Pthigrivi

Can we talk about Life Support?

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I know this is on the no-no list, but since the devs are chatting about reviving it maybe we could offer ideas on how to implement it? If no mods feel free to lock.

I think at present the devs are right to consider how life support becomes something fun, easy enough to understand, and scalable for new to veteran players, and not just an extra thing to accidentally go wrong. This especially becomes a concern when people have many multiple flights in progress, and warping one may exhaust resources on another. Worst case would be sending a probe out to Dres or Jool, and accidentally killing all your kerbals in SOI. To some degree this could be helped by an alarm clock, but even this would have to be somewhat sophisticated to be useful in order to let you know life support was running down in time for you to do anything about it. Even under decent conditions, you could end up in a very tedious place if for instance you had a crewed station around Kerbin and a flight en-route out Jool, and had to constantly break warp on your Jool ship to go back and resupply at your station. Sorting out these issues and balancing everything is no trivial task.

My thinking is if it is going to work, it has to be both simple enough not to be tedious, and complex enough to still be challenging and fun. I also think it might be a good idea for the consequences of failure not to be quite so dire as to cause major rage if things go wrong.

Updated 1/7/2016:

So as this has become the default life support thread I'd like to open this beyond my personal musings on the topic to whomever might have fresh thoughts on how it could be included. We've discussed the topic on in this thread and others at length, the various pros and cons of TAC, USI-LS, Snacks, and what type of scheme might make sense make stock. To summarize our consensus as best I can, any stock life support system ought to:

1) Be a single, simple, LS resource that can be understood at a glance.

2) Be toggleble in the difficulty settings, and offer a less serious consequence for failure like going on strike or hibernating as well permadeath.

3) Offer a 3 to 30 day grace period, either in the form of 'hunger' as in USI-LS, or as a small standard stock for each pod to cover most Kerbin SOI missions.

4) Include a prerequisite mission pre-planner with mission time estimator and alarm clock functions so players could plan ahead and stay informed of each mission's LS status.

The exact mechanics of extending and/or regenerating LS are more flexible, but the goal generally ought to be to make a system that is as simple as it can be while still asking players to consider trade-offs in terms of cost, weight, and logistics. Such a system could potentially add an important new layer to the game in which players need to think carefully about time as a cost, as well as adding the tension and urgency of surviving in a harsh environment.

 

What follows are my own ideas on how such a system could be executed:

Let's say we stuck to a single main resource:

Life Support - Measured in "days" and slowly slides from green to red based on the number of kerbals on board. Different crew capsules could have different stocks, but let's assume each starts with 3 days worth for each available seat. There are however a few ways to extend this:

 

1) Life Support Tanks - Generally these are sized so that each kerbal consumes 4kg per day by default. Visually they could be designed to look like they hold air, water, and snacks. Tanks don't empty, they slide from green to red as they become waste. Life support/waste can be pumped from one tank to another, at which point players could easily jettison waste tanks if they desired.

 

Small Life Support Tank - (.625m inline and spherical RCS size radial)

- 0.125t

- 160f

- Supports 1 kerbal for 24 additional days (necessary for Minmus, but not Mun missions)

 

Medium Life Support Tank - (1.25m inline and large RCS size radial)

- 1.5t

- 2400f

- Supports 1 kerbal for 360d, or 3 kerbals for 120d etc.

 

Large Life Support Tank - (2.5m Inline)

- 7.4t

- 12000f

- Supports 1 kerbal for 1800d, or 3 kerbals for 600d, or 6 kerbals for 300d etc.

 

2) Scrubbers - These basically increase life support efficiency at the cost of weight and power. They will probably be essential for interplanetary missions. Because their reductions are across the board, the more kerbals using one the more cost effective it is. However, adding additional like scrubbers will not reduce consumption past the first.

 

Waste-o-matic Jr. - (1.25m low-profile inline)

- 0.6t

- 1200f

- Draws 0.5e/s

- Kerbals on-board consume life support at 50% their normal rate (worth it for 1 Kerbal after 150d, and 3 kerbals after 50d)

 

Waste-o-matic Sr. - (1.25m materials bay size unit)

- 1.2t

- 3200f

- Draws 2e/s

- Kerbals on-board consume life support at 25% their normal rate (worth it for 1 Kerbal after 300d, 3 Kerbals after 100d, and 6 Kerbals after 50d)

 

3) Greenhouses - Greenhouses use energy to convert waste into usable life support. When facing sunlight they provide some of their own power and are balanced based on average daily life support output, meaning these numbers would hold at Kerbin but more power would be needed farther from Kerbol. Greenhouses can be set to continual production, stand-down mode, or daylight auto-switching, but if left without power they become defunct and will no longer produce life support.

 

Hydroponics Bay - (2.5m science lab size cylinder, rotates to face Kerbol)

- 3t

- 6000f

- Draws 2e/s when not operating, and 6e/s when producing

- Replenishes life support equal to 3 kerbal’s consumption every 6 hours while in operation (worth it for 3 kerbals after 300d in Kerbol or polar orbit, and 600d when not)

 

Large Greenhouse - (3.75m dome)

- 4.5t

- 9000f

- Draws 3e/s when not operating, and 9e/s when producing

- Replenishes life support equal to 6 kerbals’ consumption. (Worth it for 6 kerbals after 275d Kerbol or polar orbit, and 550 when not)

 

All of these factors should be calculated by the game, giving a single "Remaining Life Support" number in days both in the VAB and in the vessel resources bar in flight. This way you could play around in the VAB swapping out different parts and watch the days remaining rise and fall and aid your decision making. I think until you get to greenhouses things are intuitive enough for a new player to navigate them, while still offering some fun challenges to veterans who want to optimize off-world farming.

 

4) ISRU - There are a few different ways to handle this. I initially leaned toward greenhouses being indefinitely self-sufficient, so if a player set up a base or station with adequate greenhouses they could consider them safe and move on to other missions without worrying about resupply. Another simple option might to use something akin to USI-LS’s fertilizer, an intermediate resource consumed by greenhouses in order to operate. If this were the case I would advocate for this resource to be replenishable by converting ore or another harvestable resource directly into fertilizer via a large resource converter so there would be some simple method of living off the land.

 

What also might be nice in the difficulty settings would be a softer consequence to failure than mass kerbal death. Kerbals who run out of life support could go into "hibernation" or “on strike” and wouldn't be able to steer or EVA until the vessel is resupplied. They might also lose some or all of their accumulated experience. Death could still be the consequence for harder difficulty settings.

 

Any LS system to my mind really requires some way for players pre-plan and manage missions in flight. I actually think this could be rather simple, and really ought to be a component of the game with LS or without. All we really need is an Alarm Clock function in the Tracking Station into which maneuvers, transfers, intercepts and LS exhaustion dates would be listed, and a Mission Planner added to Mission control where a player might select "Starting Body" and "Target Body" and be supplied with:

 

Time until next Transfer window: x [Set Alarm]

Delta V to Orbit (100km): x

Delta V to Transfer: x

Time until Intercept: x [Set Alarm]

Delta V to Capture (100km): x

Delta V to Surface: x

 

And repeat the process for the return journey. This could be staged into building upgrades or even expanded by completing gravoli scans of a given body. Then all a player would need to do is compare the dates from the Alarm clock with the life support rating in the VAB (with some padding) to know that they were properly equipped.  

 

Though this is wouldn't be strictly necessary for Life support, I thought a really simple, forgiving way of abstracting habitation for kerbals might be to include a secondary resource called “Happiness”.

 

Happiness - Kerbals leave the launch-pad with 100% happiness and remain so for 25 days. After that, a lone kerbal will deplete at 1% per day, meaning they will reach zero and become “unhappy” in 100 days. For each additional kerbal on board, Happiness depletes at half the rate, meaning 2 kerbals will be happy for 200 days, 3 kerbals will be happy for 400 days, 4 kerbals 800 days etc. At the time of reaching a goal Experience pays out based on how happy they are at the time it was gathered. The whole experience system needs some major work, and obviously if this was part of it everything would have to be balanced around it to make interplanetary missions more rewarding.

 

Aside from bringing extra kerbals, Happiness can be extended with the following modules (Percentages stack with multi-kerbal bonuses, but not with other module bonuses)

 

Small Living Quarters - 2.5m cylinder

- 2t

- 4200F

- draws 1e/s

- Reduces happiness depletion for up to 3 kerbals by 75%

 

Large Living Quarters: 3.75m cylinder

- 5t

- 6800F

- draws 3 e/s

- Reduces happiness depletion for up to 6 kerbals by 75%

 

Inflatable Habitation Module - 2.5m inline toroid that inflates to approx 5m.

- 7t

- 11000F

- draws 5e/s (while deployed)

- Reduces happiness depletion for up to 12 kerbals by 75%

 

Training Module - (inline Dodecahedron approx 3.75m)

- 5.5t

- 9500F

- draws 2 e/s while dormant and 12 e/s while operating

- Replenishes kerbals' Happiness up to 90% and allows level-up without returning to Kerbin

 

So 3 kerbals with a small living quarters will arrive at Duna at 75% Happiness, and 6 Kerbals with 2 small or one large quarters will arrive at 97%. You could of course just bring a training module, but it would come at a steep cost. I guess this is a lot of modelling to request, but with about 12 new parts I think there's the bones of a real-feeling colonization platform.

Even with a pretty simplified system like this there's a lot going on, and in practice I imagine keeping track of how much life support each vessel has left would still be a challenge. A big part of this would be showing the user when the vessel will deplete both in the tracking station and in map mode, so you can see early on a warning marker along its flight path where life support will exhaust. Also vehicles in the flight list would have a life-support bar showing how much remains and a red date of when it will exhaust.

 

Update 3/28/2016:

 

Here is my best estimate at one-way and round-trip durations for bodies in the Kerbol system, pretty valuable information for anyone thinking about scale/balance in regards to LS balance and scaling:

 

Mun - One way: 1.25d, Round Trip: 2.5d

Minmus - One way: 9.25d, Round Trip:18.5d

Asteroid Missions - Round Trip, 25d - 215d

Moho - One way: 110d, Round trip: 310d

Eve - One way: 165d, Round trip: 890d

Duna - One way: 300d, Round trip: 1170d

Dres - One way: 555d, Round trip: 1290d

Jool - One way: 1050d, Round trip: 2530d

Eeloo - One way: 1560d, Round trip: 3320d


Anyhoo this is my best crack at it. Love to hear others' ideas.

Edited by Pthigrivi
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The most forgiving approach would be to have life support consumables used in a similar way to electricity for probes. If you launch a probe with batteries but no solar panels (or forget to deploy them), it will use up it's supply of electric charge until it eventually "dies". However, this only happens if the probe is focused. If life support worked the same way, it would only be possible to kill the crew of a ship while focused.

This would be the simplest approach. Probes have a resource that they need to stay alive, so Kerbals could have their own resource(s) to stay alive in the same manner. This negates any need for alarm clocks and reduces the likelihood of new players being hit with nasty surprises! :confused:

It would be a simple enough matter for Kerbals on EVA to have a life support resource, they already have EVA fuel as a resource. This should be quite forgiving, lasting quite a long time, and easily replenished by returning to a ship in the same way as EVA fuel.

It would probably be a good idea to allow kerbals to draw life support from a vehicle while in a command chair. This would represent the kerbal connecting a suit umbilical to the vehicle to use whatever life support capability it has. This would ensure that command chair equipped vehicles, such as open rovers, can be used without unduly punishing the player for not using an enclosed capsule.

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One thing that irks me somewhat about the current capsules and cockpits in KSP is that none of them are designed for the long duration missions we in fact use them for. If you want to simulate an Apollo or Gemini mission, then there's nothing unrealistic in cramming a few kerbals onto a command module for a couple of weeks. However, it's clear that for interplanetary missions, as well as space stations and bases, that proper living quarters are required. I simulate these with the Hitchhiker Can and it's spaceplane equivalents, even though the Hitchhiker doesn't really seem to be outfitted for this purpose. There should be a small compartment taking up a corner of the Hitchhiker with a closed door marked bathroom.

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I think for stock an simple system with 2 resources (Life Support and Waste?) would be enough.

-Consume at constant rate for each kerbal

-Unfocused consumption is very important

-Very heavy part for recycling

-Enough storage in pods to visit minmus, but for interplanetary extra containers needed.

-Lander cans have less storage.

-Also make the pods consume some electricity. (they even have lights inside them...)

-Warnings when resources in some craft are near running out.

-Difficulty setting needed.

Edited by Joonatan1998
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Early space flights provided the crew with a finite supply of breathing oxygen and drinking water. In the case of Apollo and STS, waste water from the hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells was also used. Urine was dumped overboard, to create the famous "Constellation Urion" of frozen ice crystals outside the ship. This approach would be completely realistic in early Career Mode.

Present day closed loop life support systems are able to recycle most, but not all, of the oxygen and water used by the crew. In practice, water used for washing doesn't need to be of the same quality as drinking water, so this makes recycling a little more forgiving. Another trick that can be used is to supply some of the rations as fully hydrated whole food instead of dehydrated food. These weigh more than dehydrated rations, but obviously don't have to be rehydrated before consumption, this reduces the amount of drinking water needed by the crew and is beneficial to crew morale on long duration missions. Much of the water content of the hydrated food is then recovered through recycling, which helps to make up for losses in the system.

Advanced life support systems have been proposed that use plants to recycle 100% of the oxygen, water, and food. The "recycling" of food has so far been shown to be problematic, due to the biohazards inherent in using human waste as fertiliser while simultaneously trying to harvest edible food from the same plants! :confused:

Growing food requires either greenhouse agriculture, or artificial sunlight. Greenhouse agriculture is a lot easier if conducted on a planet with an atmosphere. Even a thin atmosphere can protect plants from solar flares. A greenhouse on an unprotected moon or asteroid would require very thick walls to protect the plants within, which in turn imposes a heavy mass penalty on the mission. A lunar greenhouse has the added disadvantage of lacking a 24-hour day/night cycle to keep the plants alive. Generating enough artificial sunlight to grow enough plants to feed the crew indefinitely requires enormous amounts of electrical power, which has to come from somewhere.

Simulating life support in KSP would also need to be tied in with ISRU. Providing enough water and oxygen for the crew is a lot easier if you can obtain water and oxygen locally instead of lifting all of the supplies you need from Kerbin.

One approach that might be interesting would be to give different capsules different life support efficiency and consumables capacity. It might therefore be more efficient to bring a heavy crew hab which has excellent life support efficiency on a long duration mission, because it saves consumables in the long run. Conversely, a lightweight lander on a short duration mission might benefit from an inefficient life support system that offers a lower dry mass. Consider the difficulty current players have in deciding whether to emphasise TWR or ISP when choosing which engine to use for a particular mission. A long duration hab might have LV-N performance for life support efficiency, but would weigh far too much to make it a viable choice for short duration missions that require low parasitic mass.

The other question would be whether interplanetary missions should bring all of their life support consumables from Kerbin, or replenish their supplies via ISRU. I personally think that the issue of growing food should be dealt with in a future expansion of KSP that deals with base building and colonisation, both of which are far beyond the scope of KSP's 1.0 release, but are both fair game for future updates post 1.0.

In conclusion, KSP should be simulating open loop and close loop life support, with varying cost, tech tree requirements, and mass penalties. Players should be offered the engineering dilemma of whether to bring lots of supplies from Kerbin, try to use supplies efficiently, or resupply in deep space via ISRU. A mission to a distant interplanetary destination would need to either bring enough supplies, or produce enough supplies offworld to keep the crew alive long enough to get them home. Failure to do either could doom the crew.

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Great post man. Definitely agree on having to carefully manage those weight/efficiency tradeoffs. I also totally agree this almost certainly 1.1 or 1.2 kind of stuff, but I think it would be smart for them to start considering it now as resources get implemented so they can be easily dovetailed together later. Given all of RoverDude's great work the ship may have sailed, but if they did use ice or water as a resource it could be refined into clean water and O2, and there could be some cool opportunities to juggle resources back and forth.

We'll also probably need a big nuclear reactor.

Edited by Pthigrivi

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We'll also probably need a big nuclear reactor.

What we need is a small nuclear reactor that can be used to power bases. Reactors of this kind have been proposed that weigh roughly three to four tons. The need for nuclear power in KSP hasn't become apparent yet, since we don't have anything in the game that creates the kind of power demands that it would be needed for. ISRU should change this, as most ISRU methods require the running of chemical reactors to manufacture rocket fuel and life support consumables.

It's worth bearing in mind that solar power isn't going to be much use in Kerbol's outer solar system. This is something to bear in mind when planning an ISRU base in the vicinity of GP2! :confused:

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For me, if life support is to be meaningful, it needs to have consequences. Specifically, death, rather than how the snacks mod uses reputational damage.

However, if it's to be introduced with consequences, the game needs to support mission planning in a far clearer way. It's not immediately obvious to the end user how long a voyage to Duna will take, nor how long they'll need to wait for a return window to open up, nor how long it'll take to get back. Consequently, it's difficult to know how much life support one will need.

Of course, you could make the same argument about the game's current handling of delta-v and fuel. Given that SQUAD advocates players existing in an information vacuum and grinding out success by experimentation, it doesn't bode well for a meaningful life support system with planning available to the end-user.

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It doesn't make any sense to not have a life support resource in the game. It's about as silly as waiting for 1.0 to implement an untested aerodynamics system and re-entry heat. *jokes / maybe*

...but seriously, life support is not only a fundamental piece of space exploration, it's a great time-based mechanic for gameplay. As said previously, for this to really be feasible, Squad needs to give the player more information; more ways to plan their missions.

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You can alter the cfg in snacks and it kills them instead of just dinging rep, BTW.

I think a single resource system (with a power requirement added) is what KSP needs. All more complex systems can in fact be reduced to a single consumable with no meaningful change in fidelity, IMO. MOre complex systems just make the interface busy. The bottom line is that different spacecraft will have different hardware capabilities for LS. The important thing is what % is recycled, which lets you know how much you need to bring with you to make up for those losses. What % of the added mass is food/water/consumable elements of recyclers, etc does't matter, just the total mass needed to bring for a trip of duration X.

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I'm a big advocate of the snacks idea. It's the perfect abstraction for life support, and is just silly enough that it fits perfectly within the KSP universe. I imagine that it would scale with difficulty very well. For example, I you may have four levels of difficulty:

1) Snacks don't do anything. You can bring them along for immersion, but your kerbals will happily go along without them.

2) Running out of snacks results in a small reputation loss. Your kerbals will grumble about food in their crew reports, and generally will not look as happy.

3) Running out of snacks will result in a mid-sized reputation loss. Kerbals that are hungry revert to their 0-star experience level, so engineers lose the ability to fix things, and pilots can't hold the ship to an attitude. This is because they are so darn hungry they just can't think straight.

4) Running out of snacks results in a severe reputation loss. Hungry kerbals revert to zero-experience levels for a certain amount of time, after which they die if they do not receive snacks.

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Death needs to be explicit on your last step as the primary penalty. Run out, die.

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The problem with life support, is that it adds greater penalties for failure, without doing much for succeeding.

What advantage is there, to sending a kerballed mission somewhere, as opposed to a robotic mission ?

The crewed mission requires the life support modules, adding to the launch weight, and launch cost. Early missions, much of this additional launch weight and cost will not be recoverable, due to limitations on the capabilities of parachutes - radial parachutes aren't a starting part.

Crewed mission, has EVA reports*, crew reports, surface samples*. So they offer a little bit more science. But science isn't really in short supply. *once you upgrade the appropriate facilities.

A robot mission reduces the amount of science you can get, but, is much lighter and cheaper.

So what real benefit, other than the self-imposed challenge of doing it, is there to sending a crewed mission ?

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If the goal is basic "science," as in real life, there is no benefit whatsoever to sending people/kerbals instead of probes. The only "science" gained by sending people is the science of keeping people alive in space environments.

As you say, science is not in short supply anyway, people willing to game the system can easily get science without ever going past the Mun (or possibly even Kerbin itself, though I personally never take any Kerbin science mission that doesn't require orbit).

Look at the issue from the other side, though. Without life support, kerbals might as well be probes/robots. It's easy to send a Duna mission with a mk1 pod as the craft, for example. I've never done that, since I think that being gone that long requires multiple crew, and even before I added a LS mod, I added multiple Hitchhikers, a science lab, etc to any Duna-bound craft because it seemed absurd not to. Seriously, if you can send a kerbal to the far ends of the system in a 1.25m diameter pod for X years, you are treating them as probes, not beings.

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If the goal is basic "science," as in real life, there is no benefit whatsoever to sending people/kerbals instead of probes. The only "science" gained by sending people is the science of keeping people alive in space environments.

There are reasons why sending people can be beneficial. Interplanetary communications are slow and have high delays. If you have people on site, you can collect and analyze more data in the same amount of time, and react faster if something interesting turns out. If the data is transmitted back home for analysis, the interesting stuff may not even be there (because of limited bandwidth), and the decision to observe it may come too late (due to high delay), if the phenomenon was temporary or the craft is no longer in position to observe it.

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There are always special cases, but the reality is that probes are far more cost effective than people. This is really not debatable. Manned missions, particularly to distant worlds, require vastly more mass than probes to do the same job. Sure, there are isolated places where a scientist might notice something on-site that he'd not notice remotely, but the fact that you could send many, many probes for the cost of a single manned mission puts the balance in favor of robots.

The reason for manned flight is not science, it's broader than that. I'm all for manned flight, BTW, just because it is valuable for humanity to strive for such things, and the existence of these programs uplifts us all, IMO. Science is not the reason though.

Even in the Kerbol system, which is tiny, if you bother with life support (as you'd have to to make any argument about probes vs manned flight), this is true. It would be particularly true if the game has soil analysis parts (transmitting science) and the capability for a probe part to take surface samples for return.

Edited by tater

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There also has to be some thought put in, as to the endurance of craft, and how it interacts with the possibility of rescue missions.

Example:The Mun is what? A day or so away ? Minmus is a week away, i think ?

Minmus mission A, requires 2+ weeks of supplies. Something goes wrong on the landing (ship falls over).

Rescue mission B, is going to take a week to get there, at a minimum. By which time, the mission A crew will have consumed 2 weeks of supplies.

If mission B cannot land nearby A, then the limitations of the EVA suit endurance become relevant, for the crew of A to march across Minmus to B's landing site.

So the question is how wide and forgiving the endurance of the craft and the EVA suits should be.

On one end of the scale is, the smallest single error means everyone dies, no chance of rescue mission arriving in time, just like things in RL are.

On the other end is where we are at the moment, where as long as the crew didn't die when their lander fell over, the player has infinite time to rescue them.

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There are always special cases, but the reality is that probes are far more cost effective than people. This is really not debatable. Manned missions, particularly to distant worlds, require vastly more mass than probes to do the same job. Sure, there are isolated places where a scientist might notice something on-site that he'd not notice remotely, but the fact that you could send many, many probes for the cost of a single manned mission puts the balance in favor of robots.

Probes are cheaper than manned flights, but nobody knows whether they are more cost-effective. We haven't sent enough probes and manned flights around the solar system to determine that, and we don't even know what's out there to find.

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^Haha I do the same with the hitchikers. I agree there should be a living module, kind of what I was going for with the training module.

So how many parts is this...

Small Scrubbers - (.625m inline and spherical rcs size radial)

- 0.2t

- 800F

- draws 1e/sec

- supports 1 Kerbal

Large Scrubber - (1.25m inline)

- 0.5t

- 2400F

- draws 2.75 e/sec

- Supports 3 Kerbals

Snack Pack - (1.25m in-line and cylindrical rcs size radial)

- .6t

- 900F

- Supports 1 Kerbal for 60 days

Large Snack Pack - (2.5m inline)

- 2.25t

- 3500F

- Supports 1 Kerbal for 240 days

^Snack Packs do not lose mass. Their state is shown as a bar which slides from green (snacks) to red (waste).

Greenhouse - (2.5m cylindrical and 3.75m dome)

- 4t

- 6000F

- draws 3 e/sec when in sunlight and 6e/sec when not to operate

- Converts waste to snacks at a rate of .006t/day (6 Kerbals' worth of consumption)

^Break-even by weight vs crating snack packs would happen on journeys with 6 kerbals longer than 60 days, or 3 Kerbals longer than 120 days, etc. Because of the sunlight issue, planetary greenhouses and those in equatorial orbits will operate less efficiently, and will require generators and battery backups to run at full capacity.

Training Module - (inline Dodecahedron approx 3.75m)

- 5t

- 7000F

- draws 2 e/sec

- Replenishes Kerbals Happiness and Allows level-up without returning to Kerbin

Really like this idea as a base to start from and refine. :)

The "greenhouse" could also have a 2nd and 3rd form (same size, different texture/use) of "cryo pods" which draw a lot of power, but allow "infinite suspension" storage of kerbals (3-6 as balance requires). Then the third option would be a large "resource pod" for long distance missions or refuelling, something like "supports 3 kerbals for 3 years", again for Jool like missions (but as said for balance this would need multiple support ships, such as another supply at jool for return supplies sent first unmanned).

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Whatever system is used it should be possible to re-supply and store a large amount of life support. Regenerative systems would be good later in the tech tree, as well as creation from resources. Life support systems should consume the most electricity a space vehicle uses.

The big question is how much life support by weight would a Kerbal consume per day? Humans consume around 6-10kg per day. Should a ton of LS support a Kerbal for 100 days (without regen tech)?

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I'm a big advocate of the snacks idea. It's the perfect abstraction for life support, and is just silly enough that it fits perfectly within the KSP universe. I imagine that it would scale with difficulty very well. For example, I you may have four levels of difficulty:

1) Snacks don't do anything. You can bring them along for immersion, but your kerbals will happily go along without them.

2) Running out of snacks results in a small reputation loss. Your kerbals will grumble about food in their crew reports, and generally will not look as happy.

3) Running out of snacks will result in a mid-sized reputation loss. Kerbals that are hungry revert to their 0-star experience level, so engineers lose the ability to fix things, and pilots can't hold the ship to an attitude. This is because they are so darn hungry they just can't think straight.

4) Running out of snacks results in a severe reputation loss. Hungry kerbals revert to zero-experience levels for a certain amount of time, after which they die if they do not receive snacks.

I love this idea. It needs to be fully possible, and easy, to opt out of Life Support. This gives a perfect way for that

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Probes are cheaper than manned flights, but nobody knows whether they are more cost-effective. We haven't sent enough probes and manned flights around the solar system to determine that, and we don't even know what's out there to find.

How many MArs manned missions will be sent any time soon? None, because they are prohibitive. This was well hashed over during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, and the science people almost universally agreed that manned flight was not about science, it was entirely political, and even military.

KSP is the 1950s and 60s. Manned science might start reaping returns at the point of more continuous habitation, maybe. That's sort of end-game KSP at best, or even beyond scope. You can find modern defense of manned science, but they make huge errors, like comparing 300+ kg of moon rocks to under a kilo returned by probes… forgetting that without the manned missions, they'd have just made probes collect more (why bother when NASA has hundreds of kgs?).

Manned spaceflight is not about science, sorry (ISS has contributed about nothing to basic science, for example). Look at what manned flight has done, and remove anything related to human habitation of space (bone loss, studies, etc). Of whatever is left, what requires a human, right there, to do? Almost nothing if there is actually anything that requires a person at all. Every once in a while there is something like the Hubble repair, but the cost of the HST was ~2.5 million including launch… and it used Shuttle, which was ~1.6 million per launch alone. The repair was a launch, so if they could have launched a new HST for under ~700 million launch cost, it would have been cheaper just to replace it. The telescope was around a billion, and the 5 servicing missions cost ~1.6 billion each. Total space only costs were then nearly 10 billion. Even with identical launch costs, it would have been cheaper to launch 3 HSTs than 1 with 5 service missions.

I'm all for manned space, JUST BECAUSE, I have no illusions that it results in more/better planetary science, however.

Edited by tater

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