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The Ultimate Challenge Continued Again

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I'm not sure if this is the right place for this, but here goes nothing.

I was working on my career game yesterday for my fan-fiction project when I checked into mission control, and saw a contract offer that stunned me.  It's a challenge so huge it's given me an opportunity to totally change my story plot and add a whole new section.

I've searched everywhere in the challenge section, and I'm not finding this one. 
If it's out there, and I'm necro-ing an old challenge, then I apologize and ask this be taken down, OK?
It's called the Ultimate Challenge, and the rules are simple:

Visit all 14 bodies in the Kerbin solar system in one ship and return home to tell the tale. 




I looked at it... then looked again, closed my eyes, held my breath, and hit accept..... 

So here's the deal.  According to the forum rules, I can't really issue this as an official challenge unless I do it, or at least make a really good attempt at it, first.  Which is what I'm going to do.  It's probably the hardest thing I can think of doing in the game... and a marvelous opportunity to exploit for my fan-fiction story.
How can I say no???
Oh, and because I'm a sadist, I'm doing it stock.

If I can do this, I'll make it an official challenge, and make a badge and all that. 
Unless someone else has already done it and wants to take over.
Which makes me wonder, has anyone done this?  Has anyone attempted it?
Am I bringing up an old challenge I just can't find?

Comments?  Ideas???  Or perhaps just some insane laughter at the thought???

Link to the original Ultimate Challenge thread by Just Jim

Link to the first continuation thread by HoloYolo

Link to the second continuation thread by IncongruousGoat

This is the fourth version of the Ultimate Challenge, a challenge created by Just Jim. The goal is to complete a grand tour of the Kerbol system, landing on every planet and moon in one mission and returning to Kerbin alive.

1. Mods are allowed, but only mods that are closely balanced to stock parts, like the Near Future mods. Additionally, life support mods like Kerbalism are allowed for additional challenge. If you're unsure if a mod is allowed, ask.
2. No cheating (debug menu, KAL overclock, kraken drives, etc.) for obvious reasons. You can use the debug menu to test designs, but it is not allowed in the final mission.
3. Every landing must have at least one kerbal present. You can have as many or as few kerbals as you want, as long as there is at least one.
4. Planet packs are allowed but will be in a separate category.
5. LKO assembly is allowed and encouraged, however once any part of the mission leaves LKO you can not launch any more vessels to assist your craft. Additionally, you can only have one active vessel when leaving LKO (your ship must be one giant ship, not a collection of small ships leaving at similar times). The only exception is launching a crew vehicle at the end of the mission to retrieve your kerbals.
6. The rules are flexible and subject to change. If you're trying to do something that might bend the rules, ask me.

When submitting an attempt, include a list of mods, version, and any DLCs installed. Additionally, provide a video or screenshot album showing your mission.

Completing the challenge will grant you the official challenge badge, as well as a spot in the Ultimate Challenge Hall of Fame.

Official challenge badge for your signature:

Ultimate Challenge Hall of Fame:

@18Watt 1.12, Stock+DLC - Single launch mothership with ISRU and a few landers. Creatively used modules for the main lander for Moho and Tylo instead of a completely separate lander.  Link

@Alpaca Z 1.12, Stock+DLC - The first single stage grand tour ever done in stock KSP, using a craft made by @Lt_Duckweed. Link

@camacju 1.12, Stock - A low mass grand tour, completing the challenge with a craft that only weighs 14.4 tons. Link

@fulgur 1.12,Stock+DLC - A grand tour done entirely with one spaceplane, except for the Eve landing. Link

Modded Hall of Fame:

@king of nowhere 1.12, Kerbalism, OPM, Near Future Electrical - A third grand tour using Kerbalism spanning 6 real life months and 324 in-game years. Radiation, stress, part failures, and KSP weirdness resulted in a very close mission that nearly failed several times. Link

@jimmymcgoochie 1.12, Snarkiverse, Near Future, Kerbalism - A grand tour of the stock system, except it's rearranged by the Snarkiverse mod. Kerbalism is present too, adding another layer of challenge. Link

@Leganeski1.12, JNSQ (1x rescale), GPP, GEP - A very long grand tour of the JNSQ enhanced stock system, Galileo's Planet Pack, and Grannus Expansion Pack. Link

@king of nowhere 1.12,Kerbalism,RSS,NFLV,NFE - A grand tour of Real Solar System, but with Kerbalism and only stock parts (except some NF parts). 49 bugs, RSS with stock parts, and Kerbalism make this an extremely challenging mission. Link


Edited by Stamp20
Hall of Fame entry
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  • 1 month later...

Great to see this challenge is still going!  It's definitely something on my KSP 1 bucket list to do but i have a few others things to master first like learning to return from Eve (only place I've never come back from successfully).  So it may be a few weeks before I start this.

Hope you get some submissions soon

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  • 3 months later...

Well, I'm on my way.  I launched the whole show in a single launch.  My plan was to land two Kerbals on each CB.

Of course I forgot to actually put two Kerbals in the lander for the first stop, Mun.  I could have returned to the surface with a second Kerbal in the lander, but didn't bother.  

After Mun I stopped at Minmus for a landing, and refueled while there.  Next I hit Eve and Gilly.  Glad to get Eve out of the way, that was one of the landings and returns to orbit I was concerned about.

I'm currently in orbit of Moho, with what appears to be plenty of fuel to get back to Eve to rendezvous with the mothership, which is still parked in orbit of Gilly.  I say appears to have plenty of fuel because Moho has defeated me on several occasions.  

Nothing written in stone, but at this point my plan is to work outwards.  After rendezvousing with the mothership at Gilly I'll hit Duna/Ike, Dres, Jool, and finally Eeloo.  My ship design requires me to reconfigure it multiple times by moving modules and re-docking them in different orders for different portions of the mission.  So far this has worked fairly well.

When I'm done I'll post plenty of screenshots.

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Just a quick update:  I'm almost done.  I completed Moho, then went on to Duna, Ike, Dres, Laythe, Vall, Bop, and Tylo.  

I just need to get to Pol and Eeloo, then get home.  The ship is holding up fairly well, so I don't anticipate any serious problems.

I had to do multiple landing attempts at Laythe with my spaceplane, until I realized I was trying to land with the parking brake set.  I needed the parking brake set for the Eve lander (long story), then forgot to take it off after Eve.

Aside from forgetting to put two Kerbals in the lander at Mun, I've taken at least two Kerbals to every other body so far.  

It's late, I'm too tired to even go land on Pol.  Hopefully in the next week I'll find time to finish up.


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Ultimate Challenge Complete!

I completed the challenge!  I'll post a link to my mission reports thread.  The mission is detailed in the two most recent entries.

I'm playing 100% stock (with the BG and MH expansions).  I launched the entire mission in a single launch, and took two Kerbals to the surface of every CB.  Except for Mun, where I forgot to actually put two Kerbals in the lander can.  The order I took was Mun, Minmus, Eve, Gilly, Moho, Duna, Ike, Dres, Laythe, Vall, Bop, Tylo, Pol, Eeloo, and back home.  The basic components of the mission were:

  • Lander.  The 2-Kerb Lander visited the surface of every CB, except for Eve and Laythe.
  • Tylo Module.  The Tylo module was added to the Lander to help get to the surface of Tylo.
  • Eve Lander.  Dedicated only for Eve.  I saved the remains of the Eve module and used it back at Kerbin.
  • Laythe Plane.  A small 2-Kerb spaceplane used only at Laythe.
  • Ion Tug.  I used the Ion Tug to get the Lander to Moho and back (to Gilly..)
  • Mothership.  The Mothership is enormous, and has ISRU capabilities.  

Here's a shot showing most of the components.  The Laythe plane is fairly obvious.  Just left of the plane is the Ion Tug.  The Tylo Module and Lander are also visible below the Ion Tug.  The big contraption with orange tanks is the Eve Lander.  Once the Eve Lander is gone, I'll move the heavy Tylo Module to the center of the ship for better balance.


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  • 4 weeks later...

I finally completed my extended grand tour

Kerbalism + OPM + near future electrics (needed nuclear plants to get energy for my massive ship far from the sun)

Additional challenges: bring a large crew, have the mothership orbit every planet, send a spaceplane to skim the atmosphere of all gas giants, include an asteroid and a comet in the tour.

took me 6 real life months and 324 game years to finish

Edited by king of nowhere
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@king of nowhere Congratulations on your third Kerbalism grand tour! I've been following the mission report for a while, and it was an incredible journey.

On 12/24/2021 at 8:05 AM, king of nowhere said:

I am seriously considering downloading some hardcore planet pack and unleash A'Tuin (a just slightly improved version) for a grand tour of that too.

You should try Alternis Kerbol mainly for Tylo, its gravity is increased to 4g and it has a very short but thick atmosphere.

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  • 6 months later...

I am doing it with rss.

however, I cannot land on the inner moons of saturn. saturn has a radiation belt extremely strong, my crew would die in 3 hours.

yes, in my previous opm grand tour I still managed, but the radiation belt was small, it was possible to just spend a small time inside. not this time; saturn's radiation belt encompasses all the inner moons. Travel time is too long.

I can't send a kerbal normally. I have two options: I was planning to make unmanned landings on those moons. But I also can fiddle with kerbalism setting to ignore radiations, and plant flags on the innermost moons like that.

for the purpose of the grand tour, which would be better?

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10 hours ago, Stamp20 said:

IRL space programs can't disable radiation like you can in KSP.

while this is certainly true, it's a bit of a zigzagged case, because - while I can't find hard data on radiation levels around saturn - I do read that its radiation belts are "weak". Also, maximum radiation shielding in kerbalism only reduced 90% of the radiation, while in real life one could certainly devise a better shielding. especially in a big mission like mine, where adding a few more tons of radiation shielding would not be an issue.

anyway, I'll go on with the original plan of unmanned landings, then

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  • 3 weeks later...

Can't believe I forgot to submit to this challenge!

Here is my video of a single stage grand tour that includes Eve. As I used Lt_Duckweed's craft, it should probably be count as a collaboration between us.


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  • 2 months later...
15 minutes ago, jimmymcgoochie said:

with the caveat that it's in the Snarkiverse

This (and several other modded grand tours in Mission Reports right now) is why I added a section for modded planets. Congrats on finishing the grand tour! You are now the first person in the modded category of the Hall of Fame.

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On 10/1/2022 at 6:01 PM, jimmymcgoochie said:

@Stamp20 I believe this fulfils the criteria for the Ultimate Challenge- with the caveat that it's in the Snarkiverse, a rearranged stock Kerbol system, but also uses Kerbalism on hard mode (but minus the broken solar storms):

You can avoid all the bad effects from solar storms by just having a fuel tank - or even thermal shield - between the crew and the sun.

but exposure to the sun is averaged over all habitat parts, so all those landers sticking out of the craft main body would leave you exposed.

there's also a bug where solar storms still have effect at high time warp. in my first kerbalism grand tour, I slowed down time warp to x1000 at every solar storms. and the duna-jool transfer took a couple days at least. in subsequent grand tours, I set shielding efficiency to 100% before a long trip

Also, I'm surprised about your statement for moho and radiations. sure, there's a somewhat greater background level, but i've done that trip multiple times with no issues. In my first mission I didn't even have any RDU, and the crew sent to moho got less than 10% radiation. halving its distance from the sun, of course, is going to significantly increase that.

On 10/1/2022 at 6:18 PM, Stamp20 said:

This (and several other modded grand tours in Mission Reports right now) is why I added a section for modded planets. Congrats on finishing the grand tour! You are now the first person in the modded category of the Hall of Fame.

My OPM grand tour should be there, then. as it included all the OPM planets

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31 minutes ago, king of nowhere said:

Also, I'm surprised about your statement for moho and radiations. sure, there's a somewhat greater background level, but i've done that trip multiple times with no issues. In my first mission I didn't even have any RDU, and the crew sent to moho got less than 10% radiation. halving its distance from the sun, of course, is going to significantly increase that.

Stock Moho's perihelion is 4.2Gm; Snarkiverse Moho's aphelion is only 4.4Gm. For nearly all of its orbit, Snarkiverse Moho is drastically closer to Kerbol than stock Moho ever will be, and radiation levels are drastically higher as a result- I got almost 1500EC/s per Gigantor solar panel on the way into Moho's SOI at a distance of less than 1.5Gm from Kerbol and with Moho's weird little equatorial radiation belt thrown into the mix it wasn't a very nice place to be.

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4 hours ago, jimmymcgoochie said:

 I got almost 1500EC/s per Gigantor solar panel on the way into Moho's SOI at a distance of less than 1.5Gm from Kerbol and with Moho's weird little equatorial radiation belt thrown into the mix it wasn't a very nice place to be.

solar irradiation has got nothing to do with radiation. you see the radiation level in the main kerbalism window. and it's actually always the same everywhere in solar orbit: 0.013 rad/h. it will kill the crew in roughly 3 years without shielding, 10 years with full shielding at hard level. an active shield will completely cover that amount of radiation.

there is no special radiation hazard on moho other than its radiation belt


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After my low mass Eve mission, I've wanted to try another mission where I minimize mass. Also, my previous grand tour didn't sit quite right with me as it was extremely unoptimized, especially with the Eve lander. 

Additionally, I don't know of any low mass grand tours other than Brad Whistance's 25 ton grand tour from a long time ago, which used ISRU heavily.

With some slight changes to the Eve mission, I cobbled together this 14.4 ton ship:


Tipping the scales at 14,447 kg, this is by far the lightest grand tour attempt that I've ever seen. (If someone knows of a lower mass attempt or other low mass attempts, please let me know - I'll probably suffer a lot trying to reduce mass further but there are still savings here.)

The craft consists of seven distinct modules: launch stage, four dedicated landers, fuel tanker, and ion tug.



1. Launch stage. This module consists of some landing gear and wings for balance purposes, a fairing to cover the components that aren't aero-optimized, and all the fuel tanks I need for the ascent. I actually have too much liquid fuel in this stage, but this isn't too bad - I can still fit well within my original goal of 15 tons for the entire mission. I just don't like to launch with partially empty tanks, as it requires a lot more tweaking to work successfully.

Technically this entire craft is a SSTO, as no staging occurs until after low Kerbin orbit insertion. This is also probably not optimal but I didn't want to mess around with dropping fuel tanks off the front of the craft.


2. Tylo lander. This lander is powered by a single Spark engine and has two stages. It doesn't have enough fuel to return to low Tylo orbit from the surface - the kerbal is expected to finish circularizing with the EVA pack. I could have forgone the reaction wheel and saved fuel but I found the convenience of a reaction wheel to be worth the increased mass.


3. Vall/Duna lander. Landing on Vall and Duna with ion engines is possible, but difficult, and normally requires either a heavier lander or staged batteries. This dedicated liquid fuel lander is probably a bit more total mass, but again I'm still well within my original mass target.


4. Eve lander. Of all the components in this mission, this one has had by far the most engineering effort put in. Luckily, I can reuse this design from a prior mission. The rocket consists of three stages.

First is a propeller stage powered by two of the small DLC motors each driving eight basic fins - I found that on a propeller powered craft, basic fins could achieve a higher altitude for less mass, which is very good for this type of mission. The motors are powered by eight solar panels which also double as landing gear. This can actually survive reentry because of the propeller blades occluding each other from heat when they're spinning. On propeller power, this craft can reach at least 35 km; it can likely go higher, but I found that it can reach orbit from 35 km and I didn't wish to test further.

The rocket's second stage is highly aero-optimized and powered by three Twitch engines, two Ant engines, and one Spider engine. I found that this loadout provided a good balance between mass, delta-v, and thrust to weight ratio. This second stage will take us all the way out of Eve's atmosphere with a good amount of horizontal velocity.

The third stage is more like a half stage - the Twitch engines, fairing, and empty fuel tanks are dropped, leaving a minimalist upper stage to push toward Eve orbit. This is the only place in the mission where I have no reaction wheel control at all, instead using the single Spider engine for attitude control. I accepted the increased control difficulty here because Eve is absolutely the hardest terrestrial body for which to design a lander, and the third stage has a relatively short burn time, so the mass savings were worth it.

Finally, the kerbal circularizes with the EVA pack.

Wait, didn't we need the EVA pack for Tylo?


5. Main fuel tanker. This has a spare reload of fuel for the Vall/Duna lander, and all the xenon we'll need for the mission (and probably extra as well). I've also included two spare jetpacks and one spare EVA fuel cylinder. The third jetpack and second EVA cylinder are probably not necessary; they're here as a low-mass contingency in the very unlikely case I've made a grave calculation error and I end up running out of xenon. One jetpack and cylinder (preloaded in the kerbal's inventory) are reserved for the Tylo ascent and another is reserved for the Eve ascent, which can be completed with just a jetpack and no cylinder. 


6. Laythe lander. The same Rapier engine, wings, and shock cone are used for Kerbin and Laythe ascent, as this is less of a dry mass penalty than using two separate planes (xenon is very light). There's not much special about this plane.

This lander was inspired by Brad Whistance's excellent 6 ton Jool 5 mission, but changed a bit to make it easier to fly. The rest of the overall design is completely my own.


7. Ion tug. The ion engine is used for the transfer to Jool, and for hauling the dedicated landers around. This will also land on any body that doesn't already have a dedicated lander (Moho, Gilly, Minmus, Mun, Ike, Dres, Bop, Pol, Eeloo). I'm going to get a lot of work out of this ion engine.

The Laythe lander doesn't have any rocket fuel. Instead, it goes suborbital with the Rapier engine's way-excessive thrust (it makes up a big part of the lander's dry mass!) and uses the ion lander as an upper stage.


Here's the craft with the launch stage removed, so you can see how it all fits together.

I've started flying this already, but I haven't made it very far, so I'll probably wait to post an update on it.

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  • 5 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...
1 hour ago, king of nowhere said:

it's interesting that nobody is just doing a grand tour anymore. every single entry present here is made with a lot of additional quirks.

Personally, I felt like a stock system grand tour with no additional restrictions doesn't provide enough motivation for creative designs.


Anyway, I just finished my grand tour of Galileo's Planet Pack, Grannus Expansion Pack, and JNSQ (rescaled to stock scale).


I'm pretty sure I followed the intent of all the rules, but I would like to confirm these cases.

Rule 1: the main parts mods were Near Future Launch Vehicles, ReStock+, Simple Fuel Switch, and Explodium Breathing Engines, all of which I believe to be balanced with stock parts.

Rule 2: I did have to use the debug menu twice, once to circumvent the landing leg sinking bug and once to circumvent a bug where Lindor's entire SOI was heated to 7000 degrees, but neither of those times did it let me gain any advantage beyond what would have happened if the bug weren't there.

Rule 3: I could not plant a flag on Tellumo because I landed in the middle of the ocean, but I did collect a surface sample there, which of course still required Valentina to touch the surface.


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