Jump to content

The Elcano Challenge: Ground-Based Circumnavigation (4th)

Recommended Posts



“Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by.” – Robert Frost

Juan Sebastián Elcano (1476 – 4 August 1526) was a Spanish explorer of Basque origin who completed the first circumnavigation of the Earth. After Magellan's death in the Philippines, Elcano took command of the nau Victoria from the Moluccas to Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain.

This challenge is simple. So simple, it's easy. Well...it sounds easy. Those of us who have completed it would probably disagree.

The challenge to you is to become the next Elcano. To do what no one, or very few, have done. A challenge to circumnavigate an orbital body, be it moon or planet, solely by ground and/or water.

This challenge is a continuation of the original Elcano Challenge, posted by Fengist.  It was subsequently managed by Claw, then rkarmark.  This is the fourth iteration of the Elcano Challenge.

The rules are simple:

Basically, you are to circumnavigate (drive all the way around) a celestial body, using a vessel on the surface, such as a rover or boat.  Your path should not deviate significantly from the intended direction.

  • Mark your start location.  Flags, KerbNet markers, or screenshots work.  Some mods allow you to track your path as well.
  • Drive or boat back to your start location- the long way around...
  • The main mission and all support missions must be launched from the launchpad or runway and delivered to the destination body.  Part of the journey is getting the crew/ship there.  (i.e. No HyperEditing or save file editing the vehicle into position.  Any combination of launching, refueling, docking, or ISRU is permitted.
  • The vehicle must be Kerballed during the circumnavigation.
    • Doesn't have to be a pod, the lawn-chair seats are fine.
    • The Kerbal only has to be on-board during the circumnavigation.  You don't need to launch the entire mission in one giant ship. If the Kerbal(s) come later or were already waiting for the rover, that's fine.
  • Stay on the ground or on/below the surface of any water.  Brief jumps over dunes and such are permitted.
    • This challenge is about traveling over the surface.
    • Thrust devices (rockets, jets, props, RCS) are acceptable, as long as they are only used while in contact with the surface.  Using thrust of any sort to control or change the trajectory of your rover while above the surface is not allowed.
  • The same vehicle that crosses land must also cross the water.  No ferrying your vehicle on a boat.
    • That also means you can't intentionally remove wheels or pontoons when they are no longer needed.  The vehicle needs to complete the entire circumnavigation as-is.  If parts blow up or get knocked off, well, that's the Kerbal way, and that's ok..
  • You may send replacement vehicles.  If you read Fengist's circumnavigation of Eve, you'll see why.  Game mechanics are not kind to ground vehicles.
    • Your crew must be transferred to any replacement vehicle and it must be very similar to the original.  I understand this is a learning process, and will allow some design changes.
  • You may use aerial and orbital recon vehicles.
  • You may refuel if needed.  Use of ISRU or similar mods is permitted.
  • Saving and reloading (F5/F9) is permitted.  In fact I highly recommend it.  
    • Please note that in the past repeated F5/F9s have adversely affected vessels, particularly if you use F5 while in motion.  Not sure if that is still a problem or not..
  • Added a modded planet/moon section to the leaderboards (August 2022).  Circumnavigations of non-stock CBs are welcome!  
  • The intent is that you control the vehicle during the entire circumnavigation.  Using an autopilot goes against the spirit of this challenge.
  • Any rule I haven't thought of that breaks the spirit of this challenge.  The point of the challenge is to build a rover/boat, deliver the vehicle, and circumnavigate the body.
  • KSP2 entries are absolutely valid and accepted!  I am planning on adding a note in the leaderboards for any Elcano completions performed in KSP2.

Proof:  Document your journey via images or video, or as those of us who have managed to complete this challenge have done, accompanied by a description of the journey.  If you are posting more than 4 screenshots, I humbly request that you put them inside a spoiler. 

Categories:  Note that support and delivery vehicles also affect which category your entry falls under.

  • Stock - Stock means stock.  If you use any mods at all, you do not qualify for the stock category.  Breaking Ground and Making History (BG & MH) are stock expansion packs, and do not disqualify you from a Stock entry.
  • Stock Craft - The craft and all support craft are made from all stock parts with their stock configuration. Installed mods may not modify physics or add/modify parts in use by the craft. Mods that add PartModules to stock parts, but do not alter the stock parameters, are also permitted. Examples of permitted mods are information displays (such as KER), transfer window planners(TWP and KAC), and visual enhancements (such as EVE). “Stock Craft” means the .craft or save file can be used on a stock install and it looks/works exactly the same way (your mission would remain effectively unchanged without the mods).
  • Modded - Use of add-ons that change physics or add/modify parts in use by the craft are permitted. An add-on’s technology level must be “near term” or of “next tier” type of capabilities as compared to stock. Mods that allow the user to skip elements of the challenge or violate the spirit of flying to and circumnavigating a body are not permitted. (i.e. Slightly better/larger/stronger engines, wheels, fuel tanks, etc. are permissible. Hyperdrives, antimatter engines, wormhole generators, hyper dense or exotic fuels, etc. are not allowed.)

This challenge is not for the faint of heart.  It will take persistence and a great deal of patience.  If you're the competitive type and think of this challenge as a race it will get boring really quick.  The leaderboards do not differentiate by speed or times- if you completed a circumnavigation you are on the leaderboard.

Good luck and um... Godspeed....

And before you grumble about how long this will take... think back at how many hours you spent doing other things in KSP that ended up being less rewarding...

If you are considering this challenge, but aren't sure how, I suggest looking at how other members accomplished it.  As this (4th) version of the challenge is still new. take a look at the posts from the first three Elcano challenges, linked near the top of this post.

Badges:  I believe Fengist (original creator of the Elcano Challenge) designed the badges, for which I am grateful, they look great!  If you believe you qualify for a badge, go ahead and grab it!  You don't need to wait for your name on the leaderboard- if I am busy with work/life who knows how long that could take.  Edit- actually I think the original badges were by @Fengist, but they were all redone by @Claw , who also probably had to add some new ones.

FAQ:  Coming soon! 



Those who have circumnavigated every body in the stock KSP solar system.


@Claw Stock

@damerell  Modded - Epic mission 

@Jack Joseph Kerman Stock

@mystifeid Stock

@Pouicpouic  Stock - With a single rover

@18Watt Stock


Master Navigators (aka Planetary Navigator)

Those who have circumnavigated both Kerbin and Eve.



Master Navigators: (aka Planetary Navigators..)


Master Mariners

Those who have circumnavigated both Laythe and Kerbin by sea. (See notes in spoiler)



Master Mariners:  

A description on how to complete a Kerbin circumnavigation by sea in spoiler:


Note- in order to complete a Sea circumnavigation of Kerbin you will actually need to do a short land crossing in one of two possible places.  In order to qualify for a sea circumnavigation of Kerbin, the entire voyage needs to happen on water, except for the short land crossing.  So your boat actually needs to have amphibious capabilities.  Here's a screenshot showing the two possible land crossing locations.  I recommend using the one farther north (RED diamonds).




Kerbin Circumnavigators

See notes in Master Mariner spoiler about Kerbin sea circumnavations.

Fe1fG44.png  CdrPpRf.png


Kerbin Circumnavigators:

For information about completing a sea circumnavigation of Kerbin, see notes in Master Mariner spoiler.





Mun Circumnavigators:




Minmus Circumnavigators:




Moho Circumnavigators:




Eve Circumnavigators:




Gilly Circumnavigators:




Duna Circumnavigators:




Ike Circumnavigators:




Dres Circumnavigators:




Laythe Circumnavigators:




Vall Circumnavigators:




Tylo Circumnavigators:




Bop Circumnavigators:




Pol Circumnavigators:




Eeloo Circumnavigators:


Extra Planets From Mods Circumnavigators

Badge not yet ready, but coming!


Mod Planet Circumnavigators:




Link to comment
Share on other sites

The leaderboards should be 90% updated, going back to the original version (Fengist's, Claw's, and rkarmark's).  If I left you out or made a mistake, either PM me or leave a post.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

22 minutes ago, minerbat said:

why is my minmus mission considered modded? i only used KER and it says that counts as "stock craft"

Aha.  To simplify things I am calling any mod used either 'Stock Craft' or 'Modded', there's too many mods for me to keep track of.  Also, in the interest of fairness to console players (who aren't able to use mods I think).  

However, the stated rules in the last version (where you posted) allow the use of some mods on 'Stock' entries.  In fact, KER is specifically listed in the previous version as allowable.  Going forward, I'll call that 'Stock Craft', but yes at the time you posted it was indeed 'Stock'.  I'll change your status.  My opinion is entry status should be based on the rules in place at the time of entry.

Thanks for pointing that out, and please bear with me.  In order to gather the leaderboard entry I had to wade through 3 versions of the challenge, with hundreds of posts.  At this time there are 164 qualifying entries (that I've found so far...)

So, the answer to your question is, I made a mistake.  

Edit:  Now I'm even more confused.  I just re-read the previous rules, and KER is listed as approved for both Stock AND Stock Craft.  Is your entry actually 'Stock Craft' because you used KER during the flight?  Or was it a 'Stock' Entry?

Edited by 18Watt
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, minerbat said:

stock craft, not stock because i did use KER during the mission. only if you use it before the mission, but not during the mission it is stock

Thanks @minerbat, I think I got it fixed now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Alright, I've decided to have another go at some of the categories, got a rover going to Mun as I speak, I plan on doing quite a few in total in my career.

Small question: is it ok to have a downward facing thruster to generate some artificial gravity? It's mostly for Gilly (and maybe Hale/Ovok).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

59 minutes ago, MinimalMinmus said:

Small question: is it ok to have a downward facing thruster to generate some artificial gravity?

Yes, that is acceptable, and I believe other players have used that technique with some success.  Horizontal thrusters are allowed too, as long as you only use them while on the surface, not to extend air-time during jumps.  With a downward-facing thruster, you can leave it on as you wish, to ‘generate artificial gravity.’  (I like that phrase..)

Looking forward to seeing more entries, welcome back!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here it goes:


Mun Elcano, or how I loved to stop worrying and love craters

So before we jump in, let's analyze our target. The Mun has a medium gravity, meaning that while you have *some* friction, near your top speed it's all too easy to go flying in the air at nearly every single obstacle. Oh, and the Mun has a LOT of craters. So let's say right now, this is gonna be a bumpy ride.

Primary objective: catch every single biomes on the Mun and squeeze them as hard as possible dry of science

Secondary: visit as many anomalies as possible


Let's start.


Here's the baby just before I put her on the launchpad. She's a 14-wheeler equipped with a nuclear reactor from near future, as well as all science you could dream of. It is also equipped with spares and pieces from stock/KIS to ensure that I could repair it if needed. Unfortunately, it would turn out that I made... quite a few design mistakes. Let's review them:

1) I put a fragile command pod in front of a fast rover

2) The tail is weak as well

3) The life support cans are clipped through the chassis and can be destroyed from below

4) The top side is another point of weakness, especially since I couldn't bring a spare material bay.

5) Embarrassingly, I put my radiators in a configuration where almost all of them are useless, and didn't realise that for most of the trip

6) I underestimated just how rough Mun is for the wheels.

So to sum it up, my rover is surprisingly fragile... in an environement that's merciless to anything fragile. This is gonna suck.


Let's launch it. On board: 1 pilot, 2 scientists, 1 engineer.


Landed in the farside crater, the first biome I'm in. The rover is christened "Copernicus".


First of many air times...


And already the first damage I can't fix: goodbye aesthetics, hello reactor for the rest of the trip...


I briefly get back to the nearside to catch a nearby monolith (which I call "King Monolith" due to being on top of a steep hill)


After that I climb to the poles. It clearly proves much harder than I even thought (my first elcano on the Mun didn't even try to reach them), there are tons of holes that are very deep, very dangerous, and the slope to get up can reach 60°. Good thing my 7 pairs of wheels give me a lot of torque.


The closer I get to the north pole the worse it gets. I started calling those latitude the "hateful eighties" and the "nasty ninety".


As usual, poles have a tendancy to be... eldritch.


No seriously look at that!


Anticipating that my supplies will not last forever (and trying to solve the "I keep having to restart because LS is kaput"). Of course I am an idiot so I sent the wrong kind of LS can. Oops!


Sigzor at work repairing the radiators, which I already lost a few of.


At least I'm not in those cursed poles anymore...


Here's the next objective: one of the three stone arches ("Lone Arch" as it's the only one not near a crater)


Obligatory flag


Here's the highest a jump got, after a violent collision launched me in the air.


I was already out of spares, and this little trick broke FOUR wheels at once. Worth it.




... for once I had a good idea. By the way, this is the first time I did a mun landing without ever timewarping! Also the sun is finally up in the sky, I'll finally see a thing.


The upper Twin Crater has some points with negative altitudes. Not quite Challenger Deep but still neat.


I'm getting out of the Farside! I'm making good progress!


Eve, Kerbin and Duna together


Welcome to Hawking's Peak, an unusually tall crater rim of the western crater, at almost 6 km... wait what's that in the distance?




Time for a group photo!


Soon after, here comes the 2nd arch, Overlord Arch! (due to its prominence towards the crater)


Obligatory flag again


Intermission: it's time to think about the way home


A brief journey to the north to catch the Northern Basin. Just two biomes left!


It's starting to become a routine...


Here's Zenith Arch! (It's close to being directly under Kerbin)


The East Crater has several other secrets to find!


Respect paid


Let's play "Can you spot the monolith"?


A flag at the Armstrong Monolith.


The taxi is almost here!


It's waiting for us.


And after one last biome, I'm coming!


Cya nearside!


I think I see it...




Group photos are fun (if a pain to make)


The gang gets ready to leave Mun


Next stop: Kerbin


Everyone out now!




The path, as seen from the TS


Here it is on a map!


Bonus: here's mark 2 of the rover: it's now sturdier than a gameboy!


Edited by MinimalMinmus
Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 hours ago, MinimalMinmus said:

Mun Elcano, or how I loved to stop worrying and love craters

Great post!  @MinimalMinmus completes his second drive around Mun, hitting most, if not all, of Mun's biomes.   

Mun is tricky, there's enough gravity to be able to build speed, but not enough to keep you at or near the surface, which can be hard on rovers.   For anyone looking for a route on Mun which maximizes the number of biomes you hit, take a look at MinimalMinmus's Elcano post.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's probably not  *the* best route for what I did, as such I went through a canyon twice, and I had to make some detours to catch anomalies. At the very least, an optimized run for what I wanted to do would have gone straight from the starting crater to the polar one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

@18Watt Hey, this is amazing! So glad you are carrying on this challenge. It was definitely a favorite of mine. :D


Fengist designed the original badges. I think (but can't remember for sure) that the set was incomplete and eventually lost to the sands of the internet. So I used his design as the basis and redid them all, which are the ones currently in use today. Also, I attempted to give definitions to the "stock / stock craft / modded" categories, so I apologize for any ambiguities!

I'm also excited to see another Grand Master on the board. I need to go find that entry! :D

Edited by Claw
Link to comment
Share on other sites

39 minutes ago, Claw said:

I'm also excited to see another Grand Master on the board. I need to go find that entry! :D

Howdy Claw!  Thanks for the kind words!  One thing I'd like to do is post a link to each entry next to the names.  That's a bigger project than I'm ready for, just compiling a list of all entries going back 3 versions was a challenge.  I've started doing that for new entries, like @MinimalMinmus's recent entry for Mun.

Fengist said he didn't have any issues with me using the old badges, I'm hoping you are ok with that as well.   I'm not good at artwork.. 

There will hopefully be a third Grand Master entry soon- Me!   I finished everything except Eeloo a few months ago, and decided to hold off on Eeloo until 1.12 was available, because there is a texture update for Eeloo (and Pol).   I started the drive today.  If you are looking for the other Grand Master's entries, @mystifeid had most (if not all) of his entries in @rkarmark's version of Elcano, which is linked in the first post.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 hours ago, 18Watt said:

Fengist said he didn't have any issues with me using the old badges, I'm hoping you are ok with that as well.   I'm not good at artwork.. 

Absolutely, 100% free for you to use. :D

17 hours ago, 18Watt said:

There will hopefully be a third Grand Master entry soon- Me!

That's gonna be awesome! I saw your other entries and figured you'd get there, given the pace you were putting them out. Pre-Congrats!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, MinimalMinmus said:

I found a few images from a Duna and Ike circumnavigation I completed about two years ago but never posted due to various problems. Is it still valid?

Yes, still valid!  Looking forward to seeing them!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well then, here comes part one, the Duna run.



Let's start with our heros: the Beetles. They are the twin rovers I had built. Here's the Ike (I think) rover on its escape burn. It lodges four kerbals in a... uh... functional way, and is powered by a crapton of RTGs. It also contains a lot of science stuff.


Here's the Duna one. Don't question the spoiler.


All four inhabitants of the rover are here, we can now start the journey! Also, here's the reason of the name: I used two magnetometers booms from a mod (before they existed in vanilla). Their particularity: being ludicrously sturdy.


Already Kerbol is setting... fortunately this rover is well endowed in light fixtures.


Ugh, creepy.


A very static ball of rock rises above the horizon.


As Kerbol rises again, so does the wind speed. Let's hope Jeb won't get impaled by an antenna and be forced to eat kotatoes for 2 years... again.


How curious.


What in BLAZES is that?!






That's better!


First sight of the next step of the trip, just between two hills in the background...


The pole and its weird color!


The slope is going crazy, here's where torque really matters.


Oh boy, now that's a normal sight...


Duna's north pole is even more bizarre looking than Mun's!


Obligatory flag in a weird spot


And now we GTFO that mess and pretend it was all a bad dream.


Getting there...


Getting-er there...


Getting-est there!


We're done here!


The ring of flags


It's uncanny how little my naming conventions have changed.


Now it's time to leave Duna by reattaching the lander to a mothership that's more functional than aesthetically pleasing...


... to check out another eclipse...


... and to already prepare for the next trip.

Stay tuned for part two!

Edited by MinimalMinmus
Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, MinimalMinmus said:

Well then, here comes part one, the Duna run.

Awesome!  I've added your entry to the Duna leaderboard.

I really enjoyed that post- I think my favorite part was Jeb having grey hair, and sideburns and a mustache!  That made my day.

The rover looks great.  Did the antennas (antennae?) help prevent the rover from rolling over?  Even if they didn't, they look great.  I think one of @Claw's early entries began resembling a cockroach.  Instead of trying to minimize that look, he just went with it.

I've taken rovers to the poles of Minmus and Duna, after those experiences I stopped taking polar routes with rovers.  I admit the scenery at Duna's poles was worth the drive, but you need a very durable rover to visit the poles.  Nice entry, and looking forward to your Ike entry!  

Oh, I labeled your entry 'modded', let me know if you think that was an error.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, MinimalMinmus said:

Any fix?

I’m having that problem as well on Eeloo.   One suggestion is to turn on Advanced Tweakables (if you haven’t already), then adjust some of the wheel settings.   I found turning friction control to manual and cranking it up helped.  Also try setting traction to manual and cranking up.  

Reading the release notes, it looked to me like the ‘new’ wheels would work better.   They are the same wheels, or course.  But to take advantage of the new behavior you may need to re-build your rover.  Or at least remove the wheels, and re-add them using fresh parts, which look the same as the old ones but have different configuration files.

That is not convenient, but seems to happen with every major update- some vessels don’t work the way they did in the last version.   Wheel (and landing gear) problems have been a constant issue in KSP, so most major updates have affected their behavior.   Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As we wait for wheels to be fixed... here's the Ike run!



Welcome to Ike! Population: 4


With a gravity barely higher than Minmus', airtimes are to be not only accepted, but embraced.


Ike is also full of large, low-grade mountains forming slopes that make you go really, REALLY fast.  I'm going as fast as a high speed train right now! WEEEEE!


Eclipses are just as beautiful from Ike.


Uh... is jeb about to go inside because "this hole was made for him"?


Nah. Oh look, Duna's rising!... or rather, we're reaching the zone where it is perpetually rising... it sounds a lot more boring.


By sheer serendipity, this is where the greenolith spawned. I found this screenshot so beautiful...


... that to this day, my desktop picture is a touched-up version of it.


Ike's north pole is... fairly normal, compared to the rest. I wanted to visit it because Danny2462 did in one of its videos.


Screwing with the camera using the pole is fun!


Ike really isn't greedy in scenic places.


Going south for a contract.


Getting close, there...


Uh oh










And we're back...


Kerbol goes down one last time...


... and the end is in sight.


This is it!


Now let's go home.


Cya Ike!


Cya Duna, too


Hello Kerbin!


Now for the moment of truth. How much science?





It seems however that I had forgotten to take the final "ring of flag" shot. If needed I may try to reconstitute the path I took.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/7/2021 at 6:05 AM, MinimalMinmus said:

... here's the Ike run!

Nice!  The 'ring of flags' shot isn't necessary, but you're welcome to add it if you find one.   Sorry it took so long to get the list updated, got busy at work for a while.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Hello comrades!

I spotted this thread about 3 weeks ago. I've played about 3000 hour in this game but this is my first time commenting on the forums. I am doing an Elcano around the Mun that I started 3 weeks ago and the finish line is in sight. So...I'm a litte exited. I planned on waiting until the finish line to post, but I just couldn't resist sharing this moment that went absolutely perfectly on the first attempt just now. I have exploded and F9ed so freking much in the last days but this one somehow I pulled out of my ass.:cool:

Checkpoint 38

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...