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Faith of the Heart - finally going beyond Kerbinspace (definitely, and bonus Elcano)


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Chapter One - The Setup (back in the saddle, let's see if I can stay on)


Ever since 0.23.5 and phresh mems enticed me to check out KSP back in 2014, I've dreamed of doing what a lot if not nearly all of everyone who plays KSP has done, fulfilling a standard rite of passage: a mission to Duna. (I mean, the Mun or Minmus usually is the first rite of passage, but I did that in the demo before punching in my credit card details, and maybe just like in real life, it may be nice to go back to the Mun to stay, but it is such a limited horizon). 

I mean, it has to be a mission-MISSION. Like as in set the mission goals, design the architecture, engineer the crafts, yeet them into deep black and run with it. You know, like everyone else has done here, whether as part of a challenge, replicating one of the NASA DRMs, Zubrin's minimalist Direct or go full BSG, The Martian, one or the other. And having to watch the lot of you do all that, forum posts, Reddit posts, YouTube videos, seeing your blueprints and screenshots and gifs, leaves me with an itch that needs scratching. 

Duna is the usual milestone, again Mars analogue, but also because of what Duna is standing for in that rite of passage: going beyond Minmus orbit. Going beyond Kerbin. After over six years of playing the game. That isn't a bad thing at all--many players are content to just stick around in the Kerbin system, and can make an adventure, a life of it. But I'm a horizon kind of person. I'm the kid that stands on the beach, and wonders what lies beyond the place where the sea meets the sky. I've learned how to sail, but I've never really left the harbor. Never really put out into open ocean. 


Yeah, I've been around the block a couple of times

I never really did for over six years now, because every time I get something on the drawing board, something usually comes up. Usually a major update bump--goodbye mods compatibilty. Or I get sidetracked by a challenge (namely Apollo and Space Shuttle) which does not fit what I had in mind. Memory limitations in my older laptops. And especially real life. When I purchased KSP, I was early into law school. By the time I was doing the Shuttle Challenge, I was supposed to be studying for the bar exams, in a country where that is less a licensure exam, and more a hazing ritual. Either way, real life, game ennui, and the big resets of version updates is the air resistance to the booster launch of my KSP campaigns. It could also happen here and now, for all I know.

But last year back in 1.9.x when the pandemic struck, I finally decided to run with it and stick with it. Finally get a Duna itch-scratcher running. Finally leave safe waters for the open ocean. (To save me the workload, I just sent everything back to square one--parts, progress, narratives, approaching KSP with a fresh mind and a clean slate, more or less.) Which I did, until real life caught up again mid-year, and I left things in suspension again. But the itch is still there. It's still there nagging at me and I wanna scratch it bad.  

So picking things up again, I wanted to run it, run past Minmus in a way where I felt like I had something to do, but it was still achievable without giving me a headache to create my own version of an interplanetary exploration program:

First, I run it in Career mode, albeit a slightly easier one: I set the Funds rewards to 125% just so I could get to upgrading the facilities sooner (and could afford the bigger rockets earlier on), plus Stage Recovery so I wasn't burning as much Funds just getting to orbit. That way, the Science and Funds were sort of a limiter, but also a score.


Mod it till I break.

Second, it is quite modded, and I'll admit that there are three mods I felt made the game WAY easier going forward, and which, if not OP, at least one or two could still be tweaked so as not to grease the path forward:

  1. The LGG-resurrected Retrofuture, which I got solely (so far) for the ultra-low profile LFO engines, something like aerospike pancakes. They are unbalanced because they occur early in the tech tree compared to stock engines in the same class, they have mucho excellente atmo and vac ISP and power compared to stock engines in the same class, and I think they are relatively cheap for what they do. I don't know if LGG made a balance pass since the 1.9 compatibles.  
  2. Getting the Dmagic and Interkosmos science mods, without any tech tree-adjusting mods. So same tech tree, but even more science squeezable per planet, biome, and situation. Add to that science gains from SCANSat and repeat missions using the Tarsier telescope mod, and at some point I do not have to worry about the tech tree ever again after the Mun, even without having to depend on pumping Science out of Mobile Labs. I also feel so dirty doing so. 
  3. Finally, the Bon Voyage mod. This is the one mod that takes rovers to the OP level, more OP than any other automation or abstraction mod, maybe even more than MJ, because it makes biome science farming not only practical, but game-breakingly easy. No need to make a rocket Mun or Minmus biome hopper, when all that's needed is to land a rover packed with a scientist and science parts, find your biomes, and let the autopilot take them there. Practical also because it allows me to do other things while waiting for the rover to get there, streamlining the task of running a whole space program. Someone please bribe Squad to make it stock.

Third, it wasn't just getting to Duna, but setting up a near-Kerbin space architecture that supports the entire mission, from running the business to afford the trip, to training the Kerbals so we're not landing idiots in tin cans, so on and so forth. Duna is just simply a part of the program, its crowning jewel (for now), but not its raison d'etre. Duna is a demonstration that the system can do it, within its constraints and logic. 


Maximum joy from minimum work. The complete opposite of a legal career.

Fourth, I have a number of philosophies, desires, and goals for this. Less Duna direct, more Galactica. "If I got it, flaunt it (go high delta-V, high capacity, big boosters if necessary, orbital and surface construction using KIS, USI Konstruction and Global Construction)." My triumvarate of Minimize Vessel Count per scene/Minimize Parts Count per vessel/Minimize Workload on the field (which means I have the usual automation suites--MJ, TCA, GT, VVC/HLA, RMM, and thank God for live-configurable action groups). Take advantage of mods to minimize parts count and work, and maximize functions. 

Five, as much as possible, make it look sexy. 


And the kraken shall lie with the bugs, and they shall beat their 1.11s into 1.9s, and a 7th-gen i7 shall lead them.
Also, I can't believe there is an i9 already, I am as green with envy as that guy.

One of the consequences of this is that, for the first time ever, I haven't caught up with the KSP dev number arms race, where I hit the magic reset button after a version change. Although 1.10 and 1.11 added a lot of neat stuff I would like to have, and there are a number of new mods that have me salivating, in the end, I have all the core competencies in 1.9.x plus compatible mods, and I felt like I could skip the upgrades this time (especially with a few things still wonky). So all that follows here is current to 1.9.x, stock and compatible mods c. mid-2020 alike.

And so with the preamble out of the way, let's dispense with the preliminaries on the road to the deep, deep black of space.


EDIT FROM THE FUTURE: considering my later decision to go Elcano on Duna long-winded sigh, below is a screenshot of my GameData folder for accountability purposes.


Edited by B-STRK
Adding mod accountability, made the tags wholly appropriate
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Chapter Two - The Grind (Abridged Version)

(Note: full-size pictures behind spoilers, besides spoiler reasons for some, because why can't the WYSIWYG and Imgur play nice like before?)


You could tell. YouTube loved the pandemic lockdowns. 

Getting to the point where I could land Kerbals on the Mun was the usual grind of cobbling available things together for contracts and science. Orbits and tourists here, satellites and telescopes there. Once the tech advanced enough for what I had in mind though (again, easier because of all the extra modded science), I could launch my own Artemis program: designed to flesh out the tech tree, lay the foundations of a sustainable space program and the mission to Duna.



Amy Shira Teitel is right. You can't just replicate Apollo and hope to get Apollo 2.0. 
You gotta make the mission with what you got, in the context of the times you're in. 


Just shy of 16,000 Science points. Maybe we should really do Moon-to-Stay. 

Artemis I: first Kerbals on the Mun, plus first MOLAB rover, then squeezing every biome as dry as I could of their Science juices.




Artemis II: constructing the Gateway Artemis Munar Operations Station, a staging ground for sustainable missions on the Mun (because I needed a propellant depot and parking space for the reusable Altair Mun lander, a lab to squeeze even more juice out of a copy of all the experiment data obtained from the Mun).

Finally (and after Elisabeth I, a side trip to Minmus to give Bill and a couple of engineers extra experience), Artemis III, constructing the KXS Stirling Munar operations and training station:



Die Waffen legt an! (HellMarch3.mp3)

Testing protocols and methodologies for Ground Construction, such as the Mobile Construction Vehicle and means of delivering MaterialKits to the worksite...



I wish USI WOLF came with a light version. Didn't MKS come with a light version before?

Creating automated landing and refueling platforms using Simple Logistics...



Someone also needs to make Hangar stock. I'm seeing scene load times of one minute already.

A hangar base to store ground and orbital craft to minimize craft count in the save...


And the centerpiece of KXS Stirling, of why kerbalkind is going to the Mun to go to Duna. Built by both GC (to spit out the foundation pieces) and KIS and 1.9.x-era USI Konstruction (for delivered parts assembled prefab-style). Manufactured by KPBS and the WBI Bison product line. Powered by Field Training Facility/Field Training Lab. Made the core of an entire space program, for the heart of any space program: well-trained crew. 

On Year 1, Day 123, Time 0046, the Kerbal Space Program established an elite school on the Mun for the top one hundred percent of its kerbonauts. It’s purpose was to teach the lost art of deep space operations and to insure that the handful of kerbals who graduated were the best spacecraft pilots, scientists, and engineers in the world.

Today, the Program calls it Spacecraft Operations School. The spacers call it...


Paramount, please don't sue me, but also please don't @ me, that design evidently avoids trademark confusion. 

Up to twelve students at a time spend (I think) upwards of twenty or thirty days I lost count learning the proper employment methods and tactics of their trade, from deploying the Deployable Science for maximum profit, to bolting Untitled Space Crafts together into something useful, to chasing after Mystery Goo flying retrograde in microgravity environments. Such training is necessary to maximize research speed, Global Construction and ISRU productivity, and master craft control in the harsh environment of space, making the most effective, lethal kerbonauts in all of the Space Program's history.




The trophy for the alternates is in the mulch pit. Because the alternates fly planes full of rubber dogmulch out of Hong Kong.

Well, at least as lethal as they've always been (to themselves, and occasionally to bystander spacecraft).

KXS Stirling open for at least one more expansion--envisioning a light industry facility primarily for resource extraction and delivery to Kerbin--but for now and for the immediate purpose, the Mun mission is primarily and essentially accomplished. A lot of this (and even a bit of what comes later) is "been there, done that" from previous playthroughs. Time for something new. I'm starting to get Duna getthereitis.

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Chapter Three - The Climb (I can almost see it/that dream I'm dreaming)

Every Duna mission architecture, like every Mars mission architecture, represents an underlying philosophy. Das Marsprojekt was Von Braun's translation of Age of Sail and polar expeditions into what they knew of getting to and operating on Mars at the time, carrying the same virtues and sins of his forebears. His final Apollo Applications Mars architecture was admittedly a desperate attempt to show that the Apollo hardware, Mars (and to a degree the manned space program) was worth the effort and expenditure. Mars Direct was Zubrin's insistence that Mars was reachable cheap and NOW, if only NASA and Congress had big brass spheres--but also a symptom of his own getthereitis. Let's not get into how nationalistic space projects can get as well (with its own philosophy, generally and per state interpretation), universal scientific cooperation aside. 


Kerbal Space Program allows you to dream as big or as small as your imagination (and parts and boosters) wants, embodying any of these philosophies or creating your own, virtues and sins alike. I went for the Galactica approach that Zubrin derided early on (hey, I've got Kerbinspace infrastructure and tourist spesos to burn), maxing out the grand ol' spacecraft, grand ol' fleet approach. What can I say?

  1. I like spaceships.
  2. I don't like living in a tin can. As a spacefarer, I like space, and I'm not talking about outer space. If the price of getting to Mars cheaply means I'm bouncing off the walls, well I may not be the perfect Mars candidate, but at the same time I can say that Mars is not ready for the real prime time: ordinary people. I mean, I could tolerate economy on a long haul budget airline for only so long.
  3. For the amount of Funds one will spend on that vessel, reusable has to be a mission statement. 
  4. Capability. ΔV spat out like it's from a firehose, Snacks! endurance measured in months or years, enough EC to light up a small country, go fast, go long, go hard, go-go-go. 
  5. Did I say I like spaceships?
  6. Spaceships, SPACESHIIIIIIPSSS!!!!


Admittedly, I took a cue from the NASA Deep Space Habitat concept. Except I traded in the tin-can MPLM for a SSPx Bigelow equivalent because claustrophobia.
Besides, like the rest of this program, she's gotta have her own flair. Not just simply bolting putt-putt pipes to ISS parts. 

This iteration of the Program's first taste of deep space operations, the Deep Space Habitat DSV Sogno di Volare. Just like the NASA DSH concept, assembled in two pieces (the habitation and propulsion elements), though permanently bolted together with Construction Docking Ports (minimizing parts count). I am not sure if the DSH concept had the Orion be the command element as well as the Earth Return Vehicle, but this one is an independent space vessel in its own right, probe and crew control. 

Minmus is about nine days out, nine days back with the more efficient transits. Eighteen days, your average command capsule with 50 Snacks!/kerbal if every seat is filled will likely run out before landing (consumption of 3 Snacks/kerbal = up to 54 Snacks! round trip, and the more gluttonous ones might sneak a few extra bites). And I want to maximize those seats.

Also about maximizing seats, I did say I like space, and by that I don't mean outer space, did I? I can imagine regular Kerbals tolerating a cramped capsule for the day trip to the Mun. Not so much for the two weeks to Minmus and back--not unless I borrow the shock collars from one or two of the other players around here, and I didn't install the optional Big Brother and Inquisition voice packs for Chatterer.   

Sogno di Volare (besides being a kickass awesome addition to any KSP soundtrack, once it's translated to Kerbal especially) is thus the Program's official first attempt at providing deep space (and not merely terrestrial) mobile (and not merely orbitally-fixed) habitation (and not just merely transit). Eschewing the crew cans for an inflatable, she provides living quarters and bedding (albeit they're just sleeping bags on the wall) for usually nine kerbals, more if necessary but everyone's hot-bunking anyway. Also onto the deep space thing, she is the Program's first nuclear wessel, with a Nucleonics Ltd. FTmN 160 nuclear thermal rocket giving 3532m/s ΔV on full payload.

Absent a permanent berth and petrol station for a Minmus-dedicated Altair lander (that comes later), the di Volare is also equipped to tend to that lander's Snacks! and propellant needs--and her first mission (Elisabeth I), apart from giving Bill and Engineering Co. additional experience so constructing KSX Stirling isn't going to take forever, was to take that lander and park it there, bringing LFO top-ups together with any missions on or around Minmus. 

While the di Volare is the firstborn of the Deep Space Fleet, her ΔV and life support capabilities, while extensive for all Kerbinspace, are at best marginal for Duna if done with a reduced crew, transits performed perfectly, and no promises made for coming back without starving. No margin for errors, or for anything else, actually. Another vessel, with vastly improved capabilities, is necessary. If the DSH is Kerbalkind's first, tentative step into the ocean of space, this successor was meant to be Kerbalkind diving head first into deep black--without looking back.


Enter the DSV Aerith Gainsborough, first of her line. 


And she won't be the last of her line, Sephib[unclassy language]!
(sourced from YouTube, as copied from original Newgrounds source)

Vessel Construction and Statistics




Like the DSH, absent permanent orbital construction facilities (that comes later), Aerith is constructed in two parts. While the habitation section is liftable by the existing 5m OxTRA heavy launch vehicle, lofting the outsized, superheavy engineering section fully-outfitted required something in the outsized, superheavy class: the 200-ton-to-80km LKO 7.5m DCBRK (Dimensionally Challenging Big Rocket for Kerbin). Again, YouTube was an essential service during lockdown. 


The size and heft is attributable to the Gainsborough class being a nuclear wessel of another sort. Rather than a nuclear thermal engine, Aerith is propelled by two LF-9 lithium electric drives, and enough tankage for 11500m/s ΔV while maintaining a respectable 0.39 TWR mission wet mass. Those engines however are EC-hungry--correction, EC-gluttonous--and feeding them for long, sustained burns requires the NFE MX-3L fission reactor at full 6,000EC output--just to barely keep the engines lit.

But for that size and mass, the Gainsborough class has the ability to make a 4,000m/s total-evolution ΔV-based fast transit to Duna (with a policy of 40% of max ΔV leaving, 40% coming back, 20% contingency). Or take the minimum-energy scenic route to Duna, discover the mission goes pear-shaped, and fast-abort to Kerbin. Or allow for a variety of orbital profiles and transitions in the same mission space. Or go as far as all ΔV will take her. And do so while carrying enough Snacks! to feed six Kerbals for a year and small change, and lab space and majority of the scientific instruments to squeeze Science out of her journey, and take on the odd Science contract that comes along. 

Vessel Interior



And this is where the kerbal crew work...


... eat, play...



And again, true to the entire I Like Space ethos, the Gainsborough class provides a spacious and comfortable environment for work and play, while looking relatively damn sexy. Some have made the observation that the OPT Spaceplane cockpits make for command bridges that straddle the line between hard science-achievable and sci-fi futuristic, and looking FINE while doing so. In this case, it gives the class a most capable flight deck and forward working space for engineers to mind the tea kettle (or scientists to run experiments, but this isn't their primary workspace), as well as a couple of auxiliary airlocks. 

Behind the forward cabins is the hub/vestibule for the two primary personnel docking ports, Sr.-sized cargo docking (e.g. Snacks! or KIS resupply) and berthing (for temporary expansion modules) port, and the Cupola that also doubles as the vessel's primary airlock. It's just weird to change in and out of spacesuits in front of a big window, though, but you get used to it. (Then again, Asps In Front of Things.TM)

And behind that is the multipurpose Workshop space, containing some life support facilities (Soil recycling), and serves as the crew's wardroom, overflow workspace, and recreation space, and otherwise general living space. 

That is because while the Habitation Ring carries the advantage of providing positive G for sleeping (with individual cubbyholes for privacy), hygene, exercise, and medical work, what it does not have is SPACE (and by that I don't mean outer space). This isn't exactly the Hermes. This SSPx Coriolis inflatotube, largest as it is in its class, is to that centrifuge as a WWII-era diesel sub is to an Ohio class SSBN. Hell, even the Typhoon class reportedly had a sauna minipool on board. So the Hab Ring is primarily for sleeping and exercise and showering and Soil soiling (God, the only way space travel will ever work en masse is if the plumbing gets sorted out), while R&R and the rest of life happens in the more spacious Workshop.

Finally, carrying the rear is the Lab, one of the 3.75m R&S Capsuldyne models that comes with side cargo bays to mount some experiments in. 

Vessel Augmentation


That also goes with the distinctive Science Pod suspended over the vessel's engineering and reactor bay. Taking advantage of Universal Storage's (stock and Dmagic) Science options, it carries half of the experiments aboard in a protected and streamlined enclosure, and allows Aerith to operate not only as a crew transport vehicle, but as a mobile laboratory and orbital sciences vessel. 


While the Gainsborough class is constructed as a monolithic vehicle--again, Minimum Part Count/Minimum Vessel philosophy--it can berth with other modules or vessels to provide other capabilities on demand. The Sr. port can berth similarly ported modules like modular greenhouses (for when you have a long wait ahead of you). But her pride is the Universal Docking Port-based Multipurpose Berth, taking up the stern of the engineering module between the engine pods. Various modules or vessels can be berthed to provide the Gainsborough with additional capabilities. For example, carrying a light lander, or in this case additional lithium and Snacks! supplies to carry Aerith through transDuna ejection and the transit time (so that in case of a need to abort on arrival, the vessel still has nearly her standard full supplies and propellant to yeet back to Kerbin within that budget). 


Or the Mobile Hangar, an autonomous ship's tender that, sailing alongside Aerith,  carries said greenhouse (in the event of an abort-to-Ike and wait until the next transfer window) and the RCL-Dun01 Sprite Duna-capable reusable lander, and doubles as an orbital propellant depot and tanker. 





You know those yachts that have so much space inside, they can store small hard-hulled runabouts in secret compartments like they're Bond's boat or something?
You know how much I hate missing out on the Gamestop rollercoaster earlier this year?

On arrival to Duna (and again to cut down on the number of vessels being tracked), Aerith and the Mobile Hangar can berth together to form this Program's version of the Mars Duna Base Camp concept, albeit minus the redundancy. (Luckily I don't have any maintenance mods onboard. I have enough complications in my life.)

The Departure Burn


For this rite of passage and passage to Duna, the crew includes the Fab Four/First Four/whatever one calls them, plus Engineer Jesmy and Scientist Verfel for a round and even six. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time before the minimum-energy transfer window to train them to Level 5, so Level 4 (or what was best achievable for new-rescues Verfel and Jesmy) it is, an early graduation from TOPMÜN, and a quick trip home (in which I forgot to pack enough snacks, so sudden Reputation losses on starvation). 

In fact, there wasn't enough time for the crew to get familiar with their new ship. Only enough time for the outfitting and plankowner crew to hand Aerith over to the Duna expedition team and head home, the alarm clock to go off, the transfer window to open, Bill to light up Aerith's nuclear tea kettle, and for me to make my long-awaited way to Duna, cue appropriate theme music:


♫ It's been a long road, getting from there to here/It's been a long time, but my time is finally near ♫


♫ And I will see my dream come alive at last, I can touch the sky/And they're not gonna hold me down no more, no they're not gonna change my mind ♫


♫ 'Cause I've got faith of the heart, I'm going where my heart will take me/I've got faith to believe I can do anything ♫


♫ I've got strength of the soul, And no one's gonna bend or break me/I can reach any star... ♫


♫ I've got faith, I've got faith, faith of the heart... ♫


♫ It's been a long road. ♫

DSV Aerith Gainsborough --- Year: 1 Day: 229 Time: 2:48:51
MET: 0y, 3d, 15:18:00 --- Status: On escape trajectory out of Kerbin


Edited by B-STRK
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Chapter Four - The Machine (remember that level from Ecco the Dolphin? I wish I didn't.:valsob:)


Upon Kerbalkind's first taste of interplanetary space, Aerith's science instruments come out to play.

As does Verfel Kerman, to mark the first deep black EVA.

While the science team settles down to make two hundred-plus days of transit productive with research and [God knows what else you do when there's no getting off this train we're on, I mean who among you burned out your gaming PCs, laptops, or consoles as a result of this pandemic?], this is where the first Desserts of Duna (DoD I) expedition stands (spoilered because I have to keep the pic big. Again, why can't Imgur learn to play nice with this forum?):




I mean, once you know how to read orbital lines like one learns how to read the Matrix, the entire thing is unlocked.
I mean, this one is a high-energy burn, this one is a free return trajectory, this one will gravity-capture into Jool through Tylo,
this one is a redhead, this one blonde, that one brunette, this one is single, but if you think she wanna mingle,
hold your horses and learn some self-control and respect, everyone regardless of gender appreciates that.
Just be polite. Even for casual relationships, this is not a g-damn all-you-can-shoot safari. They are human beings, and should be respected as such. 

And with that out of the way, let's get back to outer space, shall we? (How did we even get here in the first place? Oh yeah. I'm a lawyer.
And I am sometimes embittered by the defenses of creeps I encounter in the course of the profession. That is the price you pay when you learn how to read the Matrix.)


The Aerith/Mobile Hangar flotilla take up the rear, having launched last. Far ahead, having been launched months earlier on high-energy trajectories to Duna, and scheduled to enter early into Dunaspace, is the advance flotilla, comprised of relay sat and SCANsat carriers, a prototype automated Ore harvester, ISRU refinery, and LFO shuttle using Ike as its home base (hence its name IkAROS: IKe Automated Resource Orbital Shuttle oh god I hate having to come up with acronyms), and a surface scanning rover to mark out Ike's resource concentrations. I wanted them ahead and fast because I wanted their scanning to be complete by the time the main expedition arrives. For what will later be revealed are accountability purposes (to document their launch and arrival to Duna), the following shows their launch and arrival to Duna.

The advance fleet was launched starting Y1 D128, all of them sharing the same departure profile: at least 9,000m/s ΔV full in the tanks (hence explaining the designator for the satellite carriers, IP-9000), targeting around 150 days for the transfer, but spending no more than 7,000m/s to 8,000m/s for the total evolution (ejection, mid-course adjustment, capture burns). Their payloads can handle the final burns to their respective stations; all that matters is getting the payloads to the Duna system fast, which is what the carrier buses were for. 


With the mods on hand and the tech tree maxed, transfer windows are a suggestion. 


IP-9000 satellite carrier launches/ejection. They use a common carrier, the IP-9000 (Interplanetary Mission, 9,000m/s ΔV).
And under
[okay, which countries share the same transportation and tort laws as mine?] law, a common carrier must exercise greater than ordinary
(extraordinary) due diligence in their conduct of carriage of passengers or goods, failing which it incurs liability for damage to either or both,
except when the proximate cause for the damage incurred lies solely on the passenger or owner/consigner of the goods. [This does not take into account insurance provisions.] 

If SpaceX is serious about running (and not just providing the vessel) Starship regular point-to-point (and obtaining certification from each destination's authorities),
they better be serious about driving the chances of a manned RUD to near-zero. Crew Dragon is one thing. Becoming the next PanAm is another.


Vegeta! What did you say its entry speed is?
IT'S OVER 5000!!!

(Yeah, doesn't have the same ring. *facepalm*)

The earliest of the advance fleet to arrive, the relay carrier and the SCANSat carriers (one each for Duna and Ike), arriving starting Y1 D275, set the tone for the rest of the arrivals. Coming in with so much energy, a circularization burn would take so long that it would be way off retrograde for a long period, lopsiding the orbit. I'm not sure about the efficiency of the move--there is a bit of off-retrograde to the maneuver to prevent the target periapsis from moving, it's not quite Oberth effect either), but the carriers would burn off 2,000 or even up to 4,000m/s ΔV, depending on their reserves on arrival, just bleeding off entry speed (the relay carrier entered SoI at over 5,300m/s relative to Duna). It extended their TPe (time to periapsis) from 30 minutes to two days, but it does have the effect of reducing the circ burn to reasonable levels, stretching out both the arrivals of the advance fleet, and the task of circularizing them, and deploying them to their target orbits/landing sites. 


Yeah, 900m/s ΔV in the tanks is enough to burn off my remaining orbital velocity, but in the context of an interplanetary mission,
in automobile terms that's reaching home after driving for 30 minutes with the empty gas tank warning light on.
And without running the A/C.

Granted, there is a more efficient capturing and circularizing protocol from high-energy transfers, but (a) Minimum Workload, and (b) that's why the advance fleet buses have at least 9,000m/s ΔV on full tanks. Burn it now, save me the headache later. 

That was also important because in the intervening period, the Program wasn't standing still. Before the advance fleet's arrival, and during said arrival, Elisabeth III was happening, which was the construction of the first elements of the Minmus Orbital and Surface Shipyard (MOSS) Complex: the Global Construction-based orbital shipyard and the surface infrastructure needed to support it. (Anyway, that comes later.)


Oh hai! Twins!

True to the CommNet relay constellation framework proposed by Geschosskopf in his tutorial, the Duna relays are set up as a super-eccentric polar constellation as opposed to having three geostationary or at least equidistant equatorial relays, for the following reasons:

  1. Two satellites versus three = minimize vessel count.
  2. Any Duna geostationary orbit is gonna hit Ike. Oh sure, one can time the orbits to sync with Ike, but I can't be that perfect, the timing's gonna shift, and it's way easier to just avoid Ike entirely and go polar. 
  3. All the other reasons Geschosskopf mentioned.


The difference is that instead of the equatorial sat around Ike, the polar SCANsats for Ike also double as lunar relays (though at the present tech level they can beam straight to Kerbin, please and thank you). Again, it does save on the vessel count, but that's still a total of six satellites in Dunaspace to get everything on one pass. Now, there are the Duna SCANSats-also-relays as well, but orbital dynamics being what it is, it's the super-eccentric relay sats that are providing the durable coverage for a given square meter of Duna. The SCANSats just take too long to come back. They do serve well, though, as intermediary relays for any transmitter incapable of reaching  a relay sat in the open but at apodune, though--which proved useful when one of my Duna-bound unkerballed craft forgot to add an interplanetary-class antenna for the transit stage.

Facepalm = true
DumS = true

I'm wondering if, given the high-efficiency ion engines available to them, I could have gotten away with just one relay sat and one set of SCANSats. The latter in particular has a lot of available ΔV that I might have been able to get away with having the set scan Duna first, then transfer to Ike. Or maybe just one SCANSat with all the instruments (again, this is pre-SCANSat revamp because of my 1.9.x insistence, so I only have to worry about three distinct instruments). 

Well, there's still Eve. I could always test that theory there later.


First to land on Ike is the surface scanning mission, brought over by a Hangar-based rover lander. Just like Artemis I on the Mun, it's Bon Voyage'd from biome to biome, switching to it on arrival to note down the resource concentrations, set the next destination, and then hop back to the MOSS to continue its construction. So many vessel changes...


How cuuuuuuuute!!!!!! :vallove:
(Disclaimer: the present author does not give a duna how cute it is. He doesn't give a duna either if others think it is cute or not.)

It turned out that the rover's original landing spot was the best spot for the IkAROS to land: (1) relatively level and flat, (b) good ore concentration, (quattro) equatorial (Why did I still bother to map out the alternates?). On landing, IkAROS deploys the deployables, fires up the deplorables, and activates its damnables: a WBI S.A.F.E.R. with enough juice to power the whole production chain.


Which means it's time for more mission architecture philosophy, this time, centered around the choice and weighing of mods:



With the mods I've installed, there are three sets of nuclear reactors available: Umbra Space Industries, Near Future Electrical, and Wild Blue Industries. (In this playthrough, I took out the patch that operates USI reactors using NFE logic, so each set of tea kettles runs on their own logic.)


All the reactors work the same way: eat Enriched Uranium, crap EC, heat, and Depleted Uranium. Differences in their use, output, and maintenance, though, led me to "assign" each set of reactors to a different case use, with I guess what could be a friendly-exclusive rationale:

  • In this 1.9.x, no I'm not using System Heat playground, NFE reactors spit out more EC than USI reactors of the same class, but require direct management of their output, and are vulnerable to (and will be damaged by) core meltdowns if one is careless with heat management. More importantly, they are refueled using containers forming part of the same vessel (with a qualified engineer on board), through a simple PAW action on the container and reactor. This assigns them the role of orbital-class reactors, given that (1) a refueling container can be docked to a service docking port for the transfers, (b) no one has to go out on EVA IN ORBIT for nuclear fuel transfer between floating craft :0.0:, and (quattro), especially for vessels powered by NFP electrical thrusters (like the Gainsborough class), the high output is a necessity. For a space station like MOSS, the high output is kinda wasted except in those rare cases of heavy demand (like all converters running, which I don't even foresee happening), but the entire easy-to-refuel-in-orbit thing wins out. But I (or an engineer) has to damn well make sure that power outputs are managed so as to avoid EC wastage and runaway heat. 

I mean, how does an RBMK reactor explode, after all?

  • Conversely, USI reactors pump out lower EC/sec compared to equivalent NFE reactors. They have the advantage of auto-adjusting their EnrU consumption and EC output on demand, and their reaction to overheat is not to melt down but to shut down (auto-SCRAM). (Okay, sure, NFE reactors also have that function, but there is the tempting availability of overriding that function by upping the threshold. And again, NFE has the design philosophy of punishing you for forgetting to manage your heat.) They can, according to the documentation, only be refueled from nearby containers by an engineer on EVA--though I haven't been able to pull it off yet, can anyone help me here?! That makes them the best case use for surface bases, where I tend to leave them alone for longer periods of time and thus need a reactor I can fire and forget for long periods of time, the terrain supports EVA refueling, and the need is for more steady power as opposed to surge demand. 

Of course it means I have to upscale size class to meet a given EC output compared to NFE reactors, but I can justify that: A ship needs miniaturization; landlubbers have all that space to play with. 

  • Finally, the odd one out, WBI's S.A.F.E.R. Angel-125's lore for it was that it's meant to power rovers, rotorcraft, and roaming airships all with their respective high power demands. Thus, for a 0.625-scale reactor, compared to NFE and USI, S.A.F.E.R.'s 125EC/sec faucet is so far beyond it. And, besides the same USI autoSCRAM on overheat safety (not that I've ever pushed a S.A.F.E.R. that hard yet), it even has its own radiators as well. Probably why SAFER is way costlier as well compared to its competition, and why I still haven't figured out how to refuel a SAFER. Also I don't know if it is just me, but I can't seem to get two S.A.F.E.R.s on the same vessel to feed consumers; e.g., testing an airship pulling 200+ EC requiring two S.A.F.E.R.s, but only one of them is running at full output, the other trapped at single-digit percents despite my fiddling. Not sure what's going on, but having left the KSP version arms race behind I don't feel right asking Angel-125 for help fixing things (and I still need help getting the airship nuclear reactors working, as a matter of fact...). 

But I could roleplay S.A.F.E.R. to single-point, plug in-plug out scenarios similar to the real-life Kilopower applications. In fact, that is closer to Angel's background lore behind SAFER, as a single-point power plant for his Buffalo-spec rotorcraft and the like. And, the way it looks, having an integrated radiator and all, and Angel basing it off the NASA SAFE project (the predecessor to Kilopower), I could justify S.A.F.E.R. being a kerbal-portable* (two kerbals at least), complete-in-itself plug-and-play powerplant that, at end of life, is simply "returned to manufacturer" instead of being refueled on the field. 

* Kerbal-portability and the Kilopower analogue thing is one of the reasons why I can't jump out of 1.9.x yet for this save. Kerbals have a far more reasonable, but far less mass/weight carrying capacity under 1.11/Some Reassembly Required (SRR) than they do under KIS (1 ton for the latter). Granted, the KIS carry weight was arbitrary to begin with (what in the caloric hell are in those Snacks! anyhow? Concentrated anabolic steroids?).

I don't know if Angel-125 bumped S.A.F.E.R.'s weight down for the 1.11-compatible WBI, but that would mean entering into a whole other debate of whether such a powerful reactor should be THAT portable. On the other hand, I really wanted a Kilopower analogue in this game, and the concept of operations had that thing deployable in the field by astronauts on EVA, I believe without need for heavy machinery, or at least with minimal assistance. And this is considering that the NFE 0.625 equivalent IS the right weight for kerbal portability under SRR rules, and is even modeled after the Kilopower physical model AND puns off the name ("Kerbopower"), BUT like the other reactors needs separate radiators, and produces only half the power of S.A.F.E.R. 

End of the day, you make the gameplay choices you want, you sleep in the bed you made. It may be ridiculous that kerbals the size of hobbits can lift one ton each. Or maybe I want their workout routine. Either way, I can reasonably justify S.A.F.E.R. being this save's Kilopower analogue (as an all-in-one plug-and-play solution), while the NFE and USI reactors are integrated as components of the larger infrastructure they're in, under my roleplay rules above.

And I hope to God I haven't sparked a debate between USI fans and NFE fans and WBI fans... oh God some people can be so dedicated sometimes it's almost like a religion with all its schismatics. And if anyone asks, I am a very ecumenical catholic. They play together well enough with their own mechanics, each has their place in the sky, and I'm not feeling TOO guilty about favoring one part over the other for specific roles. I alternate among stock, SpaceY, and NFLV for 5m vehicles, after all, consistent logic among the parts be damned. I'm a dirty, dirty Kerbal, mixing all these parts without regard for lineage.

Anyway, to keep things simple, a S.A.F.E.R. amply powers IkAROS's drills and ISRU unit, lights and transmitters. When it's projected to run out (five years on full load is what I read somewhere?), it's simple for an engineering mission to drop by to swap S.A.F.E.R.s, the old one either being buried (USI-dismantled), or returned for refurbishing (USI-dismantled, but at a facility to capture the MaterialKits to manufacture a new S.A.F.E.R., ideally the same facility that will refine Uranite or recycle Depleted Uranium into Enriched Uranium. You know, roleplay consistency. But that comes later). 


That's all the components of the advance fleet in, awaiting the arrival of the main fleet: Aerith, the Mobile Hangar, and the three Duna cargo landers of DoD-I, establishing the surface exploration, habitation, life support, and research architecture of my long-planned Duna base, launched days ahead of Aerith in their own little flotilla. Divided among the three are the base components and vehicles for Kerbalkind's first footfalls, first foothold, first footprints on the Red Planet. 

Edited by B-STRK
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Chapter Five - The Arrival (that sounds ominous)

Even after getting my pending agenda done at that time, even after getting the Duna satellites into place, laying down my Minmus operations, running more tourist and rescue missions, testing a few additional craft, there was still like sixty to seventy days left before the main DoD I fleet arrives at Duna. 

Now I could spend the remaining time productively, taking on contracts to earn more Funds, research more Science from the gobs of data from the Artemis I mission, rescue more Kerbals and take more tourists all over Mun and Minmus... Or I can see I'm flush with Funds and Science anyway, give in to my getthereitis and just timewarp the entire period away. 


DSV Aerith Gainsborough --- Year: 2 Day: 33 Time: 4:40:55
MET: 0y, 1d, 05:10:05 --- Status: On escape trajectory out of Duna

Finally. Finally, finally. I can finally say I have legitimately reached Duna with a KSP expedition.
I still have to do the landing, but... eh. I'm allowed to savor the moment.  
(Additional note: I don't know why the MET keeps resetting when I do the logs on the Notes mod. I usually just have to subtract the hard dates on each log entry to get time elapsed.)

Option 2 it is.


DSV Aerith Gainsborough --- Year: 2 Day: 35 Time: 5:13:54
MET: 0y, 1d, 17:43:04 --- Status: Orbiting Duna

Ah, finally. For the first time in my KSP playthrough life, over six years running as of now, Kerbals taste the space around Duna. Yes, I will take the milestone and my Duna first-kiss card, please and thank you. (Of course this is only the first-kiss card. I haven't done enough for a proposal for cohabitation with Duna yet. )


<<*Sigh.* Get back inside, Val. 200 days. 200 days of interplanetary space with nothing but Vtuber content.>>
<<Good thing the Program didn't spring for the optional railgun upgrade for the 
Gainsborough class, huh?>>

Val insists on being the one to first EVA of space near Duna. It's also an opportunity to inspect your Untitled Space Craft after a very long trip. Make it a habit, guys, please. The last thing you want is to finally pack the day in to go home after a hard day's work, only to find the battery's flat. I honestly, honestly hated that day. 


Many days later (oh God I hate orbital mechanics), the Mobile Hangar comes in. On arrival into LDO, she's RV'd with Aerith, and berthed to her to form the Duna Base Camp. Oh hey! I get the milestone for first station construction on Duna, too! 

Now, looking at my options, I could do the rest of the orbital science--I mean, unberth the Mobile Hangar, take Aerith polar, and just like I did farming Science in space near the Mun early on, grab all the LDO Science I could before going back to equatorial, returning to the MH, and finally, finally landing the Duna base packages and finally, finally landing the first Kerbals on Duna in my KSP playthrough life. I mean, it's over a year till the minimum-energy return window opens up. There's plenty of time. 


Coordinates locked in. Get ready for some slop.

Or, I could realize I'm flush with long-stay mission time, just succumb to my getthereitis, and land the Packages and the team on Duna right now. There is plenty of time for everything else, after all. 

Option 2 it is. 


The Duna Mission Package.
She's an absolute unit.

Because it has been a long road. And it's time for me to hit the offramp.  Before my battery runs flat again.

Edited by B-STRK
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Chapter Six - The Landing (FFVIII OST)


You look up at the stars and planets in the sky, and you dream of what it must be like to travel to them. 

The same is true when one first gets KSP. You trawl through the forums, the Reddit, the YouTubes and Googles, seeking lessons, inspirations, ideas, ideals. You get to hear names bandied about: Manley, Shadowzone, Stratenblitz, House, Jatwaa, Thrimm, Lowne, SWDennis, 2462 (okay, SWDennis and 2462 for completely different reasons. Did I forget Nexter's Lab?). Brotoro, katateochi, Geschosskopf,, Death Engineering, Kuzzter, many other names I've come across "growing up with KSP" from when I got in in 2014, in 0.23.5, and this paragraph is getting long enough. Among all of them we've had tech demos, and reference missions, and grand campaigns; replication challenges and performance challenges; single-shots and long-runners; mission report after mission report. Duna, of course, being a standard feature for many. 


Desserts of Duna-I expedition surface assets mated to launch vehicles

Like I said, Duna was a rite of passage I've longed for, and long avoided, for one reason or another. That did not mean I did not dream, though. 


Looking at katateochi's Constellation replica and wanting to do that.

Looking at Richworld's Duna Direct analogue and asking, can I do that.

Looking at player after player land on Duna after Duna, with their Das Dunaprojekts and DOMAs, their Shuttles and Constellations, their Elcanos and Americanos (okay, even I have my linguistic limits). Making probes and landers and bases and rovers and even aircraft, and thinking: can I engineer and fly and land and deploy and run like that.


Never had the time. Though I tested the heck out of prototype crafts, Hyperedited them to orbit and into atmosphere. Never had enough mods. Though 1.1 finally came out and broke the 32-bit, 4GB ceiling. Never had the impetus, even though the Apollo and Shuttle challenges I did manage to join dangled their stretch goals in front of the Red Planet. 



Enough. This time, I land on Duna. No more resetting on the next major version bump. No more putting things off until I had just the right capabilities, just the right crafts and mods (what the hell did I grind the Mun for, anyhow?). If I stick with 1.9.1, I stick with it. If I go with what I got, then I go with what I got (and admittedly I got a lot by now). Enough testing. Enough impetus. Enough time. It's time.

I'll admit. What gave birth to my desired Duna architecture predates 1.0. I saw this pre-1.0 video by YouTuber vectorbased, of a twin-rotor craft dancing over Duna, and I was fascinated the same way we're all fascinated by Ingenuity's mission. I wanted that. Long before 1.0 ditched the souposphere, I wanted to fly on Duna. To dance with the angels in its skies. And I wanted a Duna expedition that could carry that. I wanted a base on Duna to support that. I wanted rovers to explore Duna and support that. 

I wanted an adventure on the ~desserts~ deserts of Duna. 


Funny. It's clear that I'm not the only one with the inspiration for the mission. For the architecture. Even for the engineering. Others have done their own versions, their own interpretations, too. Matt Lowne, Thrimm, and Shadowzone certainly did so, repeatedly. Someone else in the forum announced the same idea, and I commented on it, and doing this I feel like I'm stealing from him. And from a similarly-based craft design on Kerbal X. Hell, I type the name I use here in KerbalX, I get multiple hits. 


But that's the magic of KSP, as it is with the magic of space travel. We all use the same mods, the same parts, the same physics. So are the actual space programs of the world: same physics, same materials, same human beings. We're always reinventing the wheel, because better wheels. Or at least more awesome, or cheaper. As much as some express the opposite, SpaceX's Starship IS Space Shuttle 2.0, rewritten for all the tech upgrades it takes to get there, that says it should be feasible NOW when it wasn't before. Orion MPCV is Apollo CSM writ large. Tiangong is Mir is half of ISS, just as half of ISS is Freedom. Das Marsprojekt still is the soul of Mars Direct, Constellation, Base Camp, if only smaller and less "invasive." 


But in the reinvention, whatever the original DNA, we kind of make it our own. Matt Lowne's megarovers are unique to each other, to Shadowzone's, to Thrimm's. katateochi's Constellation is a pastiche of the original, and the blueprint for other KSP players, but stands as its own thing to both ends. Richworld and Geschosskopf and Brotoro and Scott and many others flew Duna differently, and for different mission objectives, in the same souposphere or its successor. Each space program is a product of its host culture, its place in time and history, its economic constraints and inherent talents.

So I'm not the first to get to Duna, land on Duna, drive on Duna, fly on Duna, base on Duna. Not with the same ideas and inspirations and ideals and Ingenuities kitbashed even more than a STar Trek prop. But I can still embrace it as my own. And it has been a long road, getting from there, in 2014, to here, in 2021, on the even of Ingenuity's flight as I write this. 

And finally, it's time. Time to feel the change in the wind right now. Time to touch the sky. 


Time to do what everyone else did, but with what I've got. Similar inspirations as them, but my own take on the architecture. Same kinds of crafts, but my builds, my fingerprints. Time to do my own thing, and not let more time pass.

Because this is what I did all that prep work in 2020 for. This is what Artemis and Elisabeth and all the previous (admittedly made easier) grind leads up to. This was what the Apollo and Shuttle challenges distracted from, yet also gave the training for. What all the mission reports and videos inspired. Hell, even what Microsoft Flight Simulator and Ace Combat prepared me for. This is what I got KSP six, now going on seven years ago for.


This is my Das Dunaprojekt. My Constellation. My Ares. My Hermes. This is what many Kerbal players have done before me, in their own ways and means, the same DNA but their own fingerprints, long before I did. Many like it. But this one is mine. 

This is my rite of passage. This is my Duna expedition.

This is my flight on Duna. This is my drive on Duna. This is my Duna base. This is my KSP one-giant-leap. 

This is six years in the making.

This is my faith of the heart.

This is three. Spacebars. To go.



This... is admittedly taking a long time to get to the ground. Damn, these Lithobrake Tech megachutes are something. 


BRN Rachel S'jet --- Year: 2 Day: 55 Time: 1:27:30
MET: 0y, 8d, 19:02:04 --- Status: landed at Duna

This is the KSTN-NBR12A Science Baserunner Rachel S'Jet

As the proverb goes, there are many like it

But this one is mine. 

(And now you know why I'm calling the expedition Desserts of Duna. I mean, I could have called it Skaal Brii, but that was begging for Sajuuk's intervention.)

IMPORTANT CREDIT AS SOME THINGS ARE NOT MINE: besides the existence of the above-linked Baserunner replicas and pastiches on KerbalX which I found later and only last year, I really have to declare for disclosure purposes and credit that I'm not the first guy to think about making a Kerbal baserunner in these forums. There are two, but the first one I saw was back in 2015. ScriptKitt3h aired an intention audible about making a Baserunner-type vehicle complete with embarked smaller rovers for a Duna Elcano. At the time I was just doing Apollo 1.0 and a Mun Elcano so I was not entertaining the same idea, and as a Homeworld fan as well I was actually interested to see him do it. I am not sure if he ever did, at least I haven't seen him post it as best as I could search--unless he is the guy behind all those KerbalX craft--but when 1.4 finally came I started thinking of the same idea, though like I said, the pieces never really came together until last year. 

Baserunner breakdown to follow.

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Chapter Seven - The Sales Pitch (... rich Corinthian leather... )



Obligatory flag-planting ceremony on territory that by treaty law is not claimable territory for sovereignty purposes anyway.

The Science Baserunner represents the pinnacle of planetary exploration for Kerbal technology, Kerbal ingenuity, and Kerbal determination. 


Familiarization tour of prototype Baserunner, KSC



Marrying large-scale automotive technologies, concepts from recreational vehicles and mobile homes, field command and control, robust life support and sustainable exoplanetary presence, and expeditionary science, the Baserunner opens up all accessible landmasses to survey, sampling, experimentation, and research. As a mobile base, it provides for, protects, and projects its expedition crew on extended and extensive planetary missions, without degradation of strength or loss of capability.


Terrain stress test of prototype Baserunner, near Dessert Launch Site

The Baserunner owes its hard-terrain mobility to an independent suspension, all-wheel electric drivetrain, capable even under seventy tons' load of a 154kph (96mph; 43m/s) maximum speed VNe across gradients that would give lesser drivetrains on lighter rovers pause. Repeated tests on Kerbin's deserts confirm its ability to tackle some of the toughest terrain short of sheer cliff faces, waterways too deep to ford, or the most stubborn cluster of non-scatter collision props.


Engineering team leads disposal of landing parachutes.
INSET: Desserts of Duna I expedition boards and onboards 

As a mobile command post, the Baserunner boasts extensive C3 (command, control, and communications) facilities: from its capital ship-class command deck providing two command/pilot posts and four configurable workstations, to robust autonomous systems designed to coordinate entire exoplanetary stations. From the C3 deck, the two-pilot command/control crew can communicate with field teams, direct drones and probes in its purview, and link up to the local orbital communication network to draw on SCANSat telemetry data, or the facilities of Mission Control at the Kerbal Space Center. Bon Voyage autopilot and Mechjeb-powered cruise control lighten the navigation workload of both crew and Mission Control on long distances and heavy workload schedules, and allows for remote piloting from Mission Control--or serving as Mission Control for the local field. 


Engineering team unloads ROV-04-brn Akita "Mog" and S.A.F.E.R.
INSET-R: Akita (Duna Aux. Package 1) landing on Duna.
INSET-L Engineering team installs S.A.F.E.R. in 
Rachel's reactor compartment. 


"Mog" parked in Rover Bay.
INSET: rover umbilical/anchor attached, fixing the Akita in place.

Independent command and control allows the Baserunner crew to employ smaller tenders, more agile and capable of accessing nooks and situations beyond even the Baserunner. The rover bay houses a bespoke Akita unpressurized utility rover, for the ferrying of crew and cargo to and from the Baserunner using the configurable WBI Buckboard container, including the separately-delivered 1.25m-class plug-and-play WBI S.A.F.E.R. reactor that enables the Baserunner's expansive capabilities.


VH-07 Honey Bee N "Choco" aeroshell staged.
INSET: VH-07 EDL lander (Duna Aux. Package 2) on final descent.


DoD-I's (and the Program's) first powered flight on Duna (unkerballed).
Sequence: take-off; RAST capture and landing; traverse to parking.

The highlight of the Baserunner system is its ability to embark, maintain, and deploy its aerial tender: the VH-07 Honey Bee N RTG-powered exoplanetary VTOL, a long-endurance 2+4-Kerbal aerial transport, scout, and airborne experimental platform, with UAV/remote piloting capabilities for when even the sky is too hostile for Kerbalkind. And similar to systems used in helicopter-equipped naval vessels, a magnetic and DockRotate-powered 0.625m RAST (Recovery Assist, Secure, and Traverse) system guides the VH-07 pilot and Baserunner crew to a facilitated recovery and traversing of the aircraft to the mobile base's helipad.


DoD-I expedition science crew at work in the laboratory. 
INSET: K&K laboratory slide-outs deploying.

The core of the Baserunner's mission is Science, and to this end the topside K&K PBS laboratory provides the Science research crew with ample space and tools for on-the-go research, allowing immediate processing of samples, surveys, and data drawn from the field into Science for delivery by communications link, or for hand-carried delivery back to KSC.  


Expedition crew testing Rachel's surface resource harvester. 
Trigger remote-piloted to orbit, after refueling from Baserunner fuel tanks.

As a mobile expedition support vehicle, the veins of the Baserunner feed from on-board ISRU systems: a KPBS Snacks! greenhouse supplying its hungry crew, and a K&K PBS ISRU propellant plant to refine Ore into fuel. Simple Logistics allows for rapid and ready refueling of spacecraft and other conventionally-powered vehicles, while the engineering crew can tap on KAS connections for incompatible consumers. Configurable OPT tanks allow the Baserunner to store and deliver refined propellant across vast distances, supporting orbital landers to take on even the toughest inclination deployments without fear of running dry. 


Interior cutaway, Command and Workstation decks.
INSET: expedition crew resting and socializing in aft habitation cabin.


Baserunner interior cabin/deck layout

But the heart of the Baserunner will always be its Kerbal crew, and its interior cabins give its standard complement of six comfortable bunks, rest areas, and Snacks! storage. The wardroom aft of the C3 deck provides additional workshop space and overflow bunking for excess crew members, and with onboard life support production and ample power from SAFER, there is no fear of a crew eating themselves out of home and hearth. The total system of habitation comfort, self-contained life support, and ISRU gives a Baserunner-equipped expedition unprecedented mission endurance and sustainability, and with long-stay planet-side Design Reference Mission profiles--more than a year for a given Duna mission, for example--endurance and sustainability are not PR buzzwords. They are mission-critical objectives. 


The Science Baserunner. The heart and pride of the KSP Desserts of Duna I expedition. The pinnacle of contemporary technology, the the power of the Space Program, the pride of Kerbalkind. 



So this Baserunner, by function, combines the Baserunner from the Hardware: Shipbreakers concept (the light rover bay), the Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak Nabaal Baserunner's aerial scout and helipad (I didn't see it modeled or demonstrated in the Hardware version, but it did have the helipad on top...), and the science mission purpose of the S'jet NBR-12A (also DoK). It's not to the exact profile or scale as the source material (the Baserunner 4.0 on Kerbal X more fits that bill), but it does carry the same spiritual lineage as an expeditionary command vehicle, and replicates the functions of all three source materials. 



Also, while ScriptKitt3h really does have credit for calling for a usable, legit "Kerbal Baserunner" here as expressed last chapter, earlier on I was already entertaining the idea of a "VTOL rover-carrier" which I was experimenting it around the 0.25/0.90 era, using a replica of the VTOL that inspired me in the first place and the Mk2 parts as the carrier. I never did get to follow through with that design, having trouble precisely landing the VTOL onto a Mk2 cargo bay despite all the assists available, that IR robotic arm meant to crane the VTOL onto the deck was more trouble than it's worth, and 1.0 changes made this design meritless, so I set it aside, until Breaking Ground made the idea feasible again, expanding the above concept into the present Baserunner.



Koddammit, why oh why DID I NOT TEST the positioning of the Sprite reusable atmo lander' airlock BEFORE I yeeted it to Duna? I do not think. I do not think at all, every time sometimes. Sometimes even sometimes every time.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Chapter Eight - The Science (of today is the technology of tomorrow)

Okay, after that car commercial, exactly how is the Baserunner employed to Science the [MULCH] out of Duna?


My dudes. I LOVED playing with matchbox cars and Hot Wheels as a kid. 

True to the Minimum Vessel/Minimum Parts/Minimum Workload philosophy, nearly everything needed is already onboard the Baserunner. Combining docking and KIS storage and assembly allows the entire package of Baserunner + Akita + Honey Bee N to be only 100 parts on the go, which for the capability provided and the limits even of a mid-tier gaming laptop circa 2018 is a bargain (considering my save is running more than thirty flights at this point). 


Curiosity. Like a cat poking at a pile of cow pie. 

The only live Science instruments on the Rachel herself are the BTDT-class DMagic anomaly scanner mounted on the laboratory airlock, a surface scanning module to take resource readings, and the CRSY large scanning arm mounted below the command deck. Otherwise, the Baserunner's floor height is still too large to deploy the DMagic terrestrial experiments, and obviously Rachel cannot take situation-in-flight experiment readings. 


But that's where the combination of field construction and the air/ground tenders comes in. For aerial science, engineers can mount the air-capable experiments taken from their storage lockers topside.



God, flying on Duna never gets old. (Yeah, this statement will age like cheese three chapters from now.)

After which a pilot and scientist crew can launch with the VH-07 to take their in-flight readings in a snap when all instruments are mapped to an action group. The scientist is on board to reset the Goo and Materials Bay experiments as needed, and facilitate collection of experiment results so that copies can be produced--one for immediate transmission, the other for lab processing. 

The on-board TST portable hard drive allows for instantaneous collection of results--but to my (and Bob's in this case) horror has insufficient storage for all the data, leading to Bob (and later Verfel) having to EVA, hang on while in flight to take the data from the drive, and the one or two experiments that would not fit (plus an EVA report), reset what needs resetting, and get back into the cabin with everything on board for the second aerial experiment run. (God, I should have tested this on Kerbin, should have used the bigger TST hard drive instead). 



Eenie meenie miney moe, someone gets burned by a laser. 
I don't care if it doesn't rhyme. The laser does not, either. 

In the meanwhile, the dedicated ground experiments are loaded onto the Akita's Buckboard by an engineer, who is joined by a scientist (again for the entire two copies of experiments thing and to reset the core sampler). Once off Rachel and running, Mog on site the crew sets the parking brakes, and the engineer uses the Akita and Buckboard surfaces to mount all the instruments. The onboard solar panel and the Akita's internal monoprop fuel cell provides the necessary power to run the experiments and the TST portable hard drive. Experiment samples are taken (after collection by the hard drive) manually to the airlock for transfer to the permanent Experiment Storage Container topside.

(Okay, maybe the entire KIS assembly thing isn't exactly "minimum workload", having to set up both the parts and the action groups. But having them permanently mounted means an extra twenty parts in the mated vessel, plus Kerbals can't use the Airplane Plus skids as four external seats, really they have that functionality. Sometimes I have to pick two of three. And that means fifteen to twenty minutes of assembly and disassembly, flight, drive, experiment, experiment again.)


And she sticks the landing!... Sticks the landin... Sticks... Sticks...
Okay, I need more practice on my final approaches.

Once the Science gets done done and there's research to be run, the crew (hopefully still alive, I'm looking at you Jeb, I don't care if the Honey Bee can hit like 8,000m on Kerbin, you are not here to joyfly that bird like your name's Pete Mitchell) return to the mothership. With the RAST magnets capable of pulling the VTOL in to latch/dock, all the pilot has to do is to land skids on deck, and shimmy the aircraft onto the RAST. Or if s/he's lucky, the RAST magnets will catch near touchdown and pull the Honey Bee in to stick the landing. After the crew disembarks and data and samples transferred to the permanent Experiment Storage Container, the engineer comes back out to dismount and store the instruments--again, minimum parts count.

In turn, after stowing all equipment, the Akita is driven back up the ramp to the vehicle bay, the umbilical strut fixed into place, and the rover wheels disengaged. (SAFETY NOTE. Always engage the KAS strut-based umbilical in DOCKED mode before leaving the scene or timewarping. Not only for the minimum vessel count philosophy, but leaving the scene with the Akita attached in undocked mode will find the game trying to load the minirover into the BRN floor on return to regularly scheduled programming, leading to hilariously jacked up insurance rates.)

Once everything is packed in, the crew can pack it in, power up the KF monster wheels, and drive off to the next survey site or mission objective. As for that mission objective...

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Chapter Nine, Sol 1 - The Elcano (Here We Go Again)

No no no no no... what am I thinking?

Another six-shooter rover, on an exokerbin planetary body. No. Not again. Please.


Six years ago, when the 1.0.x series was new, and life felt slower, less pandemicky, and less lawsuity, and I found myself with some time to spare in my Apollo 1.0 challenge, I took a MOLAB-equivalent and sent it around the Mun on six wheels for an Elcano badge alongside the Apollo one. It was fun. It was an eye-opener. It taught me the value of alertness behind the wheel on high physics-warp, the dangers of complacency, of learning to appreciate the journey while at the same time cursing the monotony, engineering the vehicles both mission and delivery, reading and navigating the terrain safely, and so on, and so on, and so on... am I actually being wistful about that Munar Elcano?


Why the [naughty, naughty language] hell am I contemplating a Duna Elcano now?


Look, I specifically added a Bon Voyage autopilot unit so that I don't have to do these things. I even went and tested it in a separate quicksave to make sure it would work (and not spawn the Baserunner inside a mountain, for example, no, we reserve that for one of the three Brass Balls of Sajuuk). It works.  I don't have to drive all the way just to sample biomes.


The battle plan is to just BVAP Rachel to each waypoint, find the nearest flat spot, do Chapter Eight again, rinse and repeat for all biomes. The entire point of the Minimum Workload philosophy. That's what Artemis I did on the Mun. I don't have to drive to the fricking biomes myself. 

No battle plan survives contact with Duna--NO. Don't do it, B-STRK. Don't read up on the various Elcano challenge threads. Don't look up Speeding Mullet's zippy little Duna Elcano adventure squeezed into a Dunaprojekt run. Nope, not Brotoro's foundational experimentation with the first rover parts to hit KSP either. 

Stop looking at Duna in map view. Stop calculating that path to hit all biomes in one run. Nope, B-STRK, those waypoints are for BV navigation only. Stop looking at the distance to each waypoint. 





**Effing long-suffering sigh**


BRN Rachel S'jet --- Year: 2 Day: 56 Time: 0:18:44
MISSION START --- ELC00, Kapisi Field
0° 3’ 35” N, 80° 11’ 23” E

And so we begin another time-sink lunacy that I don't even have to do, except I went and announced it in the What did you do in KSP today thread so I'm now stuck with it. Koddammit, I can't keep my mouth shut, can't I?

Waypoint-wise, technically I've started even before the log time listed. Technically speaking, per the Elcano rules I started the moment Jesme planted the flag in Chapter Seven. Which was one Chapter Seven and one Chapter Eight ago. But enough burning daylight, time to burn rubber. 

Some ground rules to consider in this run, though.


Once upon a time, back when most of us had to suffer the number-of-mod limits of 32-bit Unity.
No way 
Rachel could ever work back in 1.0.4. Or was it 1.0.2?

The 1.0.x-era ESME was based on a Mk2 fuselage, about thirteen tons. That was also on Munar gravity, about 1/6th of Kerbin's, and with an equatorial circumference of 1,256,637 m. And she had enough reaction wheel authority to get her back on her wheels if she ever, somehow, safely landed on her back (which happened on quite a few occasions. Not that there had been no disassembly-to-F9 in other instances). The entire design in fact was built around surviving landing on her back, and getting back on her feet. 


Rachel's a whole different girl-to-the-dance. At start she was about 70 tons after refueling Trigger from her internal stores, later a little over 60 after reconfiguring the hull tanks. The only reaction wheels of note are in the spaceplane cockpit, the VH-07 and Akita being inconsequential against such mass (and there is a reason why the OPT spaceplane parts also include dummy thicc elevons and augmented RCS jets). And this was on a planet with almost twice the equatorial circumference, almost twice the Mun's gravity, which I have never, ever significantly explored or driven over before so we don't know the terrain ahead, so it was almost twice the workload.

Under those conditions--and not to mention the antennas, lab, and the VTOL helipad and VTOL itself being on the Baserunner's roof deck, there is no such thing as "safely" landing Rachel on her back. There is no such thing as a survivable flipping incident. There is no such thing as ESME 2.0 on Duna. Something goes wrong... well, Commander Melissa Lewis said it best, so if I may paraphrase her with an appropriate F5/F9 montage:


<<Before you answer, consider the consequences. If we mess up landing on our feet after any airtime, we die.>>


<<If we mess up balanced driving while under 3x or 4x, or even 2x physics warp, we die.>>


<<If we mess up situational awareness and hit a non-scatter Breaking Ground surface feature while at high speed or physics warp, we die.>>

(Source: JohnMaley43 via Cheezburger)

<<If we mess up situational awareness and drive over a non-scatter feature high enough to hit the S.A.F.E.R. reactor compartment...
well, it's not an instant kill, but we're not getting anywhere without that reactor. Or make Snacks!, for that matter.
Speaking of which, if we don't abort to orbit after running out of Snacks!, we die bleed Rep. A lot of Rep.>>


<<If we do everything perfectly, we add God knows how many more Kerbal and real world days to our mission.
God knows how many Kerbal and real world days before B-STRK can move on with the rest of his savegame again.
Something might break that no amount of F5s or editing the persistence file can fix. If it's mission critical, we die.>>

Jebediah: "Sign me up."


Point is, F5 early, F5 often. And make a separate save for good measure. And considering the warnings of original challenge moderator and circumnavigator Fengist:


I'm still testing a theory but, I highly suspect that issues I've had with ground based vehicles while doing extended, multi-save and restore missions are caused by quicksaving while the vehicle is in motion. On two missions I've had hugely misaligned parts. Gravitational and motion stresses on ground-based vehicles are a LOT more than spacecraft. If you quicksave while a part is misaligned due to these stresses and then reload, you just doomed your vessel to a corrupt save. Again, it's a theory I'm testing but it sure sounds plausible.

... quicksaving while under motion could lead to unintended structural consequences I wanted to avoid with ESME, and I want to avoid with Rachel, and dear God that means stopping to save--more drag to the average speed. MORE TIME TO TAKE. **SIGH.**


Yeah, other painful comparisons. Both Sunshooter-Elcano and Desserts of Duna-Elcano share the same mission profile (of wide-ranging survey through the circumnavigation), and thus strategic navigation plan. Except that all ESME had to worry about was three or four (or five?) base location survey sites, and anomalies on the way, that probably never exceeded fifteen to twenty degrees of latitude either side of the equator. 


Rachel on the other hand had fourteen (now thirteen) distinct biomes to hit. Apart from the "generic" biomes (e.g., Lowlands, Poles, etc.), there were also the discrete, location-based biomes like Polar Craters or the Canyons. The idea was to hit them all in the same westward run (hopefully without having to backtrack across longitudes), so the crew could extract all that juicy, juicy Science. Especially considering the polar biomes, that means traversing 45 degrees of latitude from the equator to reach the snows. That meant unavoidable and extensive detours from the crow-flies path. 

A larger planet, as well as more latitudes to cross, AND multiple Science pit stops along the way, meant a severely longer Elcano than the Mun. With a mobile base. And a box of scraps. **SIGH.** But hey. Not because it is easy, but because Cold War politics etc. 


BRN Rachel S'jet --- Year: 2 Day: 56 Time: 0:50:42
ELC01, Zone 5B-W1Q
6° 22’ 59” N, 57° 57’ 35” E

While this is an Elcano, it was also a Science expedition. Granted, I don't know how many Breaking Ground surface features had been added to Duna without having to bring out the wiki, but it's worth hitting the brakes to give the scanning arm some time to stretch out. 


Again. Especially when driving under any physics warp, any airtime is also insurance premium escalation time. Sure, the physics acceleration sucks the Baserunner to the ground, but I think it accelerates the suspension performance of Kerbal Foundries wheels as well. That makes sixty to seventy tons quite jumpy on the rebound, and again, if not careful, the revolutions-per-minute will refer to how many revolutions the Baserunner takes cartwheeling into the ground. 

Still though, I can't resist the temptation of taking a cool hang time shot with Ike, Kerbin (pale blue dot below Ike), and the orbiting Aerith (black dot left of Ike) in the background. Yeah, maybe 800 x 600 resolutions aren't good for that sort of detail.




Yeah, yeah, KF wheels plus an all-in-one WBI nuclear reactor means the Baserunner takes mountains like a goat, but what is getting my goat is why isn't the BTDT scanner recording my ground track? It did that back in Sunshooter. Yeah, I'm gonna have to drop custom Waypoint markers to record my track--the original plan was to use it to mark sites of interest like flat ground or anomalies. But hey, it's something to do every 50 kilometers I stop to quicksave.


Still, it bothers me that we're not getting a BTDT track on the small map. Okay, start fiddling with the controls, click a label or two, and... oh hey! Now I know why. I had the map displaying the day/night terminator, which mode would not accommodate BTDT tracking. And I also figured how to switch the map over to biome, more useful for navigation purposes. 

I am as pleased as punch--holupaminute. Who's driving the Baserunner while all this was going on? And what was the Vne (velocity, never exceed) again? (the answer is 43m/s)


BRN Rachel S'jet --- Year: 2 Day: 56 Time: 2:27:10
ELC03, Dinklestein's Curiosity
21° 54’ 41” N, 52° 22’ 19” E

Well. That's what I get for not paying attention.

Back in the 1.0.x days, the Kerbal Foundries wheels did not include damage modeling, which admittedly made them quite OP for Elcano runs--go as fast as you want, as hard as you want. ESME and Samene, Marliana, and Leevy certainly didn't mind. Well, times changed, and probably for the better. Even if realistically speaking, changing THESE wheels would be impossible for a Kerbal to do alone. And now with discrete repair kits in 1.11.x, could one kit really account for one entire monster truck wheel, for balance purposes? (Of course I'm at 1.9.x, and I can live with the lack of repair kits.)


Visually, maybe these wheels could display more damage modeling than simply snapping the suspension, though. On the other hand, if it's gonna look like the tire had popped, how the hell do we justify where we keep the spare tires? Then again, how the hell do we justify pneumatic monster truck or mining site mega dumptruck wheels on Mars? I'm overthinking this.


BRN Rachel S'jet --- Year: 2 Day: 56 Time: 2:43:24
LOC: 16.1km from ELC03

One silver lining from breaking the wheels. A short distance away (about 16 km) was another opportunity for biome Science. So, another checkpoint, another Chapter Eight Science evolution. Oh, the Lowlands. Good, I can check that generic biome out of the way.

Back on the road.


LOC: Denver Plains
32° 7’ 11” N, 33° 4’ 24” E

I just couldn't help but think that (a) this was a nice, relatively level plot of land to set up a settlement in, and (b) with that ridge towards the northwest, it kinda gives me the feels of seeing the Rockies from Denver--if I ever had the personal feel of seeing the Rockies form Denver. Okay, the Rockies are WAY bigger than this ridgeline, but I got the feels, I name the site.


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 57 Time: 0:19:31
ELC06, Area K76K
23° 13’ 4” N, 15° 8’ 5” E

Hey big girl. Sun's getting real low. 

God, I wanted to hit the canyon before sunset. Thing is, with the entire no-such-thing-as-flipping-safely thing, I was not going to risk driving in the dark. Even if I had Minimum Ambient Lighting bumped up, admittedly. It's not like I had to prove the rover's solar-independent propulsion capability, it's a fricking nuclear reactor, it has nothing to prove. 

Besides, I do have to get RCL Trigger back to the Mobile Hangar to get her out of the craft tracking, and for roleplay purposes the crew can use some downtime to check out the rover for wear and tear, preventive maintenance, R&R. Just for the night, right? I mean, a Martian day is just a tad longer than an Earth day. How bad can a Dunatian night be?


Progress by sunset of Sol 1


And, too impatient and tired to find some level ground to park the Baserunner on. The team's gonna have to get used to sleeping with their head or feet up.


God, I wish I didn't say <<Yes>> to the Elcano.


Edited by B-STRK
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Chapter Nine, Sol 2 - The Elcano (how do you kill that which has no life?)

You can even hear the roosters in this pic. Well, if there was enough oxygen for a rooster to survive on Duna anyway.

Alright, witches. Up and atom. At them. Whatever. You can either burn daylight, or burn rubber. 

Leevy Kerman: "But isn't the Rachel actually burning uranium?"

B-STRK: "LEEVY KERMAN! WHAT THE [stop drinking too much coffee in the morning, you're straining your heart] ARE YOU DOING HERE? WEREN'T YOU SUPPOSED TO BE TRAPPED IN MY 1.4.x SAVE?!"

Leevy Kerman: "Well, if you're going to give me Pinkie Pie's personality, you have to learn to accept all the Pinkie Pie consequences." **slasher smile**

B-STRK: "OUT. And take that knife with you."

Leevy Kerman: "You mean this cupcake spatula--"

B-STRK: "OUT!!!"


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 58 Time: 5:04:34
ELC07, Wehrtop's Ground
19° 22’ 20” N, 10° 33’ 5” E

Oh God. I had to play on April 1st. I had to play on April 1st and have all the Waypoint Manager flag options change on me into Nyans, when I hadn't memorized where the KSP flag marker was located.

I know the consensus usually is that this is cute. That.  Cute, but annoying. I was half-expecting RPM to change all MFD displays to non-stop Nyan cats. 

It was April 1st. I was half-expecting Boeing to announce they had acquired Private Division and Intercept Games. Belated April Fools!


Anyway. Once the Science gets done, it's decided to hit the southern polar biome. And the small map would tell me, "But B-STRK, isn't the northern polar biome closer to where you are than the southern?"


Yeah, that's true, but the small map's also saying that up north, there isn't the desired diversity of biomes that would allow me to hit all of them in one relatively westward-going run. I'd be looking at backtracking and retracing and otherwise adding even more kilometers to an already stretched-out Elcano.

Go south, however, and with the extra distance comes the chance to hit one or two of the generic biomes if I hadn't hit them yet, the three polar biomes (Poles, Polar Craters, Polar Highlands), AND a detected anomaly. The trip south would also carry me to the right latitude to hit the Southern Basin afterwards as well. 

South it is. Hey, birds fly south for the winter, do they not?

(Source: Duna Restoration Project Mod)

When Brotoro did his seminal Duna circumnavigation in 0.19, besides testing out the then-new rover wheels he also made observations of what was then the old Duna geography. Since then Duna got an art pass, and many in the kommunity observed that:


Before 0.21, Duna was a more attractive planet with less procedural terrain. While there was a lower overall terrain definition, the majority of the planet was more deliberate and varied and higher in quality. The current version of Duna is covered in procedural lumps and bumpiness, resulting in a distinctly 'samey' appearance.

Really, I'm quoting the wiki here. 


So reading up on Brotoro's observations which were pre-0.21, and comparing them and his pics to what I was seeing confirms the same criticism. Not only that, not only are these procedural lumps deadly boring, they can be deadly, period. Once you hit the highlands they become downright treacherous. Even at the Midlands they could prove troublesome. I've had to downshift from 4x/3x warp to 2x warp to keep Rachel controllable coming down from a jump. Kraken damn these Midlands. Kraken REALLY damn these Highlands. Some of these old-timers would tell you and I that we've been robbed. At this stage of the journey, I was just feeling seasick from the terrain, so the only thing robbed from me so far was ride comfort. 

Old Duna had these large flat areas that were just right for ground bases, and you could see them from orbit. katateochi's Constellation analogue benefited from this. With Procedural Duna... Is there a way to make a mod that highlights what is flat ground on the flight scene, like some sort of augmented reality vision thing? Would make this entire base site survey thing easier. 


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 59 Time: 2:14:01
ELC10, Mison's Cranny
17° 27’ 22” S, 14° 23’ 45” W

Sometimes, you get lucky, though, and you can find a suitable flat and level ground in the middle of all this samey treacherous troublesome procedural lumpiness. Granted, the landscape isn't much to look at, but that's why we have a mobile home, for when the neighborhood gets too vanilla. And when the neighborhood gets too vanilla, too white bread, wander starts lusting. Wander starts lusting so hard. Wander lust you long time. 


"We're Kara and Nate. After four years travelling the world and documenting our journey to one hundred countries, 2020 brought us back to the US, where we bought a converted sprinter van to explore all fifty states."

Well, now you know how I filled out the boredom of immobile lockdown. And I'm not kidding. I've gotten an addiction to travel lifestyle and nomadic lifestyle YouTube content creators to get over not being able to travel given the pandemic. Land and sea and air alike, planes trains and automobiles, the whole nine meters. Started even looking at videos selling RVs and sailboats and yachts and bizjets after all the sailing channels and van life and jetlife channels., as though my career actually paid the big bucks when it doesn't.

Don't look at me. I said I'm a lawyer. I didn't say I was a law firm partner, nor am I likely ever to be one. Elcano, a career in law, why do I torture myself like this? How do you kill that which has no life?

But what really gets my attention in these channels isn't just the travels they do, but what they travel in. Getting up close and personal with the layouts and amenities of the sail boats and recreational vehicles and converted sprinter vans, of the sleeper cabins and first class seats and dining cars and cruise ship cabins. Of living in and travelling on and a life through such conveyances. 


And if I insisted on making this Baserunner an IVA-functional replica as opposed to merely an externally-aesthetic one, insisting on installing actually-modeled IVA sleeping cabins with a plausible connection to the rest of the inhabitable spaces, etc. instead of plugging in a Hitchhiker and calling it a sleeper cabin, blame these channels. Admittedly, the kitbashing of OPT and KPBS and KF and Akita and Airplane Plus and Wild Blue and other stuff gives this Baserunner less of the "precision NASA instrument" vibe, and more of a "converted sprinter van" aura. If a sprinter van was over forty tons empty and literally had two summer camp huts, a laboratory, the front office of a Danube-class runabout and the rear end of a Type 056 corvette, the Houston petroleum industry and six monster truck wheels crammed into it.

And it still wouldn't be out of place in our modern consumer world. I mean, THIS thing exists. Something on the Baserunner scale would actually be more sensible compared to that.

Oh hey, look. We're closing in on the anomaly. Time to bring out the local map to fine tune the Waypoint atop it.


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 59 Time: 3:43:33
ELC11, Site 00V7 (Anomaly)
30° 18’ 5” S, 28° 49’ 6” W

Speaking of precision NASA instruments. Hi JPL? I think you misplaced a very expensive robot somewhere. Do I get a finder's fee for this?


One nice thing about having a scout chopper is that you can do some scout choppery things. Like fly a team up close and personal to inspect the weird metal thing sticking out of some rock. 

I mean, REALLY up close and personal. The Honey Bee N was perched half on its skids, SAS hold being the only thing keeping it from tipping backwards, admittedly. 

Yeah, I know. I need a spell checker every once in a while. Can you mod one in?

This crater gives the impression of being like a tongue of depressed land sticking into the polar terrain. Like it was trying to lick up some powdered sugar. So, the cartographers hereby dub this location The Tongue. Also, this is a PG-13 mission report, so that is powdered sugar. Confectionaries' sugar. All natural. Nope, no Al Pacino characters here introducing you to his diminutive associate.


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 59 Time: 5:13:02
ELC12, The Tongue
43° 4’ 40” S, 40° 4’ 9” W

Okay, while the prospect of driving (and playing) in snow would be exciting in an actual, real-life Duna/Mars expedition, in-game it's simply just ground painted white for all intents and purposes, which carries its own ennui roleplaying sometimes can't overcome. So while Jesmy and Bob drive donuts onto the Polar Crater snows, and Bill makes snow angels beneath the VH-07s's propwash, I'll discuss another inspiration for the Baserunner. Especially considering all this southern snow. 


You guys would likely know of the Antarctic Snow Cruiser, right? Essentially, it's the Byrd Expedition's version of the Baserunner: a mobile expedition base. Maybe not to the same scale as this Baserunner, let alone the Hardware/Homeworld Baserunners, but in terms of the mission statement and minimum functionalities they are the same. It even carried a biplane for the same aerial scouting mission requirement. Sadly no minirover. 

Model of the Antarctic Snow Cruiser, together with its designer
(Source: AP via The Atlantic)

The Snow Cruiser represented American technical know-how, American ingenuity, and the American can-do spirit. It (unfortunately and unintentionally) also represented the occasional American hubris, and the American sometime-tendency to underestimate challenges, for those who know the Snow Cruiser's sordid conclusion: its tires finding no purchase on the snow, capable of mobility only in a crawling reverse (albeit for 148 kilometers/92 miles, points for persistence), too underpowered for the terrain ahead, eventually left as a static habitation and command post (at which it did well enough), abandoned at the outbreak of Global Political Disassembly Dos, buried beneath the snow, and now lost, likely to the Antarctic ocean depths. 

This magnificent if ill-timed creature, I would add, deserved a better end, even considering the failure of the concept, and certainly deserves more than Press F to Pay Respects. 


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 60 Time: 1:28:27
ELC14, Zone 4-31 (Polar Highlands)
45° 54’ 17” S, 61° 32’ 19” W

To be fair, Howard Stark's lament would also apply to the Snow Cruiser: "limited by the technology of its time." One World War later, Stalinium bias pls nerf would produce the Karkovchanka, a Soviet-era equivalent that, while it did not carry all the ambitions of her American predecessor like aviation capability, would benefit from a Russian insistence on rough-terrain ruggedness and developments from their heavy equipment, tank, and aviation industries, plus experience with a predecessor model, with better results. Not that she didn't have her fair share of troubles, though, but successful enough to see successor models built, and to cement her place in Antarctic exploration history. And she has her better memorialization, too, one of the first generation now preserved as a monument in the one of the Russian Antarctic stations (LOC: 69°22′41,0″ S,  76°22′59,1″ E).


And if the technology of Byrd's time did work, it is quite possible that people would have been calling the Kharkohchanka the Snow Cruiserski instead. One does not necessarily use KSP to prove concept vehicles (apart from Scott Manley using it to mock up the Mars Cycler in Stowaway...), but u/johnkeale on Reddit managed to make a functional replica, right up to the integrated biplane. Youtuber KidJP did the Kharkovchanka stock + DLC on Eeloo, complete with instruments.

So yes, this mobile base system works, especially (a) in real life, once you work out the bugs, (b) in-game, if running with a life support or habitation-simulation (as in punishing you for punishing quarters) mod, and (c) with Bon Voyage to skip over the long drive parts. You know, those parts I can't avoid because Elcano. And yes, given MMSEV and the Toyota/JAXA Moon Rover, there is a foreseeable utility to a Martian Snow Cruiser. Even right up to making it a mobile aircraft carrier. 

(Source: NASA JPL)

Hell, Percy had Ginny along for the mission, and they're turning out happy as clams on Mars indeed.


See, south proved profitable. A short distance from the Polar Highlands biome lies the Southern Basin, and from there, it's a quick jaunt to a nearby Highlands biome. That makes... yeah, five biomes since the Curiosity eye stalk, which was not even that long ago. 

Also, I'm not sure, but it seems the Southern Basin is the only biome to have more than one climatological landscape... biome diversity... topographic variance--look, I had to find a way to say that in the Southern Basin, there's snow, and there's non-snow. Haven't seen that in other biomes.

Then again, haven't seen anything other than snow and non-snow on Duna, anyhow.


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 60 Time: 3:15:46
ELC16, Henner's Solitude
45° 11’ 28” S, 66° 12’ 57” W

Here we all are at the end of our southern run, after a biome Science collection at the Highlands. More or less halfway around the world, and only four biomes left to sample. Except those four biomes are all the discrete locations--Western Canyon, Northeast Basin, one of the Craters, and Eastern Canyon--and all are widely spaced apart. Which means cross-country trips all the way. We're expecting this would have the effect of making the traverse faster--only have to stop for 50km checkpoints (and occasional 25km Low Courage Checkpoints), and not for thirty-minute Science gathering evolutions, apart from the four biomes.

And I am not expecting the terrain to be smooth either. But the Canyons especially should prove interesting--instead of simply cutting across them (like for example the Midland Canyon), we're gonna take the time to trace their routes. They're even nicely aligned to smoothly transition to the following waypoint. 

It does mean having to travel slightly eastwards getting to the southern end of the Western Canyon though, but nothing too backtracking about it, maybe just a couple degrees of longitude. 


Oh, these Highlands. Verfel and Bob must be complaining about all that bouncing around getting in the way of their researching in the lab. Making the Mystery Goo samples puke from motion sickness.

Protip: don't do your homework on the way to school if you have a weak vestibular system, and the road to there is hilly and twisty. You will likely be submitting breakfast instead.


Oh, Val (and by extension I) just noticed this now. The OPT RPM cockpits come with a "Tumble" warning alarm. How convenient for IVA driving purposes.

We've been running over certain pebbles so many times in our journey (and yes, they do have an impact on the Baserunner at 3x physics warp, luckily minor) that may we can take the time to scan them. 


ELC17 - Zone 3G2NK
37° 9’ 21” S, 62° 13’ 21” W

They're called blueberries? Jeb had the impression they were more like horseapples. That lasted until Val slapped him down for being rude.  


Oh God, this was something we were hoping to avoid. Again with the sunset, and this time, we're driving on the wrong side of the mountain. Sure, the picture shows that we can see the terrain ahead decently enough. The thing about a picture saying a thousand words though is that you usually have the time to digest all those words. Driving in the dark, the last thing one has is time to digest.

Trust me on this. Driving cross-country in the Munar night was an attention-drain. 


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 60 Time: 4:42:53
ELC18, Area JR-3X
20° 27’ 23” S, 60° 0’ 35” W

And so sunset of Sol 2 finds us under 100km from the Western Canyon, and with a surprisingly picturesque sunset for the crew to kick back and behold. Los Angeles. San Francisco. San Diego. Seattle. Vancouver. The Baja. Name any west coast settlement or location of note all over the world, good chances are you'd have a sunset postcard to Instagram. 

Sure, east coasts get the sunrise. That can be wistful as well, but more often than not, it just means "A new day has begun. Someone please sedate me until the sunset."


But moonrises to the east can also be a thing too. Although on Duna, Ike's orbit is synchronous so that's like a more or less permanent Ikerise scene at this longitude. Although at this time of year, you get the bonus of seeing Kerbin as well if you've installed DOE if you know where to look. Below and to the right of Ike.


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Chapter Nine, Sol 3 -- The Elcano (Beat of the Rising Sun) Let's finish this


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 62 Time: 1:54:15
Departing Area JR-3X


Okay. Fine. I've got nothing to talk about for 99km until the Western Canyon, anyway. But if we're going to do this, while we're driving this war car (because Duna = Mars, get it? Get it? :D), we're using the Fifth Stage OST.

"A Perfect Hero" - Chris Stanton - SUPER EUROBEAT presents 頭文字[イニシャル]D Final D Selection


"Give me your sexy body" indeed, Chris. 

"Orange sus." "THEY'RE ALL ORANGE, NUMBNUTS!" God, why didn't suit customization become a thing in 1.9.x?!

VH-07 "Choco"
In flight, ELC19, The Westmouth
6° 47’ 55” S, 57° 32’ 42” W

Every single Science evolution, every single one, the scientist on board must pop out for an EVA report, download the data from the hard drive, download the data from the instrument that could not fit in the hard drive (usually the atmospheric scoop), and reset experiments for the second, in-situ processing copy.

If the pilot were an impostor, this would be a perfect kill opportunity right about now--and no one else would know about it:cool:


Besides the atmospheric Science, however, Bob also wanted to take an aerial view of what is being marked by the cartographers as the Westmouth, while Jeb was itching for any excuse to stretch the Honey Bee's wings a little further. So after depositing the Science and instruments back on the Baserunner, they lift off again for a topographic survey flight.


We're calling the place the Westmouth because analysis of the mapping scans suggests this must have been the mouth of a river that cut through the Western Canyon long ago. Certainly, the Westmouth smooths out onto the Midland Sea terrain, indicative that this must be a dried-up delta bed. 

What a coin-ki-dinky. As I am composing this report, I just learned that NASA's extending Ingenuity's mission for an additional 30 days. Yay airheads!

At the same time, Jeb has the opportunity to observe how the Honey Bee N reacts aerodynamically. Flights had always been run at 2/3rds of max RPM, which with the right blade pitch gives the VTOL docile altitude and speed control. I imagine at different altitudes and on different planets, I'd be looking at different RPM and deploy angle settings. 

But going back to aerodynamics, maybe it's not as much RPM and authority settings as it is blade airspeed and angle of attack. I'm not sure if the PAW is registering true air speed, which is speed adjusted for airmass. If it is, then it is accounting for Duna's air pressure, meaning that what I should be looking at for VTOL (and otherwise BG prop operations) isn't as much RPM per se, but the airspeed where the props will bite. Eve, for example, is so airmassed it doesn't take much RPM to bite into sufficient atmosphere and thus airspeed. The blades have all that air to gorge on. 

Or maybe I'm just pulling all this out of my S. Flight Simulator fanatic I've been all my life, it still doesn't mean I am a qualified aviation engineer. 


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 62 Time: 3:14:31
Departing the Westmouth, entering Western Canyon

One observation I could make is that as we progress along the canyon, the terrain gets steeper. It certainly confirms that the Westmouth indeed is the mouth of this once-mighty river. But the terrain here is surprisingly rough for a river even just a few kilometers in, that either this river was more rapids than river...

Or maybe Duna is more geologically active than we thought...


Or if you consider the terrain of the Northeast Basin up ahead, essentially one giant crater with a prominent mountain more or less at the center of it, Verfel has the theory that the NE Basin is a gigantic impact crater on what was once the lake that drained into the canyon. The impact was so dramatic as to cause a near-cataclysmic tsunami racing in all directions, including down what is now the Western Canyon, carving out its present gullies and dips, the ancient meteorite becoming the present-day mountain once the dust had settled. 

Hey, she's the scientist. I wouldn't know half the things she's hypothesizing.

**sigh** Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to work we go. Is it also a coin-ki-dinky I am typing this out during International Worker's Day?

BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 62 Time: 4:40:12
ELC21, Westhead (Northeast Basin)
13° 49’ 2” N, 75° 11’ 4” W

And here we are at the Northeast Basin. And this is what, tenth or eleventh Science evolution? The first time back in Chapter Eight was exciting, a proof of concept, the extraction of sweet nectar, taking the first operational flights, taking the Akita on a joyride. Now it's just routine. Boring. Tiring. God, I can't wait for all the biomes to be hit. For this circumnavigation to end.


At least the terrain here's a little more interesting than down below. Departing the Westhead (being the theoretical head of the river that carved the Canyon) towards the Northeast, making for the crater 380 clicks away. Off to the left is the mountain that dominates the Basin's skyline, which we intend to give a wide berth to the north so as not have to scale its heights--holupaminute. Is that the Anomaly Scanner going "ding"?


(Source: Official Doctor Who Tumblr)

Yes, yes it went "ding." I guess we're headed up the mountain. 


"Curious emissions." It's worth taking a closer look, innit?


It's worth taking a closer look with the entire crew. Alright. Time to go, Navy SEALs style. Jeb and Val, take the cockpit. Everyone else, tether to the skids. 

So many myths have been written about this colossal feature on the Dunatian surface. So many people have swiped left as well. Too creepy.


Okay, just like with the Curiosity mastcam, we're gonna lightly set down on the Face, have the team plant a flag and post for a selfie and... uh, why are we phasing through the Face? 


Yes, I know from other Mission Reports that it is likely the Face's collision mesh doesn't line up with the graphics. Could be a consequence of my game settings as well, which were turned down for performance's sake. Still, there is nothing so unnerving as an EVA into the Face's mouth. Or where its nose is supposed to be (eww, all that bloody snot). Also, who knows what Krakeny madness happens out of sight below the graphics mesh? 

Nuh-uh. The title of this Mission Report is "Faith of the Heart - Going Beyond Kerbinspace", not "Event Horizon - Do you see? DO YOU SEE?!" I'm not linking to that scene. I want to sleep at night. You guys can Google it if you want to.

I wish I could unsee.


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 63 Time: 0:09:00
Departing ELC22, The Face
17° 8’ 38” N, 85° 26’ 11” W

One thing I wanted to avoid getting out of the Northern Basin was coming down a mountain. Some things you can't avoid though. Much F5, so downshift physics warping. 

And this time Jesmy's the one taking Rachel's wheel. Even if she isn't a pilot. Which brings up another off-tangent somewhat off-topic at the back of my mind.


Discussion to pass the time after marking the exit from the Northeast Basin. It's still a long way to the Crater, after all.


Thinking about it, in a real-life expedition it wouldn't just be the pilots who would be the rover drivers. We know that there's always a degree of cross-training, even for astronauts selected to be mission specialists. To quote the source, "Flying [T-38s], pilot astronauts are able to maintain their flying skills and mission specialists are able to become familiar with high-performance jets." It's just like in The Martian: every crew member has to be ready to take over someone else's duties in the event someone gets accidentally left on Mars. Or someone has the flu and has to be locked in one of the centrifuge pods on recirc with HEPA filters, oh we have learned our lesson from the past year, haven't we? 

And obviously, this sort of cross-country, long-range round-the-world driving would be punishing on a single driver. Even two, for that matter. And something like this, I bet it wouldn't be just the driver. Just like in any cockpit crew, the guy in the other seat is doing the other stuff the pilot-flying would be too busy to handle, including situational awareness, communications, navigation, data management, and so forth. So the entire crew would be cycling into the front office. Even the scientists (realistically speaking, all this motion would make working in the lab impossible. I've had the lab running anyway because head start on crunching all that sweet sweet biome Science, and every second counts). While high-performance aircraft flying may be a skill, driving a car is a rite of passage. 


I am not sure if you guys are familiar with the Silent Hunter series. Starting with III, they've implemented a crew fatigue and rotation mechanic that requires the player to cycle, and plan to cycle, officers and crew between work and rest. Plus the demands of combat would concentrate more crew to some functions over others. I know there is a mod that simulates kerbal fatigue, though that tracks in between deployments (enforced R&R after return-to-Kerbin), not within deployments. I don't think anyone should have to create such a mod, or Intercept Games implement such a within-deployment crew rotation system in KSP2. This game is hard enough as it is without having to factor in personnel management. Though for the masochists...

Any cross-country or long-haul driver will tell you that attention span and concentration is a critical resource on these long drives. Fall asleep behind the wheel is the obvious no-no. I've been there before, and it was not pretty. All the road autopilot technologies are still primarily at the driver-assist stage, with no one quite ready to entrust it to the prime time just yet, even considering what Alphabet (Google) and Tesla are saying. And on another planet, on an off-roader's idea of heaven, there's a reason why Ingenuity can be useful for future missions. Why all rover preprogrammed navigations and traversals have to be carefully considered. It wouldn't do for a rover to get wedged in a crevice, stuck in the regolith, or heaven forbid on its back.

Moral of the story, take care of your people, period. I know this isn't the game whose mechanics generally encourage that, and we do enjoy a little dark comedy here a lot. But at heart I'm a kerbitarian. Under the same principle, I am an XCOMtarian (both then and now), which explains why I never play above the easiest difficulty level. I'm not one for a casualty rate. 


Oh look, the northern snows are on the horizon, and there's a snow-covered rock even here in all the non-snow. Okay I take back my previous statement about the Southern Basin.


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 63 Time: 4:07:55
ELC28, The Foot
44° 55’ 36” N, 143° 51’ 43” W

And having reached here, with all its snow, the crew can say that they have hit both Dunatian snowcaps. That is more or less ninety degrees of latitude traversal, 45 on either side of the equator. More importantly, this is the next to the last biome to sample. I can finally look forward to the end of the entire ordeal of unpacking, launching, recovering, repacking. I don't care how much Jeb whines about not getting enough flight hours. Every pilot in every air force has the same problem, Jeb. You're lucky you get to fly on Duna at all.

The place is called "The Foot" because, much like the crater outlines of the southern Polar Crater gave the impression of a tongue, for this crater it looked more like a bare foot stomping its mark in the snow. Sure, it had to contend with another crater alongside it, but if you squint your eyes and tilt your head to the left, it does look like a footprint in the snow. 

And I forgot to take a picture of it, so we're left with our imaginations, because Valentina's not going to turn this car around just because Bob forgot to bring out the camera for the Instagram. Another God-knows-how-much-longer-this-will-take is not worth the Insta-fame. 

Enough squinting, enough imagining, and certainly enough Instagram. Moving on.


The thing about The Foot though is that those same crater outlines made for some foreboding slopes to climb at physics warp. I counted more than fifteen F9 reverts from the checkpoint before I gave up and made the run on good old-fashioned 1x speed. Even then, with a terrain so corrugated average speeds dropped to 90kph (25m/s) or lower just so that each jump didn't result to a heart attack on landing. And we ended up giving the direct route to the Eastern Canyon a wide berth eastwards to avoid the crater wall entirely. Sure, the Baserunner could take the slope head-on. Sure, if I wanted to babysit every meter of the run at 1x speed until she crested the wall. 


Over one hundred kilometers later...


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 64 Time: 0:25:02
ELC32, E. Canyon NE Entry
30° 14’ 27” N, 176° 36’ 1” W

Finally. Finafrickingly. Eastern Canyon biome sampled. That's ALL the biomes sampled. I don't have to do this thing ever, ever again!

Except I might have forgotten one or two experiments at a couple of biomes, but those can wait for later. Once everyone's back down, locked, tethered, and parked, no more Science evolutions. From that point on, it's all driving until the finish line.


First up: travelling down the length of the Eastern Canyon, to the SW entrance. That will also have the effect of taking Rachel down to the equator, to the latitude where this all began, a very convenient exit, after which we punch the throttles and race to daylight.


The Eastern Canyon is topographically curiouser than the Western Canyon, though. The latter had all the impressions of being carved out by a river. But this one? Its lowest point is somewhere off the middle of the canyon length, the mouths at either end at higher elevation. It really didn't look like this was a river that drained from one end to the other. 


The Eastern Canyon also hosts the lowest elevation We've reached so far in this journey, somewhere above 300m. Given that the Midland Sea was on average 600m in this journey, this places this portion of the Canyon at the same level as a seabed, if not a sea trench. No one can make heads or tails of this terrain. 


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 64 Time: 2:28:57
ELC34, E. Canyon SW Entry
2° 10’ 40” N, 151° 11’ 44” E

And the southwestern end of the Canyon opens up to the Highlands. The fricking Highlands. We were expecting to punch the throttles after this! Forget that! We can't even risk 3x warp around here. 

Kapisi Field is nearly 400km away. And we have to cross a [uncivilized language] mountain range to get there. A [again, uncivilized language] mountain range!!! Right after the lowest point so far on Duna!!!

Fine, Speeding Mullet's Von Brauncano (which I consulted prior to making this run, and which also traversed the Eastern Canyon) called this area "particularly bumpy ground", so between him and the SCANSat slope maps we should have known what to expect (though I would describe it less as "particularly bumpy", and more "Dammit Google Maps, did you just lead us to the fricking Caucasus?") But again, he has a Mk1 lander can-based rover that can afford to go WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE up and down these crags. This is NOT terrain suited for a sixty-ton mobile base. Even if it is a nuclear-powered Baserunner.


Even if there are moments where even a sixty-ton nuclear-powered Baserunner could go WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Okay, maybe a tiny WEEE.


You know the place we marked as Denver Plains because the foothills at the horizon gave the impression of the Rockies? I spoke too soon, and we are sorely mistaken. No, these two lines of mountains between us and Kapisi Field, sandwiching a strip of Midlands between them, these are the Rocky Mountain Range of Duna. The Continental Divide, if you will. 

The biome map suggests that these mighty peaks stretch practically from pole to pole (connecting with the Polar Highlands on both ends), its shadow casting caution and dread on any traveler crossing from west to east, or from east to west, its cliffs and slopes offering little level ground for weary travelers to set stakes and F5. 

Set stakes and F5, Valentina.

Accounting for procedural terrain differences, Mullet had the perfect rover for these Pike's Peaks, along the same philosophy as the ESME, only lighter, tighter, flippier, with greater Reaction Wheel-to-Mass Ratio (RWMR) to arrest the momentum of any turnover and for greater control authority. And he was pulling speeds of up to 70 or even 80m/s in friendlier terrain, speeds which on the same terrain would have been catastrophic for the Baserunner. 


Speaking of catastrophic for the Baserunner, and invoking a little Mullet moment of my own... WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

Thank God even under full compression the Baserunner doesn't pancake the reactor bay onto the ground. That was always the weak link of this design. I do have standards: I wasn't about to place the S.A.F.E.R. in the habitation locker even if it was in an enclosure, not on the top deck for the same reasons, AND because it had to be reachable for EVA installation into the compartment. Below the command deck was the only place left, given all that mass beneath the habitable section, and being enclosed by the drivetrain, so that (roleplaying this a bit) even if the compartment goes pop, and the S.A.F.E.R.'s own reactor walls breaches, there's at least some containment of the debris and leakages. But that means being on the lookout for terrain contact risks. 

Hey, I saw the ending of For All Mankind Season 2. And Chernobyl

Besides, if the Baserunner manages to land hard enough to break the wheels so hard the belly flops, it's also hard enough to total the Baserunner. Way beyond "not great, not terrible" territory here.


I've never really imagined what it would look like for the long-term topographical consequences of a meteor hitting a mountain range. I've read somewhere of how the Soviet Union had a warhead specifically tuned to turn Cheyenne Mountain into Cheyenne Crater. I've tried repeatedly dropping meteors onto the admittedly less dramatic heights of Cities Skylines maps to make molehills out of mountains (and reenacting the prologue to Ace Combat 04).

But looking at this sight, we can't help but imagine this would have made a nice Alpine lake in a more hospitable climate. Pine trees, snow-capped peaks, or whatever the heck their Dunatian equivalents are. Nice place to set up a vacation cabin, fish, swim, maybe hike the heights up to the snowline. Damn this pandemic is giving me cabin fever. 

More practically, and in the immediate future, the friendlier crater floor would make a nice place to set up an F5 checkpoint. And we have to cut across the southern rim anyway to straight-line it to Kapisi Field. 


LOC: Lat. -2.62°, Lon. 116.06°
(SCANSat data)

Aaaaand of course Rachel's wheels break again. Admittedly she could not have picked a better place to do so. Okay Bill, time to break out the tire irons again...


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 64 Time: 5:50:45
ELC40, Zone 7ZQ-QZ
2° 16’ 26” S, 97° 52’ 19” E

This is it. This. Is. It, [female dogs]. One hundred kilometers from target. This is a magical checkpoint. This is a moment of relief. Just like it was in ESME's Munar Elcano run, the end literally is in sight. I could target it, literally. I could taste it, figuratively. Oh no, wait, I am tasting grit and pebble right now, figuratively and literally. And from here, nothing but Lowlands and the Midland Sea. Practically all downhill. This is what we came for. This is where it all ends. This is where we can Finally. (3x Warp) PUNCH. (maximum wheel throttle)IT!

Thirty F9s later...

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻  
(╯°□°)╯︵ (\ .o.)\
┻━┻ ︵ヽ(`□´)ノ︵ ┻━┻


One admittedly merciful run later...


Almost there... just one more safety checkpoint, at the 50km mark, just in case:

BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 65 Time: 0:15:42
ELC41, The Penultimate Checkpoint, 50.2km from ELC00
1° 38’ 42” S, 88° 59’ 36” E


LOC: 4.8km from ELC00

Ike rise. Ike RISE. The eternal guardian standing watch over Kapisi Field, over where, nine Kerbin days and nearly one real-world month ago, Rachel S'Jet first touched the deserts of Duna. 

And at the same time, an equally good omen rising from the horizon as well: that dot over Ike, Aerith Gainsborough is passing over us in her parking orbit. (Just to be sure, (a) the image is 1024 x 576, and (b) Aerith is conveniently highlighted in the picture. Because Mama didn't raise no liar. And because DOE. She also didn't raise no reckless off-road racer, but here we are.)

And the Kerbin system is also visible in Ike's direction, as earlier observations have confirmed (and the picture will show later). I'm not a superstitious fellow, but this is one feels-good-man way to end an Elcano, all these things coming together at the same time. 



Hit the brakes, shove Rachel through a powerslide, dramatic music, Russian choir, triumphant beats, you know, something like the April 2021 trailer to the Black Widow movie, in fact, yeah, THAT exact backing track to this gif


-- Dude, you're supposed to return to the flag in order to complete the Elcano. You skidded past it. It don't count yet. 




I hate you. I so freaking hate you right now, Rules of the Elcano Circumnavigation Challenge. And I hope never to have to observe your provisions ever again. Hep-hep, nope, talk to the hand, Rules. I'm busy driving back specifically to park on ELC00, where Rachel first landed on Duna and where the flag is, even if they're just one hundred fifty meters away, because you said so. And when I'm done, I am taking a Not-A-Flamethrower to your waste disposal port, and you're going to LIKE the deep colonic cleansing effect. You will LIKE how the flame has a combined blockage-clearing and disinfecting effect on Uranus. Oh the Spice will FLOW when I am done with you, Rules. The Spice will FLOW so freely, you will fertilize the entire Wheat Belt from your S!


BRN Rachel S'Jet --- Year: 2 Day: 65 Time: 0:52:10
ELC42 (ELC00), Back to the Beginning
0° 3’ 35” N, 80° 11’ 23” E

Like I said. There is something feels-good-man about a triumphant flag-planting ceremony, backdropped by the Rachel S'jet, Ike, and Kerbin. Not even how irritating enduring this circumnavigation since I started it almost a month ago is, or how worn down the F5 and F9 keys are, or how loose the Right Trigger is on my Xinput-based gamepad is, can take away from the satisfaction of crossing this mission objective off the list. 

And lorewise? Such an epic trip, not just merely for the trip but also functional from a mission perspective (not counting all those F9s, someone needs to make a mod to count those just for the lulz), serves to validate the Baserunner system. Granted, so far I can't foresee where else a mobile base of this caliber would prove useful, aside from Tylo and maybe Dres and Eeloo--outside of Kerbinspace, Jool's other moons, Moho, and Gilly are too small to justify the need, Eve's gravity would take the wheels to the breaking point when she's fully laden, and Laythe needs something else entirely. But hey, <<mobile base.>>


It also invites derivative designs, like a significant upgrade to the Mobile Construction Vehicle that was used to construct the Stirling Munbase. A SIGNIFICANT upgrade, with a capital SIGNIFICANT, including twice the working engineers, OSE Workshop capabilities with parts up to 11,000L in size, and internal MaterialKits ISRU production and tankage. Sure, I still have to see if the Program needs this MCV's MCV in its future plans (and how the hell to launch and land this thing under a variety of conditions), and she isn't commissioned yet (and again, that decision still has to be made down the line)but it is nice to know it is there when it needs it. 


And it is still over a year and several months before the minimum-energy return window opens up, and with 412 experiments and samples still left to process, the field's wide open for the DoD-I team of Jeb, Val, Bob, Bill, Ver, and Jes. Revisit locations and anomalies not scouted yet? Travel to the infamous poles and particularly the Pole pyramid? Survey more settlement ground? Settle down and chew through all that data? Head back into orbit and collect Dunaspace data, drop by Ike for some flags, footprints, and samples? Heck, call it a day and head back home now (or at least earlier)? 

There are more or less 10,000m/s ΔV in Aerith's tanks. There's minimum five years' uranium in Rachel's reactor. There is an orbital greenhouse in the Mobile Hangar; a terrestrial one in Rachel's machinery spaces. There is MechJeb and Bon Voyage. If there are any limits physical, logistical, or procedural to this expedition, they are as tiny as Duna blueberries (okay, maybe the Dunes. Not gonna jinx this). That's the entire point of this expedition architecture: presence, influence, options. Especially the options. 


But that all comes later. I have a rest-of-the-program to deal with, after all. And everything else can wait. For now, the weary crew break out the lounge chairs on the roof deck, and at the end of a long day, a long road trip, lollygag and chillax amongst themselves while I compose this Mission Report. They sure have earned every second of it.

How does one chillax in EVA suits, anyhow? (Please don't answer that question. Knowing Bill, he'll take off his helmet in the process.)

(Source: Mission Accomplished text from Ace Combat 2, as is the soundtrack)

Mission Debriefing:


Travel Time (Kerbin): 9 days 33 minutes 26 seconds

Travel Time (Duna) (closest sol estimation): ~2+ sols

Number of F9s: forget it. I don't even want to think about it anymore.

DoD-I Elcano marked waypoints/SCANSat BTDT Trace:


DoD-I Elcano Waypoints List (typos and all)



Edited by B-STRK
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Chapter Ten - Laying the Foundations

Desserts of Duna was nice and all, but like I said in Chapter One, it is a highlight, but not the reason. Think of it this way: in an eagerness to get to Mars and Venus soonest (and preserve the industrial and institutional base that put a man on the Moon), there was commissioned a set of studies known as EMPIRE: EARLY Manned Planetary-Interplanetary Roundtrip Expeditions. But what I wanted was UMPIRE: an Ultimate MPIRE (okay, too arrogant). Universal MPIRE (misnomer; working with stock planets here). Undying MPIRE? (don't tempt fate, B-STRK.) Untouchable? Ukelele? Uvula? (okay, stop drinking the mouthwash, boy.)

Either way, if this Program wanted to go bigger, then it means really, really breaking free of the chains of gravity. And by gravity I mean Kerbin. And by Kerbin, I mean two things:

  • The limitations of having to fit everything into my launch vehicles' throw weight and fairing size capacities. 
  • The limitations of having the necessary funds to cover launch costs (even considering recovery). 

(Source: NASA MSFC c/o Wired)

All this meant one thing: infrastructure. Von Braun had his ideas, NASA had their ideas, I bet Korolev had ideas, Roscosmos had ideas. So do we Kerbal players, and more often than not it involves making use of that minty ball beyond the Mun, Minmus, for all she's got. (And boy does she have a lot. Besides mint.) Making use of that minty ball, and In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), and if not playing stock, one of the orbital construction mods (Extraplanetary Launchpads, Global Construction, and lately USI Konstruction + MKS). And an unhealthy imagination of building a space empire umpire.

So it's time to put Minmus to work, and to put the Elisabeth missions on prime time. Although full disclosure time, it had been prime time while the DoD fleet was headed to Duna. Needed something to do during the downtime, after all. Rewinding the tape:


Elisabeth I was about landing Bill and a couple of other engineers onto Minmus before building out KSX Stirling in Artemis III, because experience.  (pre-Artemis III)


Elisabeth II was about getting a Curiosity-style rover onto Minmus, partly for additional Science, yes, but also to survey potential base sites. (post-Artemis III, pre-DoD-I departure)

This was the prelude to the main event: Elisabeth III.


MOSS. (Hehe, another punny. And I'm not talking about the acronym.)

I know other people have come up with "MOSS" as an acronym for a Minmus shipyard before. Two guys on Reddit, at least.

Once upon a time, B-STRK had a lot of time on his hands to make MOSS grow.
Of course, this was supposed to be the time he was studying for the bar exam (c. 2017). 

Even I've tried it out years ago when the mod was still called "Ground Construction" because it did not have orbital construction capability yet, although I could not not make the MOSS acronym fit. 

With the mod now called Global Construction though, and with a robust set of capabilities, it's time to make the MOSS--the Minmus Orbital/Surface Shipyard complex--grow. 

Okay, some MOSS basics. First, why a Minmus shipyard? (Although this is a question everyone else has answered, but it's worth revisiting. Again.)

  • It's got Ore. It's the Spice, the Tiberium, the Mana of KSP. And he who controls the Spice, etc., etc.
  • Low surface gravity makes lifting heavies off the surface delta-cheaper, whether it's raw materials or finished products. At industrial scales, there will be heavies. Drop them on your foot, and there will be blood.
  • Low gravity also means low orbital speeds, making rendezvous maneuvers easier, and reducing speed differentials between orbital altitudes. When elephants want to swing their weight around, you make things easier for everyone or pay the price for the damage to the floor/the walls/the bystanders. 
  • At least half the time departing from Minmus  to interplanetary space is a low-ΔV, low TWR affair in exchange for losing the LKO Oberth effect, and some corrections in solar orbit. Sure, it's inelegant, it's not the most efficient, and it's not something that would win you plaudits from mission planners no doubt.  But if you've got all that minty fuel, why not, right Qu ("Step 1: screw it, just burn straight to Duna")? 

All of that makes the nine-day regular journey to Minmus (and the nine days back) worth it. Sometimes you don't even have to make the journey back: at a later stage, it is intended that majority if not all of DSV replenishment and refurbishment will happen at Minmus, once all the pieces are in place. Propellant, nuclear fuel, Snacks!, if I really want to push it, even manufacturing EVA items in situ instead of bringing in a care package from KSC. Kerbin would still be necessary only because kerbals have to come from somewhere, for the odd contract requiring a launch from Kerbin, and when I'm lazy enough to trade Funds for workload. 

That was in the future though. Right now (which is just after the DoD flotilla departed Kerbinspace at the end of Chapter Three) we have some MOSS to grow. 


There are two segments to the MOSS complex, the Orbital and Surface components. Orbital does the ship construction, while Surface pushes resources up to feed Orbital's foundries. And without the benefit of MKS's or WOLF's logistics systems or WBI Pathfinder's surface-to-orbit mass driver to outsource or automate logistics, the MOSS logistics system will have to be done... well not "manually", since I do have Gravity Turn and MechJeb to make all this as push-button as possible. But certainly live and on-screen, as opposed to pushed to the background. 

No one said running an offworld industry was easy, compared to the rocket science. But hey, like the proverb goes: "Amateurs study tactics. Professionals download a project management app and hires some college intern to do the numbers crunching for them. And then underpays them, saying 'Why are you asking for more money, I am paying you with experience/exposure/networking, you should be grateful.'" Tsk, tsk. And they have the temerity to complain about employee turnover, too. 


Jump drives not included.

Orbital is MOSS STN Daidalos. Yes, it shares the same name, and the inspiration for its design as the other Shipyard Daidalos, the one that gives the Cylons a good fr[can I say this word here?]ing to the very end of the Twelve Colonies. And I do have Daidalos and BSG Deadlock to thank for steering my design decisions. Originally I wanted the Orbital segment to look akin to the Jool shipyard in the KSP 2 trailer. Every attempt to do so however led to parts bloat, impossible-to-launch components, and criticisms from the Kraken saying even it's not as ugly as my attempted designs. 

God, I hope whatever I can build with KSP 2 won' be as ugly as sin.  Trying to get this station right to the eyes as it was to the functions was purgatory enough as it is.

MOSS STN Daidalos Modules launch campaign:

Spoilers because a lot of launch pictures:



Seven components comprise Daidalos' major modules. Nearly all of them required the superheavy DCBRK to launch:


  • The Core module (habitat, greenhouse, and the MaterialKits and GC Construction Kit printers);


  • The Service module (ISRU, storage tanks, radiators and the nuclear power plant);


  • The Hangar module (station command and tender hangar);


  • The Yard module (GC orbital assembly line and workshop);


  • The Ore module (Ore tanks as well as the logistics docking port); and


  • Two launches of propellant storage tanks (LFO and LH2). 


  • Bonus launch pics of the Surface segment construction components, because I couldn't fit them anywhere else.



This launch campaign burned the Launch Pad and the budget almost to a crisp. The latter was even more painful, because in the interests of saving time the Surface segment was launched immediately afterwards: the Ground Construction Kit containing the MOSS Logistics Support Facility (Tier 2), an expendable Construction Facility and enough MaterialKits to construct the MLSF. Daidalos fully constructed values vF 2,152,509. Launching all the components ate up  vF5,108,431, and since the upper stages also doubled as the injectors/tugs to Minmus, a lot of that cost was not coming back to Kerbin for Stage Recovery. Add to that vF1,470,590 launching the components needed for the Surface segment (launched together with the Daidalos modules to save time), and that's 6,579,021 Funds to throw a shipyard complex to Minmus.  Without Stage Recovery, there was no way the present bank could have sent up this flotilla in one launch campaign.

But you're not here to hear about accounting gripes. Onwards to the heavy metal:

MOSS STN Daidalos orbital assembly:

Spoilers again because MOAR PICS:




↓ ↓ ↓

There. That wasn't so hard, was it? (Only to my processor...)

Whatever anyone may say about handing off all the piloting to MechJeb, coordinating the traffic, arrival, and parking of ten individual craft, and the ballet of seven of them into a single construction, is work enough. Everyone can tell you, the most irritating thing in the world of labor is being told the stuff we do is easy, when they don't see everything that goes into it. Or the sacrifices we make getting there. Know your worth in the market, my friends; if indeed wages are the consequence of supply-demand negotiation, do not let anyone sell you short. After all, forced information asymmetry is vitiation of contractual or bargaining consent. (And "take it or leave it" is an opening for sympathetic judges, arbitrators, or juries.) This message brought to you by a guy who inexplicably got his highest bar exam rate in labor law. Inexplicably, really. I nearly FAILED that class in law school.




Ah, Daidalos. Finally. Port of call for the Minmus system, and MOSS's orbital shipyard. Houses an assigned crew of six engineers, two pilots, and three scientists, plus transients visiting Minmus, from tourists looking for a good time to plankowner crews to take possession of new constructions. Speaking of port, time to bring the engineering team over from Kerbin (just in time, too, freshly graduated from TOPMUN), and NGL Razgriz to her permanent home base.


And with a permanent presence in Minmus orbit established, time to get three of the engineers down to the surface, where construction of the Surface segment awaits.

MOSS Logistics Support Facility (MLSF), Tier 2 construction campaign:

Spoilers again because oh God how many gigabytes is my screenshots folder eating up?





I picked Global Construction primarily out of a "roleplay aesthetic". The Kit containers GC uses can give the impression of a visual scaffolding or "drydock" where the magic is happening, which is the feels I wanted out of the activity. As Daidalos was being assembled, the components to build out the MOSS Logistics Support Facility (MLSF), Tier 2 were being dropped onto the build site, Area 7K22 of the Great Flats, also called "The Pinch" as it lies in the narrow neck at the equator, between the Great Flat's larger plains.  Once the station crew came in, the engineers could travel down in Razgriz to man the proverbial cannons. 3D printers, actually, we come in peace.


At the time Surface was being built, the heavy MCV prototype that featured at the end of the last chapter hadn't even crossed the designer's brain cells yet. But considering that this was happening on Minmus it wasn't necessary to ship a self-contained all-in-one construction facility. All needed was the Kit, the Workshop, and the MaterialKits, all of which could come from Kerbin. 


One admitted drawback to GC however is that the way it pulls electricity (and EC is a necessary construction input) isn't copacetic with KSP's background resource tracking. It isn't enough to have a positive EC flow rate. For constructions requiring large amounts of EC, and where there aren't enough batteries in all Krakendom to store the total demanded input, leaving the construction in the background will suspend the construction after a while. So it requires babysitting. Meaning I can't have two GC projects running simultaneously. Meaning if a mission event comes up, I jump to it, git 'er done quick, jump back. 

But it's not as much of a limitation as one might think. KSP itself really wasn't built for this sort of imperial multitasking anyway. One thing at a time. Baby steps. 




And that is the Surface segment, KXS Elisabeth, the MOSS Logistics Support Facility, Tier 2. Tier 2 because Tier 1 was a basic Ore and LFO rig that I felt insufficient, so I added a MaterialKits printer (c/o KPBS + OSE) that after its first use also still wasn't enough, so a later mission came along to add MOAR MatKit printers. Tier 2 also because what I wanted was a simple facility that could be launched relatively quick and easy to get MOSS on the ground running. We can always save the more ambitious (and longer-to-construct) stuff for later.


The power to chew mint and spit out useful products is provided by a 1.25m-scale USI reactor. In addition to earlier observations about the NFT, USI, and WBI reactors, given that the USI reactors auto-scale their output to demand, these units are sipping nuclear fuel compared to their orbital NFT counterparts, e.g., the 2.5m one aboard Daidalos (which I had to leave at a minimum percent output given the constant demands of all its converters, the excess EC just being spilled out). Meaning I don't expect to refuel this for a long time (a good thing because I still haven't figured out how to refuel USI reactors yet, can anyone help me out here?). 


The Surface segment's primary role is to push Ore to Orbital, to be converted by Daidalos' battery of ISRU converters into the intermediate products for ship construction and outfitting: SpecializedParts, MaterialKits, propellants (LF, O, Mono, and Lithium), and Snacks! A secondary role is to augment Daidalos' MaterialKits production with the MLSF's own inherent MatKits converter(s--the plural came later); luckily the resource transfer shuttle's (USI Core) bulk solids storage tanks can be easily repurposed from Ore to MaterialKits and back in the field.


Speaking of which, that MOSS bulk goods shuttle, Launch #11 of this campaign Kerbal Construction Time must hate me. And I tried coming up with an acronym, or pun, or some fancy word salad title for arguably the most important vessel in the entire MOSS framework. But, seeing that Ore is the KSP universe's Spice, Tiberium, or "can I have some shoes?" $$$ you can tell I LOVED C&C Generals, even considering that it can also carry MatKits, and this vessel's role in liberating the Program from Kerbin's physical and economic constraints, it was most appropriate to dub this most important worker of the fleet the "Ore Truck."

Because this is all about the one place not corrupted by capitalism.


MOSS Primary Resource Supply evolution:

Spoilers, spoilers, everywhere, and not a fresh drop of water to drink.





With Simple Logistics, I could just land the Ore Truck nearby and pull the resources from the MLSF, I know. But going through the trouble of landing it on and docking it to the pad (a) cuts down on the number of flights in the save while not in use, and (b) allows the Truck to serve as additional storage for the MLSF. And thanks to Vertical Velocity Controller, Horizontal Landing Aid, Docking Port Alignment Indicator, and Minmus' low gravity, it isn't too much work to line up the Truck over its parking spot. 


Once filled up, it's a simple matter of launching the Ore Truck to Daidalos, transferring the Ore (or MatKits), then making the return trip back for more.  As with the landing phase, with Gravity Turn and MJ's autodocking, a lot of this can be hands-off. (The MLSF also doubles as the Truck's parking spot when not in use, its Ore Tanks doubling as the Facility's supply reserve.)



And that's what she wrote. MOSS is open for business. And now let's get down to business, to defeat the Hun Mun Sun--wait, what? No no no, we're not doing the entire "conquest of space" theme here. Switch soundtracks, something more ethereal, humanistic, uplifting, befitting the exploratory and aspirational themes of the Program. 

♫ "Sandstorm" by Darude ♫

It's clear my computer hates me after all that gameplay, screenshot management, and typing. 

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