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The Elcano Chronicles


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Greetings to all Kerbalites!

Having decided to undertake the Elcano Challenge, it's necessary to chronicle the success (or, more likely, failure) of your attempts. So here goes.......


Elcano Challenge - Pol   [Complete]

My first rover design consisted primarily of the brown rover wheels, an inline cockpit, solar panels, and a whole pile of struts and girders to hold the thing together. Unfortunately, for me, Pol's "gravity" is so low that I got almost no traction from the wheels, and maxed out at a top speed of around 7 m/s. It would be a supa-long challenge if I stuck with that design. My second design relied on landing gear and an ion engine for propulsion. Unfortunately, I was again beaten by Pol's low gravity, spending more time in flight and near-orbit than I did on the ground. But I got better speed out of that one, so I decided to stick with it.

My third attempt was similar to the second, except I had two ion engines (front and rear) set vertically to provide some much needed down-force. This is the story of that rover...




My fourth attempt at the Pol Elcano Challenge went very differently. Probably because Valentina Kerman was in charge. After initially beginning a polar circumnavigation attempt, the presence of invisible walls that insta-murdered my rover persuaded me to change, mid-attempt, to a horizontal circumnavigation. Apart from a few completely random and unexplained cockpit explosions (thank goodness for F9) the horizontal circumnavigation went relatively smoothly, with an exhausted Valentina completing the 80-day drive around Pol. Herewith follows the imgur containing all the not-so-juicy details:

If you're interested in completing the Pol challenge, here is A Bunch of Stuff I Learned Driving Around Pol to help you. In no particular order. YMMV.

  • Do not save while moving. Loading up a moving vehicle generally gives you a Rapid Unplanned Disassembly.
  • Keep your speed between 10-15 m/s on average. Exceeding 20m/s is asking for a RUD, while below 10m/s is really, REALLY slow to get anyplace.
  • Thou shalt not timewarp your rovers on pain of RUD. Also, they start to drift around like they're aquaplaning if you use timewarp.
  • More time is lost from redoing stuff after an accident than was saved by going faster. Take it slow.
  • Save OFTEN. Also, don't rely completely on quicksaves. That's what primarily blew my third attempt. Go back to the Space Centre and create a proper save trail.
  • Ions are great for propulsion on low-g planets/moons, but you'll need OODLES of electricity to make them go. When you're as far out as Pol, you're not going to get much from solar panels. If you're using mods, you might have a neato little nuclear reactor. If not, learn to love the fuel cell.
  • Just because you're using fuel cells, doesn't mean you should skimp on the solar panels. They provide additional juice and, if you break your array or run out of fuel, without solar power your attempt is over.
  • I found the optimal balance between fuel and xenon to be about 2 cans to 1 (of equal sized 1.25m tanks). You'll go through fuel way faster than xenon, and waiting for the solar panels to recharge your batteries is a PITA. For my circumnavigation, I used a total of 150 fuel, 180 lox and 7,700 xenon. That should give you a starting point.
  • Down-thrust. Use it. Also batteries. Use 'em too.
  • Don't drive at night. Even if you have lights. Waiting for daytime is as easy as hitting a button, so don't let yourself become RUD-bait.
  • You WILL be jumping, because Pol's "gravity" is way too low to avoid it. Learn to plan your landing angle to be as near as possible to the landing site to avoid RUD-inducing cartwheel landings. Nobody likes cartwheel landings.
  • Use SAS. I figured my cockpit would provide enough torque, and I was wrong. I completed the challenge, but lost progress on several occasions when I simply couldn't correct an angle in time.
  • Allow the terrain to dictate your path. Fighting the terrain is a losing battle in KSP.
  • I used landing gear as wheels, and you probably should too. Normal wheels don't get enough traction in Pol's low-g environment to be useful. Also, they break on jumps a whole bunch more.
  • Once you're up to speed, you should kill your engines to avoid going too fast. On average, except when hill-climbing, you can probably spend most of your time coasting. It also saves on fuel! :D

All in all, I really enjoyed the Pol challenge and am looking forward to completing others!


Elcano Challenge - Ike   [Complete]


My attempt at the Ike Elcano Challenge went off very smoothly.  Ike's gravity is nearly three times that of Pol, so using ordinary wheels for mobility is now feasible. I put together a basic Rover consisting of a cockpit, metal structural supports and wheels (and a few batteries and RTG's) and went to town with it. Once again, I put Valentina Kerman in charge, so the project went smooth as butter - No invisible walls, no unexplainable RUD's, nothing. Ten days of driving, and Valentina Kerman has completed her second circumnavigation. As always, Imgur follows:

If you're interested in completing the Ike challenge, here is A Bunch of Stuff I Learned Driving Around Ike to help you. In no particular order. YMMV. This follows on from my Pol list, so duplicates will not be repeated.

  • Ike's gravity is higher than Pol's, and it has much smoother terrain, so I'd advise you keep your speed in the 20-30 m/s zone. Much faster than 30 m/s, and braking becomes... tricky. However, if you have a long, flat plain with a hill on the other side that you can use to supplement your brakes, you can safely bomb along at 40-45 m/s.
  • Because of Ike's smoother terrain and higher gravity, jumps are lower, shorter and overall less punishing. I found that I could safely timewarp at x2 with no hassles. x3 or x4 started bringing unexplained wobbles, so I generally avoided those two.
  • Wheels worked perfectly for me on Ike, so there was no need to rely on engines (which eliminates a need to pack fuel as well). A couple of batteries and RTG's to keep them supplied and you're good to go.
  • I didn't have enough SAS on Pol, so I probably overcompensated on Ike. Too much SAS is a thing!
  • Ike's terrain is much smoother than Pol's, so you can easily use an autopilot set to your direction of choice and just go! There's much less need to account for terrain in your route planning.
  • Watch out for downslopes. I found that 's' or "slow down" didn't help all that much, so had to use the brakes more often. Brake carefully to avoid unpleasant cartwheeling.

Compared to Pol, driving Ike was an absolute pleasure. I'm looking forward to completing more Elcano's soon!


Elcano Challenge - Eeloo   [Complete]


My attempt at the Eeloo Elcano Challenge went off just as smoothly as the Ike challenge. With decent gravity and being, on average, smoother than Ike, Eeloo was dead easy to drive. I kept the same Rover build I used on Ike, with only minor tweaks (like a touch more ground clearance to avoid the occasional RUD). As is becoming traditional, I put Valentina Kerman in charge of the Eeloo Rover and, apart from a couple of instances of invisible walls, no unexplainable events occurred. Seven days in the cockpit and Valentina has completed her third circumnavigation! Imgur follows:

I didn't encounter anything new of significance during this circumnavigation, so there will be no "A Bunch of Stuff" for Eeloo, although everything from Ike still applies. I did tend to run a little faster (25-40 m/s) and warp a little higher (x3), but paid for it with a few more near-disasters and broken wheels. Overall, I still think the speed was worth it. Eeloo was a nice, easy drive, and I'll be completing more Elcano's soon.


Elcano Challenge - Gilly   [Complete]


My attempt at the Gilly Elcano Challenge did not go as smoothly as my previous two Elcano's. Dealing with Gilly's terminally low gravity proved much tougher than I expected. Given the low gravity, I'd decided to try a new rover design - an ion-powered quad-bike..... it did not go well.

In principle, the idea was good, but the implementation was somewhat lacking. I didn't have nearly enough downthrust - deciding to rely on my main engine for downthrust proved to be... flawed, at best. It worked, but it was a massive pain in the posterior to drive that way - Orient to direction, pick up speed, orient downwards, add downthrust, orient prograde before you crash so that the wheels take the hit, orient retrograde, 'cause now you're going to fast and you're nearly orbital. Orient, orient, orient! Bullpucky! Towards the end of the run, I was seriously considering ditching the rover and completing the Elcano on foot.

Still... Valentina pulled through for me, like she always has, and the Elcano attempt was completed. Fortunately Gilly is as small as it is annoying, so at least it was over quickly. Overall, this was not a fun Elcano, and I will not be revisiting Gilly for the pleasure of driving it! Imgur follows, as always.

If you're considering a Gilly Elcano, here is A Bunch of Stuff I Learned Driving Around Gilly to help you:

  • There's basically no gravity, so basically no traction. Engines and landing gear is the way to go.
  • You literally cannot have enough downthrust. If you think you've got enough, double it.
  • Keep your speed below 10 m/s. Much more than that and the first bump is going to put you orbital.
  • Contrary to my previous advice - don't bother to save much. To save you need to be stationary. To get stationary is a massive pain. Gilly's tiny - just complete the run in one go.
  • You will spend a bunch of time ?airborne? (<--- dunno what you'd call it in a vacuum). Gravity is too low for anything else. You can easily and safely go up to x4 timewarp while jumping because the low gravity makes for long, slow jumps.
  • Consider locking your suspension. Just the kickback from suspension is enough to put you nearly orbital.

Overall, Gilly was not a pleasant place to drive. While I'll certainly be back to do more Elcano's later, I'm going back to my Jool-5 challenge attempt now.


Elcano Challenge - Vall   [Complete]


Another successful Elcano attempt, this time of the Jool moon Vall. As usual now, I put Valentina Kerman in charge - with Val going to Vall, what could go wrong? (See what I did there? :wink: ) Compared to Gilly, which was my previous Elcano, Vall was way easy to drive. Decent gravity and unobnoxious terrain make all the difference in the world. That said, it certainly wasn't as smooth as my Ike or Eeloo runs. I found very few instances of invisible walls or unexplained RUD's occurring on Vall and overall it was a smooth, if somewhat long, ride to completion. As usual, Imgur follows.

Pretty much all of the stuff I said about Ike and Eeloo applies to Vall, so I'm not going to spend much time here. Two things I will note is that:

a )  Vall is much more rugged than either Ike or Eeloo, so you'll spend a lot more time either going around hills, or crawling up them and frantically braking down them; and

b )  There's something dodgy about Vall's terrain. Seemingly smooth surfaces will frequently cause your rover to shake, rattle an' roll  (Oh God, I'm old!)  for no good reason, even with SAS on. Without SAS, you'd be in serious trouble. Overall not especially dangerous, but really annoying while trying to keep yourself pointed in the right direction.

While easier than Pol or Gilly to drive, overall Vall just doesn't compare to the pleasure of driving on Ike or Eeloo.


Elcano Challenge - Tylo   [Complete]


HellTylo is absolutely awful to drive on. Let's get that out of the way right at the start. The lava terrain hates you and will destroy your rover at random intervals for no apparent reason. Trying to get any decent speed going results in your rover trying to breakdance on what appears to be perfectly flat terrain. That said, it was next on the list, so I made my attempt at Hell Tylo. As always, I put Valentina Kerman in charge, and it was a darned good thing I did. No other Kerbal could possibly have pulled it off. Those other Elcano's I complained about earler, they were cakewalks compared to Hell Tylo. Anyway, here's the Imgur.


If you're crazy enough to be considering a Tylo Elcano, here is A Bunch of Stuff I Learned Driving Around Tylo to help you:

  • Respect Tylo at all times. It hates your guts, and will kill you the second you give it an opportunity.
  • Limit your speed to between 10-15 m/s. You can often go faster than that and nothing will happen. On the other hand, going faster than that can and will get you exploded without warning, and for no good reason. All in all, it's faster to drive slowly.
  • Despite the speed limit, you can safely run your time acceleration at the maximum of x4. Just be ready to kill the dilation and brake frantically if your speed passes 20 m/s.
  • Your rover will shake, jiggle and dance for no apparent reason on perfectly flat terrain. Ignore it. Except for the times it randomly flips out and explodes you. But since you can't predict those times, just F5 OFTEN.
  • Although I've just mentioned it, its worth it's own bullet point. Save OFTEN. I saved at least ever 25 km and still lost more time that I liked to having to repeat stuff after a crash.

Tylo was far and away the most unpleasant place I've Elcano'd. I will not be back.

Edited by Thalamask
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Elcano Challenge - Bop  [Complete]


Bop was a relatively interesting drive. Low gravity (and traction) make things interesting if you're relying on wheels to get you places. In addition the wildly varying terrain keeps you on your toes driving-wise. There's never a dull moment, you're always adapting, correcting or compensating for something. Having clearly insufficiently tested things, I found my first rover simply didn't have the traction to make it up the hills. After a nice easy ride down the side of a mountain, less than 50km into the Elcano, I was stuck. After much fiddling around, I eventually decided I needed a new approach. Wheels weren't going to cut it, so I fell back on my old ion-quadbike design. In the spirit of the "new" rules (new since I last did an Elcano anyway), I've included imagery of my launch and transfer and whatnot. Imgur follows:

I'm not going to do my usual "Bunch of Stuff I Learned" here, because to be honest, apart from having to switch rovers only 50km in, I didn't really learn anything new. All the same low-g stuff still applies.


Elcano Challenge - Dres  [Complete]


Dres was an extremely boring drive. In addition to having reasonably uninteresting terrain, there wasn't even really any scenery to enjoy. That said, I suppose boring is better than frustrating - I didn't experience any of the terrain kraken bugs that Claw did during his Dres circumnavigation. That said, I went for a polar route straight away, rather than originally trying for an equatorial one like he did. Thanks Claw, you saved me some pain! :D Anyway, Dres is relatively easy to drive on, gravity is high enough that wheels work fine, and you won't spend too much time ?air?borne. As usual, Imgur follows:

If you're planning on trying out a Dres Elcano, here's A Bunch of Stuff I Learned Driving Around Dres:

  • First off, I'd strongly recommend travelling a polar route. Claw suffered when he tried an equatorial route and eventually still had to do a polar route. I did a polar route with no problems at all.
  • Second - Bring headlights. If you're going polar, you're going to spend a fair amount of time in the dark-ish. I lost my headlights early on, and trying to drive off of Jeb's helmet lamps was... less than ideal.
  • I found the best speed to maintain to be around 15 m/s. Too much faster, and you risk explodium. That said, the terrain is easy enough that you can easily go up to 4x time acceleration with no issues.
  • When going downhills, you can usually allow your speed to build to 30 m/s safely. Much beyond that and you're looking for trouble though.


Elcano Challenge - Minmus  [Complete]


Minmus was quite a fun Elcano. For a start, the rocket building part was nice and easy compared to the interplanetary building I've had to do before and the drive was pretty pleasant as well. The terrain was varied just enough to keep things interesting without being painful to drive and there were no asplosions that I didn't earn. I performed an equatorial circumnavigation, going eastwards (as is my preference). The gravity and traction is low, so I opted for an engine driven rover in the form of my nice little ion quad-bike - the only problem with that one is having to drive backwards (with half your keys reversed) to slow down! :D Anyway, it was good fun and I may well drive around on Minmus again. As always, Imgur follows:

If you're planning a Minmus Elcano, here's A Bunch of Stuff I Learned Driving Around Minmus:

  • Gravity and traction are both pretty low, so if you're planning on using a wheel-driven rover, test it thoroughly beforehand. Especially on the hills.
  • Don't rely on an autopilot on Minmus. Because of the low traction, you're going to slide around a lot and you'll need to correct for that on the fly.
  • Don't forget your headlights. Minmus should be a relatively easy drive even in darkness. Can't say for certain, however, because I forgot mine!
  • For most of Minmus' terrain, depending on your rover design, you should be safe enough bombing along at 30-40m/s. Watch out for landings after jumps though... those'll ruin your day! :sticktongue:
  • In most places, you can safely time accelerate up to x4 with no trouble. Again, watch out for jumps.
  • You can never say it too often though - save regularly. There's nothing more frustrating that having to repeat stuff you just completed because you got yourself asploded.


Elcano Challenge - Duna  [Complete]


Duna was a relatively pleasant Elcano, although it did get a tad boring towards the end. It's just too big and without enough varied terrain to be completely enjoyable. It took a relatively simple rocket build to get there, and the atmosphere made for easy aerobraking. I had a few problems with my rover that I'll discuss later, but once I got those sorted out, the drive was relatively uneventful. I performed an eastwards equatorial circumnavigation. Gravity and traction are both high enough to make wheels work quite well on Duna although the terrain is rough enough that I'd limit my top speed to avoid flipping out and asploding. As always, Imgur follows:

If you're planning a Duna Elcano, here's A Bunch of Stuff I Learned Driving Around Duna:

  • Gravity and traction are both good, so using electric-drive wheels is fine.
  • Although a bit rough, the terrain is smooth enough to make autopilots feasible.
  • Headlights are unnecessary, as it never actually gets dark on Duna. It just gets dimmer, so you can still see fine to drive even at night.
  • In most cases, I'd limit my speed to 15m/s. The terrain can get a bit flip-happy if you go much faster than that. That said, you should be fine to run at x4 time acceleration most of the time.
  • Bring enough electricity. I've discovered the wheels become kraken-bait if you run out of electricity and want to lockup and flip out for no reason. I had to start stopping to recharge my batteries because I didn't pack enough RTG's this time.1


Elcano Challenge - Eve  [Complete]


Eve is the largest solid body in the Kerbol system. It took a LONG time to Elcano and, unfortunately, the terrain is flatish and there just isn't very much to see so Eve was a particularly boring, tedious Elcano. Like Duna, Eve is very close to Kerbin in terms of dV, so the rocket that sent my rover there was pretty simple and the atmosphere made for some careful aerobraking. Apart from repeatedly landing in lakes when my attention invariably wandered, the drive around Eve was utterly uneventful. I performed a polar circumnavigation - the only kind you can without some sort of amphibious vehicle. Gravity and traction are both high, so wheels work well and jumps are minimal, but gravity is so high that reaction wheels are unlikely to have enough torque to right your rover. If you flip out, you'd better hope you land on your wheels! As always, Imgur follows:

If you're planning an Eve Elcano, here's A Bunch of Stuff I Learned Driving Around Eve:

  • Gravity and traction are good, so wheels are fine.
  • Due to the size of Eve, an engine driven rover is unlikely to pack enough fuel unless you seriously overbuild.
  • The terrain is easily smooth enough to make autopilots feasible, but you're going to need to keep an eye on the sneaky lakes. If you go in the water, you're not coming out without being amphibious.
  • Headlights are unnecessary as, like Duna, Eve doesn't actually get dark.
  • In most cases, I kept my speed to 15m/s, although because the terrain gets really wonky at the poles, I sometimes had to reduce that to 10m/s or even 5m/s.
  • The terrain is smooth enough that you can get away with x4 time acceleration in most cases (again, poles are an exception).


Edited by Thalamask
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Do kerbin next? :) nice write up too..just skimmed it at the moment but ill read in detail later..


Question though given that ive never been to another world . Does any of them you visited have that dull rumble background sound that kerbin does when alls quiet?

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12 hours ago, Overland said:

Do kerbin next? :) nice write up too..just skimmed it at the moment but ill read in detail later..

Question though given that ive never been to another world . Does any of them you visited have that dull rumble background sound that kerbin does when alls quiet?

I'm currently having a go at the Jool 5 challenge, but I'll be back for more Elcano's as soon as I'm done there.

As for the other question, I think that rumble is a Kerbin specific thing. I've certainly never noticed it elsewhere!


9 hours ago, damerell said:

Eeloo looks very flat indeed from those shots, easy driving?

Even easier than Ike, to be honest.

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14 minutes ago, Thalamask said:

Updated. Elcano Challenge for Gilly is now complete. :mad:

Congrats.  I avoid Gilly like the plague due to it being so sssllllloooowwww there and the driving is even worse than Minmus.  Not to mention even landing on Pol, which has a tendency to cause ships to explode about 1500m above the ground due to a misplaced collider.  o/

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 4 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Nice job! I too found that Eve was rather...bland? I had been looking forward to it for a long time, but everything is just solid purple...purple...and more purple...

Congrats on another fine drive! :D

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