 1 of 3 to test new Mk1-2 capsule in orbit, first to exit capsule in space

Uniform 2, first to orbit solo around the Mun making crew reports


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Juliet 1, first to reach the upper atmosphere

Sierra 1, 1 of 3 to test new Mk1-2 capsule in orbit

Uniform 1, survived launch abort

Uniform 2, pilot of first Mun lander, second to walk on the Mun

Zulu 3, orbited the Mun solo


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Lima 1, survived launch abort

Uniform 1, survived launch abort

Uniform 4, orbited Mun

Zulu 2, orbited Minmus

Zulu 3, landed on Mun, took biometric readings and reached a remote science lab


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Lima 2, first to orbit Kerbin

Mike 4, returned of goo sample from low orbit

Uniform 4, second Mun landing in new single seat lander can, first to carry out mulitiple landings (in canyon and then moving to crater)

Zulu 1, part of first group to orbit Minmus, first to land on Minmus (solo landing, multiple sites explored)


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Lima 3, first high orbit of Kerbin

Uniform 3, performed surface imaging and first manned polar orbit of Kerbin, tested air recycler

Uniform 5, landed on Mun (2 sites explored)


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Sierra 1, 1 of 3 to test new Mk1-2 capsule in orbit

Uniform 1, survived launch abort

Uniform 2, first to walk on Mun

Zulu 1, first to orbit solo around Minmus


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Uniform 5, orbited the Mun

Zulu 2, landed on Minmus, first to precisely land near another object, first to use a remote science lab


From the look of things Johncan, the newest recruit, could certainly use some additional flight experience. I'll definitely put him in a seat on the next Minmus flight. Jorster could also use some more experience so I guess he'll take the second seat. Nedvan has put in flight time but never been given a first. He may be a strong candidate for my first interplanetary mission.

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Zulu 4

This is a short cleanup mission to Minmus with Jorster and Johncan. It will be flying the same upgraded Zulu craft as Zulu 3 so that biometric readings can be taken (the main purpose of this mission). Since I also want to get a soil sample I'm going to aim for a polar landing this time. Previously my missions have all stayed around the equator where interception for docking is safe and straight forward. Inclining my orbit introduces risk over the lander not having enough time or delta-v to meet up with the command module. For a perfect polar orbit and landing the challenge becomes figuring out what direction to burn in (compass doesn't work so well at the north or south pole).

Getting into polar orbit isn't too hard, when making course corrections it's simply a matter of setting the PE to 0 and then burning up (normal) a bit until the PE comes back. A few more corrections inside Minmus SOI gets it right and then capture is done the same as any other orbit. Biometric readings are taken in orbit and a crew report is made over the poles region. My polar orbit is not quite exact, it drifts a bit toward the day side on the north pole and a bit to the night side on the south pole. That's just fine, I'll land at the north pole where I'll have more light. Jorster will take the lander down.

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Landing is the easy part. Jorster sets down and takes a soil sample (150 science) and then lets the Biometric Sensor Array record information about his health and condition (another 300 science, very useful instrument). This is probably the last time we'll be visiting Minmus.

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In order to rendezvous with the command module Jorster targets it and then waits until it is overhead. This provides some indication on the navball as to what direction the command module is moving relative to the lander. Jorster is able to get his heading figured out though it requires burning in a few directions to get the orbital path to line up where he wants it. Because the command module isn't in a perfect polar orbit it has moved a bit from the landing site. Jorster will need to make several burns in succession. The first burn will semi-circulize his orbit, then only a few seconds later as his orbit intersects the command modules he'll make a second burn to line them both up. A third burn comes later to setup an intercept.

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Once the first two burns are done the 3rd isn't as hard. It puts the 2 craft on an intercept course that will bring them together 3/4 of the way around Minmus and prevent the lander from crashing back into the surface.

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After docking it's a return to Kerbin. I had some concerns about fuel earlier in the mission due to the correction burns to enter polar orbit but the tank seems to have a good supply (481 / 1800). With the orbit more or less parallel to Kerbin there doesn't seem like any great need to burn at a specific time to exit Minmus SOI. The estimated time to leave is a bit high at 22 hours so I burned a bit more fuel to lower that to 8 hours. Once I'm out of Minmus SOI things return to normal with the ship in an orbit almost identical to Minmus but on a slightly different inclination. With only 2 crew members and a solar array there is plenty of life support so any overrun in time wouldn't be a fatal disaster. Reentry has become such a normal procedure (and I've got everything after seperation automated) that I leave the computer and take a break while the capsule enters the atmosphere for it's 5 minute return to the surface.

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With the science I can unlock the last (well 2nd last) 1800pt item, Advanced Field Science, which gives me the life support supply pods. Since everything is 20,000 from this point on (I'm not unlocking that other aerospace node) I might as well unlock Miniaturization since 360 points is loose change now.

Unless Heavy Aerodynamics leads to something (which I doubt it does based on spacing, Advanced Field Science was the only place I saw for another level 9 tech) I can see all the final techs now. I don't need to level 9 aerospace tech at all but the other 3 each have one crucial item that essentially solves a particular problem. The nuclear engine handles the delta-v issue, the RTG solves the power issue and the SOLONG habitat thing solves the life support issue. Of the three the RTG is definitely the first I need to unlock. I can't do a manned mission past Duna without it and it would help with probes too (I could make a manned mission with NUK NUK reactors, but the reactors alone would weigh over 50 tons making it unfeasable). The choice for a second tech is a bit harder. The habitat is certainly a juicy target for making an Eeloo mission possible, but getting a manned mission to Eeloo without the LV-N seems like it would push the weight up pretty high. Without doing a more detailed numerical analysis I can't be sure but I think it might be easier (mass wise) to use an LV-N to get to Eeloo carrying lots of life support consumables then it would be to get a SOLONG habitat to Eeloo with LV909s. Because of that I might put the nuclear engine as my second goal.

I still need to send a probe to Eeloo and then explore Jool's moons. I don't know how much science they will be worth but based on the other planets I should at least be able to get something in the range of 13,000 science, probably more. Since I have the numbers I've also calculated the return for manned missions to the planets I know of (these including bringing back Goo containers and Science Jr).

Moho

+10440 science

+Short travel time (4-5 months for mission) limits life support requirements

+Close to sun, current Zulu solar panel size will work

+Straight forward landing and operations

-Huge delta-v requirement

-Capture cost can vary considerably depending on exact transfer angle and intercept point

Eve (orbit only) & Gilly

+4140 science

+Short travel time

+Close to sun, current Zulu solar panel size will work

+Very simple landing requirements

-Slightly more complex capture/transfer requirements that could pose issues for a 2 craft mission (manned craft+support craft)

-Smallest science return

Duna & Ike

+12600 science

+Medium travel time

+Largest science return

+Reasonable delta-v requirements

-Requires double the solar array or an RTG

-Complex 2 body mission with many items to return safely

-Thin atmosphere makes Duna landings always carry a stronger risk then other bodies

Dres

+10440 science

+Straight forward transfer and capture

+Straight forward landing and operations

-Longest mission time

-Requires RTG

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On the topic of the tech 8 Aerospace node, I agree it's a bit weak, but all the value lies in the Aerospike at present. The reason for this is because with the thrust limiter changes in BTSM, if you're ever planning on returning anything from Eve for example, it's basically the only way to do it given it's the only engine capable of producing significant thrust in an atmosphere that thick. I find it also comes in extremely handy as an engine for the first few stages of manned interplanetary vessels given its thrust to weight ratio in vacuum can't be beat.

So yes, while I agree the node could use a value bump, don't discount it entirely just yet ;)

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