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An even more garish tree and a score of hapazardly stacked oversized vehicles: another Jool 5 science challenge


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Three years ago, I run a Jool 5 with the objective of collecting all possible science. While the mission scored the record in the category, it felt incomplete in many regards.

I regret many things I could have done, but didn't. I failed to collect all possible science. Most pivotal to that are two discoveries I made recently: the first is, if you are on sea, but standing on top of a vehicle, you can collect science as "landed". "Landed" science and "splashed down" science are different, which means I could have collected "landed" science for a bunch of water-only Laythe biomes. And second, I discovered that with some experimets you can collect them more times (up to 4) and get some extra science.

Second, while I was there collecting science from every biome, I did drive rovers halfway around both Vall and Tylo. I could have completed circumnavigations, but I didn't.

Well, this time I want to be thorough. And I want to do it with style.

Or I want to do a few wild and silly things because they amuse me. The boundary between "style" and "wild silly thing that amuse me" is hard to define.

Part 1: Proof that I'm getting old, aka mission design

In most missions, I start with a mothership, then I build the landers, then I found some ways to adapt the landers and mothership to each other. Not in this case. This time I'll bring more oversized vehicles than in any other mission. So I'll first design the vehicles, and then I'll try to sort out what kind of mothership I need for them.

I need the following capabilities:

- a rover for all moons

- landing and taking off from Tylo

- a plane for Laythe, capable of taking off from water

- an aircraft carrier for the Laythe plane, so that the plane can collect "landed" science on water biomes.

- something to reach the inner atmosphere of Jool and return.

And just like an old geezer living of past memories, I'm going to recycle a lot of old designs for this mission. Because I liked them and I'd like to use them again.

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After this sneak peek, aren't you curious to see what the rest of the ship looks like?

1.1) Leaping Mantis small rover

Spoiler

Leaping Mantis was the rover I used to circumnavigate Wal. Wal is an OPM moon with a giant equatorial mountain belt and a gravity higher than Duna, so I needed a very capable rover to tackle that. Leaping Mantis is agile, sturdy, an excellent climber, with great survivability. It's a pleasure to drive, and I won't mind circumnavigating Pol, Bop and Vall with it.

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Leaping Mantis climbing the mountains of Wal

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Leaping Mantis, adapted for this mission

I gave Leaping Mantis a full suit of science instruments. I swapped out the advanced RTGs from near future electrics with stock parts. The main change, though, are the side rockets and launch vehicle on top. For all that Leaping Mantis is a wonderful rover, the old Dancing Porcupine did one thing better: it flew. I could either create a reusable sky crane, or I could strap some light rocketry on the rover, and I went for that option. It does make the rover heavier and less agile, but it is a temporary solution. I will use those rockets on Pol and Bop, then to land on Vall, then they will be ditched. You may notice there's enough fuel to land on Vall, but not to return. To return from Vall I will use the smaller vehicle I strapped on the back. I need 4 probe cores to store 4 different copies of each science sample, and they - with the crew - are the only thing that really needs to return to orbit.

Although it does have the drawback of making Leaping Mantis more fragile. If falling from a great height, Leaping Mantis can turn on its back and land on those plane wheels, much more resistent than rover wheels. Now landing on those wheels will still crash the top of the reentry vehicle. I'll see if I can find a solution on eva construction mode.

1.2) Tamarromobile Tylo rover

Spoiler

I circumnavigated over a dozen celestial bodies by now, but my favourite always remains Slate. Slate has a topography implying a past water cycle, with mountains and valleys and canyons. For that mission I had a comically oversized, but pretty capable rover. And since it was fun to drive, why not drive it again? Tylo has similar gravity and size to Slate, so Tamarromobile - and its sky crane - was already up to the task.

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Tamarromobile deploying science on Slate

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Tamarromobile, adapted for this mission (sky crane not included)

Once more, I added the full science suit and swapped the advanced RTGs for stock ones. I added a reentry vehicle on the back. I am starting to question the wisdom of strapping reentry vehicles on the back of rovers, but the weight should be small enough as to not create problems. I reworked the panoramic cupola to make it more resistant (in the original mission it gradually leaned forward until it became nonfunctional), and I added the "mantis clawsTM", the plane wheels placed in front of the regular wheels for protection against hitting steep inclines. I developed them for Leaping Mantis, and I was so happy with them that I added them to all my rovers.

1.3) Phoenix Jool plane

Spoiler

When my whirligig world grand tour required me to land on two planets bigger than Eve, I made some ascent vehicles that could provide 7 km/s at TWR higher than 2, after surviving a reentry at 5 km/s. Then, never happy with a bare bones functional design, I turned them into flying laboratories, with a wide complement of panoramic observation posts. I was very happy with the results flying around some beautiful planets, and I felt a pang of regret when they completed their missions and were discarded. Of course, I jumped on the chance to use a Phoenix again.

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Phoenix flying over a cliff on Derbin

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Phoenix, adapted for this mission

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Phoenix, without all the thermal shields

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Phoenix, only the ascent vehicle

I had to make some more extensive changes here. Besides swapping advanced RTGs for regular RTGs, I also had to remove the NCS adapters and replace them with regular nose cones; going stock only, I don't have simple fuel switch to store rocket fuel in them. Then, while testing, I discovered that Jool required more deltaV; on the other hand, it does not require a TWR higher than 2 at any time, so I swapped the Vector engine with a Swivel, and the Dart with a Terrier.

1.4) Absolutely Not An Albatross, Laythe seaplane (Not Albatross for short)

Spoiler

I already made a seaspaceplane for my original Jool 5 science mission, and it worked really well. Ok, sometimes it would flip for inexplicable reasons, but it was generally a good flier. I never had something that could take off from water on propellers again; as I started using kerbalism, I had other build constraints.

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The old Not Albatross

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Not Albatross, improved

For start, I discovered that the front wheels was actually 2 wheels clipped into each other. I removed one, and voila! 250 kg saved! I also removed the inline docking port; it looked cool and it saved drag from a docking port jutting out from a side, but it added 300 kg. I'm sure the drag caused by a small docking port will be worth the saving of 280 kg. Alas, I had to add back some of the shed mass by putting 3 more probe cores to store science experiments. Finally, I added the canards in front; they help a lot with maneuverability and taking off from water. Only light changes, all things considered. Not Albatross will be the only vehicle recovered at the end of this.

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A detail of the science bays, including RTGs, batteries and science instruments. I made some slight changes in there, but like in the older version, I made sure nothing is clipping.

Wait a minute, if I am using Not Albatross, why not use its heavy stage for Jool like I did in the previous mission? It was a tested and true design. Well, only to some extent. I knew that stage could slow down to 500 m/s, grab science quickly, then go orbital again; taking science four times will require more time, and I'm not sure the old model can slow down even more and still go orbital. More important, to take science four times I need to refresh the science jr and mistery goo, something I could not do while flying; Phoenix has a convenient lab to do this authomatically. And finally, the heavy stage for Not Albatross weighted 100 tons, Phoenix only 45. Sometimes, using two different compact vehicles optimized for their tasks is better than a single bigger hybrid.

1.5) Garibarge, Laythe aircraft carrier (sort of)

Spoiler

Hey, here's something I never did before. This time I have to build something new. To make an aircraft carrier I need a big flat deck, which can be achieved by stacking fuel tanks. Since the resulting ship is going to be very heavy, and will already have its own fuel tanks, I may as well strap rockets to it and send it to orbit on its own power. It also needs propellers to move on Laythe, and I'd like it to sustain a good speed since it will need to cross long distances.

I made a single experiment with an aircraft carrier before realizing I'm too lousy a pilot to land on one. I couldn't even reliably land within 500 meters of it. So I made a slight change in the project, with a ramp extending on water so that Not Albatross can land on water and then climb on the ship. The result is more correctly defined a barge than an aircraft carrier, but it's still an aircraft carrier in my heart.

I also decided to go wild with lights on this model. After all, I want this mission to be showy and over the top.

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Garibarge, detail of the flight deck.

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I don't have to worry about mass and drag, so I can write the name on the side

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And front view

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Garibarge without the rockets and parachutes it needs to fly to Laythe

I included a crew cabin, the mission does not specify a driver, but who knows. The thing dangling underneath in the front view is a retractable underwater observation deck, because I wanted to see below the sea, but I also wanted to retract the thing for more speed. And Garibarge is quite good, it can sustain 50 m/s. I also put retractable wheels in case it needs to cross land. The claw is to anchor Not Albatross to it when moving, but it can also be used for refueling.

I called it Garibarge after Garibaldi. No, not the famous revolutionary hero of the XIX century that most of you probably heard about, but the italian aircraft carrier that carries his name. However, this is more a barge than a real aircraft carrier, so I made a mash-up of Garibaldi and barge.

I almost called it Bargebaldi instead.

1.6) Flying Christmas Tree 2

Spoiler

I want to carry around five different vehicles. Two are very heavy (Tamarromobile will have its sky crane), three are ridiculously oversized - the other two are merely regular oversized. It is clear I need a mothership with a lot of space. More important, there would be no way to balance the mass, so I'd need to balance thrust instead. I spread the rockets in a large radius, so that I can selectively shut down a few of them to compensate for any imbalance in the center of mass caused by dragging around weird cargo.

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Plus, it's got to have lights, to honor its name and tradition

Flying Christmas Tree 2 must be big, to carry around hundreds of tons of shuttles, but I tried to avoid the ludicrous size of my usual grand tour mothership. Funny how, after years of flying DREAM BIG and its descendants, I got used to consider 1000 tons a "small" ship.

I'm probably only going to land on Pol, but I wanted FCT2 to be able to land on Vall in any case. In fact, I went overboard with thrust, because I know some engines will need to be shut down. And of course, after the experience with Boundless in the whirliging world grand tour, I made sure to be able to land and refuel the whole ship at once.

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The upper part can be detached and work as a taxi

A large mothership mission must also include a taxi, to carry the landers from low orbit to the mothership itself. Using the mothership to carry landers around is awfully fuel-expensive, while the landers need to be light and can't really be expected to also go from low orbit to the mothership. In this case, I decided to make the tip of FCT2 detachable, so it could serve as its own taxi. At 280 tons it's still very heavy, but it's supposed to carry around some very heavy stuff. No, ok, Garibarge can move on its own power and for Tamarromobile half that mass would have sufficed, so I overdid this one. But it does look cool, and fuel won't be an issue.

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Detail of the reentry vehicle

As a last detail, I added this science storage that can be used as reentry vehicle for the science. While completely unnecessary, I wanted to see if I could make a ship that could fit inside a cargo bay. A regular thermal shield is too boring.

Edited by king of nowhere
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On 2/14/2024 at 6:29 PM, DennisB said:

A Jool plane with 45t :o, respect. But how does it fit to the title "a score of hapazardly stacked oversized vehicles"?

It's light, but it takes up a lot of space. You try docking Phoenix to a ship with a bunch of other vehicles.

Same goes for the rovers. They are not incredibly huge, but they all have wheels stuck on long trusses for stability, and that take up lots of space. Basically, every vehicle I'm carrying around has a very large base for wheels, or large wings. Most are also long. And let's not even talk about Garibarge.

Part 2: Launching Flying Christmas Tree 2

With all the landers in place, Flying Christmas Tree 2 may be the most majestic ship I ever launched. Or the most silly. Probably both.

2.1) Launching Flying Christmas Tree 2 with Tamarromobile

Spoiler

FCT2 has plenty of fuel to reach orbit on its own. It only needs engines, because the Wolfhounds have poor performance in atmosphere. Easy fix, strap some jettisonable Mammoth engines underneat. Now FCT2 can reach orbit with a lot of spare fuel.

Wasting all that deltaV would be... well, a waste. So I try to strap on more vehicles. I don't dare put in the planes, having the wings perpendicular to the air flow would cause too much instability, but I can at least try with both rovers.

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A piece of Leaping Mantis seen from the cupola of Tamarromobile

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Trying to launch FCT2 with Leaping Mantis and Tamarromobile. Lowering power to an engine to keep the ship stable

But it doesn't work. My plan to handle an asymmetric load is to shut down specific engines, and it works well enough in vacuum. But during a launch from Kerbin, the fuel is being drained fast, and this changes the center of mass continuously. Different drag on different sides of the ship and different altitudes also ends up being a big deal. I can't keep the ship pointing upright.

So I gave up and launched only Tamarromobile with FCT2. Tamarromobile is the heaviest and most difficult rover to launch, but if I attach it on top, the ship is symmetric enough that it won't swerve off course.

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Sight from the rearward cupola

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At 15 km altitude, detaching the Mammoths, keeping the Wolfhounds

Once in orbit, I move Tamarromobile to one of the lateral docking ports. The central one is reserved for Phoenix, that can't be fit anywhere else for encumbrance reasons.

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Moving Tamarromobile to a lateral docking port

2.2) Launching Not Albatross

Spoiler

Not Albatross is easy to launch. It is built to have ssto capacity, though barely.

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Not Albatross starts by climbing with propellers

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At high altitude it helps itself with the nuclear engine. It can reach above 10 km of altitude this way

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Then it points up and activates the booster engines

The problem with Not Albatross is that those booster rockets don't have nearly enough deltaV to carry it to orbit. While I have a huge load of nuclear fuel, rocket fuel is limited. That's because I can't choose to carry oxidizer in the wings and nose cones - not without installing mods, which I want to avoid for this mission. So Not Albatross is left in a suborbital trajectory with a very low thrust engine and a lot of deltaV still necessary to orbit.

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Cresting apoapsis, I still need 900 m/s to circularize. With a TWR of 0.3, it will take five minutes. Which I don't have

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Less than three minutes later, Not Albatross is entering the atmosphere. It has insufficient speed to orbit

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But as it goes lower in the atmosphere, it eventually reaches a point where it can generate enough lift

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And so it starts moving upwards again, going once more out of the atmosphere

It's not the most elegant or efficient way to orbit Kerbin, but Not Albatross is made primarily to orbit Laythe. Being able to also ssto on Kerbin is just a bonus.

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Not Albatross docking to FCT2

2.3 Launching Garibarge

Spoiler

Garibarge is using huge fuel tanks as floaters, but they are still fuel tanks; so it should fly well, just by strapping some rockets to it.

Unfortunately, Garibarge is aerodinamic problems incarnate. Who could have guessed that trying to send a large ship to orbit could be difficult?

To increase the hassle, Garibarge also needs to land on Laythe afterwards. For this reason, I initially tried to place the rockets underneat the structure. Even if it means flying with that flight deck perpendiculat to the air flow, generating a stupid amount of drag. Of course, aerodinamics try to steer the ship to point the flight deck parallel to the air flow, to minimze drag. So all those experiments - and there were too many of those - failed due to the rocket ship thing capsizing.

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One such attempt to place rockets underneath Garibarge. I placed a second, detachable ramp to equalize drag, and a stupid number of wings to try and keep this thing flying straight. It still didn't work

The breakthrough came when I tested and discovered that Garibarge can survive a Laythe landing on parachutes without need for assisted rocket braking. In fact, falling on its side helps, because the first part that hits the water are the nose cones, a part sturdier than most. Once established that I could launch Garibarge with the flight deck parallel to the flight direction, I could even use the ramp asymmetric drag to help with gravity turning

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Garibarge launching

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I can't believe this thing is flyng for real!

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I took a shallow gravity turn to avoid flying high speed through the atmosphere, but I probably wouldn't need to have bothered

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Garibarge rendez-vous with FCT2...

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... and docked to a side port

This Garibarge still has no lights, no name written on its side. Actually, it was still called Bargebaldi. I was reluctant to make the light show I wanted because of part count and lag. Only later I came to my senses (not sure which ones), and swapped the old barge for a properly beautified one.

2.4) Launching Phoenix

Spoiler

Phoenix seems a simple enough thing to launch. After all, it's a rocket plane already. But it's a rocket plane that can't use its rocket without staging, and the wings make it difficult to launch as rocket. I fixed it by placing the engines high, so that they would pull Phoenix instead of pushing it

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It was awkward to find a spot to fix the engines and tanks to the upper part of Phoenix

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Jettisoning main boosters

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Coasting to orbit

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Rendez-vous with FCT2

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Sticking Phoenix to its place is not trivial

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Correct alignment must be ensured to avoid hitting Tamarromobile and Garibarge

In retrospect, I could have added a docking port to the wings - they are jettisoned before ascent anyway - to attach Phoenix on a side docking port, leaving the central one for Garibarge. It would have resulted in more balanced weight.

2.5) Launching Leaping Mantis, and refueling

Spoiler

I left Leaping Mantis last because, being the smallest vehicle I'm bringing, I am fairly sure I can fit it between Tamarromobile and Garibarge. But its wheels pack would have given issues to other landers trying to get close.

Besides launching the last rover, I also need to send some fuel. First stop will be a refueling on Minmus, and I spent most of the fuel on FCT2 getting orbital. So I'm launching Leaping Mantis with a tanker.

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Leaping Mantis inside a fairing. What will be outside?

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No, I can't use a normal vehicle in this mission

Ok, I know how it looks, but listen to me before judging. FCT2 has a ring of large docking ports on the outside, and a ring of small docking ports on the inside. All those docking ports are blocked somehow. If I make a large docking port, I can't get close enough, the wheels of Tamarromobile or the wings of Not Albatross will get in the way. The small docking ports are the only free ones; but they can't be accessed from the top, because Phoenix gets in the way. The only way to access one such small docking port is with a long, bent pipe like the ones I'm using - the tanker also has an RCS to maneuver around FCT2.

Alternatively, I could have undocked Phoenix and accessed the easy docking port on top. It would have saved me one hour of fiddling around the ship trying to line up docking ports. Why didn't I think it first?

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An hapazard collection of rockets lift the tanker

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Opening the fairing, seen from the inside. Alas, nowhere near as spectacular as when I deployed the original Tamarromobile

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The last tanker stage, with Leaping Mantis, approaches FCT2

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And tries to find a hole

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The one most accessible is blocked by a relay probe

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Which has to be moved out of the way

I didn't mention those relay probes before. The previous time, I had some issues because Not Albatross had no pilot on board and could not make maneuver nodes. This time I made sure to have connections. But only with the mothership; I don't want a connection with the KSC, because I always have the instinct to press "transmit science". Those probes also have a non-relay antenna to the KSC to access kerbnet and help plot a course.

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The same probe, seen from a bit farther, amid a jumble of wheels, pieces of sky crane, and other paraphernalia. What have I done?

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After much fiddling, the tanker manages to get close to a docking port

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Almost there

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Docked! Yes!

I drained most of the tanker, but left a bit to deorbit it. Now it's time to dock Leaping Mantis.

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Not sure what exploded there. Spaces are narrow

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The wheels keep hitting things and pushing Leaping Mantis out of position. I regret not giving it an RCS

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Finally getting in capture range

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FCT2, fully assembled! I would post a bunch of pictures, but there's already the video for that

But I forgot the cooling panels for isru; I will send them to Minmus while refueling there. And then I will send a new version of Garibarge with more lights. And all that will push part count to 1345. I'm not sure if it's my record or not. I seem to remember the DREAM BIG pushing to 1400, but I can't find a number.

Now I'm ready to start.

Edited by king of nowhere
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Part 3: The road to Jool

Flying Christmas Tree 2 goes first to refuel on Minmus, then on Jool. It ditches Garibarge along the way, before landing and refueling on Pol.

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Arrival at Jool

3.1) Refueling on Minmus

Spoiler

The Flying Christmas Tree 2 spent most of its fuel to reach orbit. Even the refueling mission only gave it enough to reach Minmus. Why build a huge tanker to reach Jool when you can build a smaller tanker and refuel on Minmus? Well, perhaps because it would save the time of having to go on Minmus in the first place, but whatever. With low thrust, there are advantages in launching from Minmus anyway.

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Trajectory to Minmus. I am short on fuel, so I take a Mun gravity assist to save a bit

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FCT2 shuts down some engines to keep thrust level with center of mass. A lot of engines, actually

Garibarge on the side is really having a huge destabilizing effect, I have to shut down all its opposite engines. And that's with empty fuel tanks, otherwise I just could not fly straight. I definitely should have considered some way to stick it on top, and fit Phoenix on a side. The center of mass issue is further compounded by Tamarromobile not being opposite to Garibarge; both are cumbersome, and Not Albatross is also cumbersome, and I just had to give room to each of them, which led to the two heaviest vehicles being on the same side. I am happy that FCT2 can compensate, if with difficulty.

Then again, I'm planning to drop Garibarge soon after reaching Jool, so it will only be a temporary discomfort.

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Arrival on Minmus, seen from one of the crew pods

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Descent. I have to restrain myself, else this report would be nothing but IVA shots

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Landed on Minmus. The landing illuminators double as disco lights

FCT2 has thrust and stability issues at this point, but landing on Minmus is easy enough.

While there, I realized I didn't include radiators, so I sent a small mission to bring some to attach with eva construction. @JacobJHC granted me permission to make this fix after the ship left low Kerbin orbit, since it's just a minor thing that wouldn't have impacted anything anyway. I forgot to take pictures, though.

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Few weeks later, after refueling

As expected, I had to drop most of the fuel within Garibarge's tanks to keep some semblance of stability. A pity, they were very wide. Furthermore, I also swerved out of trajectory a few times during ascent, as the rockets weren't perfectly balanced, and ended up in an inclined orbit. It's a lot harder to balance the rockets on the ground or during ascent. But it's nothing that a little deltaV can't fix.

Speaking of Garibarge, at this point I decided I did really want to add all the lights after all. So I launched the final version, functionally identical to the old one except much prettier.

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The new Garibarge ready to launch

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And coming to dock with FCT2

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Final part of the complex docking. Good thing I did include RCS on FCT2 because I knew I'd have to pull those maneuvers

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Final status of FCT2 before the Jool transfer. This time it registers the tanks as mostly full because I removed fuel transfer from Garibarge

3.2) To Jool

Spoiler

I waited the transfer window for Jool. The most convenient way to reach the gas giant from Minmus, and the only one with my available deltaV - barring complex chains of gravity assists that after the adventures of Boundless in the Gememma system I'd rather not repeat - is to fall back towards Kerbin, to make use of Oberth effect from your home planet while keeping your high velocity falling down from Minmus.

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Trajectory to Jool

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With full tanks, I had to find a different rocket configuration

And with fuel being consummed, rather than shutting down new rockets I resorted to moving fuel around the tanks. FCT2 was designed to deal with asymmetric payload, and it can manage, but it's not comfortable nor pretty.

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Arriving at Jool, releasing the relay probes

Two will be placed in polar orbits, while a third will tour the moons, scan them, and set up a path for the rovers.

While I am about to take a Tylo gravity assist for capture, I also detach Garibarge to drop on Laythe. It only needs minimal fuel, which I can spare, and this way I'll have much less lag and center of mass problems. FCT2 will go to refuel again on Pol.

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Garibarge trajectory to Laythe (green dotted), after the gravity assist from Tylo

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FCT trajectory for Pol (yellow, then purple dotted), made to minimize intercept speed. Only 25 m/s for capture at Pol

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Yet a new rocket configuration. This time I can keep most of them active. Only Tamarromobile is significantly shifting the balance

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On Pol. Releasing Leaping Mantis before landing, I will start circumnavigating the little moon

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FCT2 goes to land

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It ends up on a slope, where it will spend an inordinate amount of time sliding down, too fast for me to save. It will only stop at the end of the incline. But no lasting harm

3.3) Garibarge lands on Laythe

Spoiler

I loaded Garibarge with as much fuel as I could safely spare, and sent it to Laythe. It already landed well before FCT2 reached Pol, but I'm separating it for pacing purposes.

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Approaching Laythe

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For an aircraft carrier, Garibarge takes the heat of aerobraking quite well. Having lousy aerodinamics helps

I decided to send an engineer on Garibarge, even though she wasn't part of the plan, in case I may want to do some construction jobs. Or maybe even just to have a crew. Not Albatross won't have a second seat for her, but it has ssto capacity, it can make two trips.

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Jettisoning the engines

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Approaching the sea

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Parachutes deployed

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Floaters destroyed. Oooops!

When I did the testing, I had no fuel inside Garibarge. This time I loaded as much as I could, and the extra weight is enough to make a difference in the landing. I had to dump most of it.

I needed that fuel to reach the small biomes. Laythe has two very tiny biomes (crescent lagoon and crater island, though crater bay is also very small), and taking high atmosphere science on them is very hard. Last time I just dropped in a 49.5x49.5 km orbit, skimming the atmosphere, but the passage was so fast, I missed one science report. And this time I have to take them four times each. This time, I plan to fly over the biome, then activate the rockets to go straight up. At 10 km I am in high atmosphere, I can take science. But then Not Albatross needs to refuel to leave Laythe, and that's where Garibarge having some leftover comes into play.

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Having dumped most fuel, descent speed is now 4 m/s lower. Still enough fuel for at least 4 suborbital flights for Not Albatross

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This time I landed safely. Here jettisoning the parachutes, just for the extra bit of mass and drag reduction

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Making good use of the underwater observation deck. The sea floor of Laythe looks like an interesting place for a rover. Maybe I'll make one eventually

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Now Donnitta has a few months free to enjoy the sun and the sea. At least she could enjoy the sun and sea, if there was any significant sun to begin with, and if the sea wasn't barely above freezing.

Well, I guess she can still play videogames in her warm snuggly crew pod.

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Part 4: Pretty little world

Leaping Mantis circumnavigates Pol, gathering all available science in the process.

I wanted to call this chapter "Pol is dead", but I thought it would be very confusing for those who would not get the reference.

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It took 73 days for the circumnavigation, but only because I stopped to do other tasks. From Pol 13 it was straightforward. Every flag is spaced 10-12 km

Spoiler

I start with the circumnavigation of Pol because, well, I have to do all the moons eventually and I'm already here. I'm waiting for Flying Christmas Tree 2 to refuel.

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Leaping Mantis undocks for landing with a magnificent Jool on the horizon

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Descent. Landing on Pol is easy

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Landed

I realized I carried a lot more fuel than required, and I wanted to make the rover lighter.

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Lacking a drain valve, pushing against the ground is the best way to burn fuel I came up with

Those lateral fuel tanks detract somewhat from Leaping Mantis maneuverability, but on Pol and Bop it won't matter. On Vall, I'll drop them before moving. Leaping Mantis was made for mountain climbing on a high gravity moon, it's overpowered for Pol even with some additional ballast.

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Starting the trip with a big cliff. No problems in the low gravity

The last - and only - time I did drive seriously on Pol, it was in the Bolt mission, on the Stool rover. Which was a rocket rover built for flying and mass reduction, it didn't have much in the way of wheels. That time, I couldn't get past 10 m/s, except when falling downhill. Leaping Mantis is a dedicated rover, and it makes all the difference. With its superior wheel power, it's got a lot of acceleration, allowing it to pick up speed faster before it would leave the ground as common on low gravity planets. I could exceed 20 m/s regularly, and over 30m/s downhill.

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Internal view on the passenger crew. Leaping Mantis carries one scientist to refresh the experiments and an engineer to fix wheels

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Some night driving. I landed near the terminator line, hills made a deep shadow

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Scanning a yellow stone

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More night-twilight driving perspective

I eventually discovered that lighting conditions improve a lot if I shut down the lights on the plane wheels. The game has issues when there are multiple lights on, and some of the main floodlights were not being rendered correctly until I shut down the minor ones.

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Speed record; over a third of orbital speed. I don't remember if I survived this fall or not, though

As you can see, Pol has very irregular terrain. Lots of hills and valleys, not a stretch of flat land. With the low gravity there are no problems with going uphill, but you end up jumping a lot. Good reaction wheels to control your trajectory in flight are required. Even with a very capable rover, I had a few accidents, because I tend to drive rovers at unsafe speeds. Especially at the beginning of a trip, before I get used to the celestial body and get the hang of what I can and can't do.

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I picked the landing longitude to visit the green monolith

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The north pole. I circumnavigated a dozen bodies, but it's the first time I see one without polar terrain glitches

Pol has 4 biomes: lowlands, highlands and midlands are mixed up together all across the planet, and then there's poles. I could take any polar route and get all four of them easily.

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For all that Leaping Mantis is equipped to drive by night, I still like it better if I can look around and see what's there. Especially because I like Pol

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At some point I tried using 2x time warp, but it increased accidents more than it helped

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While going down the southern emisphere, I saw a very tall mountain and I decide to take a detour to visit

A quick check on the appropriate forum page confirmed it was the highest mountain on Pol, at 63 S 164 E. It's something different from the rest of Pol. Everywhere else there's a lot of ups and downs, but the elevation is relatively even; most of the moon is between 1000 and 2000 meters of altitude. This place only has ups, and occupies a significant portion of Pol.

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I called it mount Sharktooth, because of its triangular, slightly recurve shape

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View from the top of mount Sharktooth

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Going down, there are some very big jumps. Here I am 300 meters above the surface

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Downward speed of 25 m/s. The plane wheels on top are very sturdy, they can take that impact

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But the return pod is too exposed and gets broken

That's a design mistake I made there.

Regular rover wheels are only moderately sturdy. They break between 10 and 15 m/s of downward speed (horizontal speed makes you slide on the ground and is much less important, but when falling down 300 meters you pick up downward speed, even on Pol). Plane wheels can take more than 30 m/s, so when Leaping Mantis is falling a long distance, it can turn on its back and let the sturdier wheels brace the impact. But the retur pod here is too high, the wheels will retract from the force of the impact and the pod will get broken. I tried moving the wheels a bit more upward, but it's not enough. I am considering dismantling the return pod, taking its upper part and sticking it around the rover to only be rebuilt when it's time to leave Vall. But I'm not sure my crew will be able to move the doughnut fuel tank in Vall's gravity. Anyway, I'm fine until Vall, Pol and Bop are easy enough and I can reload if worse comes to worse.

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The south pole, again with no terrain glitches

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I'm back to the night side, but I'm not waiting dawn this time. Visibility is good

Incidentally, I could use light amplification, but I'd rather try to drive on real light.

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Back to the first flag

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After a couple of big stops, I started driving uninterrupted from the flag 13 to the end. The last flag was planted only 3 hours later. Running a few calculations with Pol's radius of 44 km, it turns out I kept an average speed of 45 km/s, or 12 m/s. This includes the time spent to plant flags, it's not bad in such low gravity.

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This part of the flag trail emphasize the deviation made to climb mount Sharktooth

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Back to Flying Christmas Tree 2. I thought the lower ambient light would make the position lights shine better, but in most cases it just makes the image dark and harder to understand

Science recap

In space high you can run 10 science experiments: EVA report, EVA experiment, crew report, goo observation, materials study, temperature scan, atmospheric pressure, gravity scan, infrared telescope, magnetometer boom. Except for the gravity scan, all are global. So you can run high space experiments equal to 9+1*biome.

In space low the situation is sligtly different; you can't use the infrared telescope, but EVA report also can be done in multiple biomes. So the numer of experiments is 7+2*biomes.

I am collecting all space science in Flying Christmas Tree 2. It's easier to keep track of which experiments I may be missing if I divide the reports.

On the ground you also have 10 experiments (seismic scan and surface sample are available, but you lose magnetometer boom and infrared telescope), and all except EVA experiments are biome-specific. So you get 1+9*biome. Plus surface features. On Pol there are 4 biomes and 1 surface feature, so there are 38 reports available and collected so far.

Edited by king of nowhere
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Part 5: The new last flight of the Phoenix

Phoenix flies low in Jool's atmosphere.

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Phoenix flying amid green clouds

5.1) Lowering orbit

Spoiler

Next target will be flying low on Jool. Because Phoenix is already docked on the front.

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Flying Christmas Tree 2 detaches its taxi module

Flying Christmas Tree 2 is made to split in two, its front can act as a taxi. I realize I did not name it, so I'll do it right now: the tip that carries around landers is the Discovery module, while the bottom with all the mining material is the Resilience module.

Here I discovered I can't undock that easily; both the wing of Not Albatross and the wheels of Tamarromobile are getting in the way of the engines. I could easily fix the problem by undocking those two landers, but I got lazy, so I just activated time warp. Clipping is allowed while in time warp. I didn't fancy running some docking-undocking maneuvers while lagging.

I made sure to give FCT2-Discovery a decent amount of deltaV even with a payload, but reaching low orbit on Jool and coming back is rather expensive. And I didn't want to use nuclear engines, they would make this mission too easy. So I need to take some gravity assists.

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Route to lower Jool, using Tylo and Laythe to lower orbit cheaply

I still remember the first time I came to Jool; I wanted to use gravity assists, but I was so confused by all those lines. Now I know exactly what to look for. I use Tylo to lower periapsis below Laythe. Then a few orbits later I meet Laythe, and I already get a low Jool periapsis. All for less than 400 m/s.

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FCT2-Discovery leaves

The docking port is not exactly on the center of mass of Phoenix, so the ship is slightly unbalanced. The tip has all the fuel tanks, it's heavier. Still, just setting one engine at 80% was enough to compensate.

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In lower orbit

Phoenix has no propulsion of its own, so I shifted slightly the trajectory to get a periapsis in the atmosphere; it will aerobrake. Then I undocked it from FCT2-Discovery, and raised the taxi's orbit above the clouds. It has no thermal protection, it can't aerobrake on Jool.

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Jool seen from the crew pod

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Aerobraking

Phoenix is a lot sturdier and draggier than the original Not Albatross, so I could lose more speed per passage and didn't need too many before going suborbital. Also, in this phase I'm taking high atmospheric science. The written overlay says the lab is refurbishing the materials bay and goo container.

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Deorbiting, around maxQ

I am surprised at how well Phoenix is taking heat. Not any hint of overheating. It was made for the atmospheres of Derbin and Valyr, which - while entailing a slightly lower orbital speed - increase in density much faster, givng a harsher environment.

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The back shield heating, seen from the rearward cupola

5.2) Inside Jool

Spoiler

Once Phoenix has slowed down from orbital speed, the complicated unpackaging sequence must unfold.

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First, remove the cover from the outermost propellers

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Second: activate the propellers and use them to brake as much as possible

Third: detach the frontal heat shield, after igniting its separation engines

The original Phoenix didn't need engines to help detach the frontal shield. However, it was made for CO2 atmospheres, where it would fly a lot better. Jool has a hydrogen/helium atmosphere, and I was surprised at how much that impacts drag and performance. Derbin has almost three times the gravity of Jool, but I could still fly a lot better and slow down a lot more. On the plus side, Phoenix can take advantage of lower gravity and drag to fly a lot faster on Jool.

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Fourth: detach the backward central heat shield

I realize I made some mistakes there; after I changed the engines, I did shift the wings, and I didn't notice that I accidentally clipped the heat shields with each other and the control surfaces. It happened that detaching the shields would break the elevons. I just reloaded a few times until I got a clean separation. My bad.

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Fifth: detach the lateral heat shields. Here seen from inside the cupola

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Sixth: shake off that decoupler ring that got stuck on Phoenix nose

And now, Phoenix is ready to fly.

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View from the cupola. I brought it just for a couple of pictures

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View from the crew pod. Not much different from the same view in low orbit

And with this, I brough a flying lab inside Jool. I can fly around and visit the place. Is there any flaw in this plan?

Yep. There's nowhere to fly to. It's a poorly rendered gas giants. It has no biomes. Every single point is absolutely identical to every single other point. I would fly around a bit just for the pleasure of flying; Phoenix used to have good maneuverability. However, due to the thin atmosphere, control is pretty crappy, so flying is not pleasant. I just leave.

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Extending the ladders to move the crew from the habitat space to the external seat of the ascent stage

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Transferring the crew

Here I made another mistake. I had two places for the crew, one had to be a scientist to refresh the materials bay and goo container. The other, I just brought a pilot. I forgot I actually needed an engineer, to remove the ladders after using them. They generate a surprising amount of drag. Well, I didn't bring an engineer, now I just have to take the drag. It's not enough to jeopardize the mission.

I discovered air resistance was too much to move the kerbals along the ladder in some joints, but I could easily fix this by slowing down. Sure, Phoenix started falling down, but it would take a long time to hit bottom.

I wonder what would happen if someone at NASA proposed to transfer the crew with an external ladder while flying inside a gas giant.

5.3) Getting out of Jool

Spoiler

With the crew in the ascent stage, Phoenix flies up until it can't climb any longer. Then it jettisons the habitation module and keeps climbing.

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Goodbye hab

The hab has all the nuclear generators inside the cargo bay; now Phoenix will only have a battery. A pretty capacious one.

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Phoenix climbs 20 more kilometers before running out of climbing capacity, and of battery

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Time to jettison the wings and activate the rocket

Given the low drag, it's tempting to go for a less vertical trajectory. But it's a trap. If I angle more horizontally, the rocket tip will gradually point down by gravity turn, and it will eventually sink back inside Jool. And I'll be going too fast to be able to change trajectory; air drag will nullify my every attempt to steer up. So, I have to start going straight up for a bit, and I have to fight against the rocket tendency to tip down.

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Jettisoning the lateral tanks

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Jettisoning the rest of the first stage, based on a Swivel engine; the second stage uses a Terrier

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The fairing has long since been discarded, when the tip of the rocket is also jettisoned

The deltaV above is wrong, it only shows half a ton of fuel because it's taking fuel from the last stage. I had to manually rectify the error, the actual final mass is more like 2 tons.

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Finally, the last stage

For the last stage, the last two frontal tanks are jettisoned, together with the now-oversized Terrier engine. A Spark engine will propel the last stage, comprising only a hanfdful of small fuel tanks.

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Made it to orbit, with only 73 m/s left

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FCT2-Discovery comes to rescue the astronauts

The crew is transferred by jetpack. Bob transfers the science from the probe cores. I regret not putting a docking port in front of the final stage of Phoenix, so I could recover it. Not that it matters, but I would have liked to keep its science containers separated.

There's a total of 75 experiments which include a lot of space science. I will gather all space science - and Jool science - in the probe cores on FCT2-Discovery, and I will eventually have to take a tour to grab all biomes and check if the numbers add up. For now, Jol has only one biome, time to return.

5.4) Return to Pol

Spoiler

FCT2-Discovery has a respectable deltaV, but it spent a lot to circularize around Jool, and it has to spend a lot more to raise apoapsis enough to intercept Laythe. Still, with some gravity assists it has more than enough to reach Pol.

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Trajectory 1: FCT2 takes a double flyby of Laythe. After the first flyby, it will have 700 m/s left

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Trajectory 2: the second Laythe flyby sends FCT2 in a Tylo intercept. Tylo will raise apoapsis to Pol for free

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Trajectory 3: from this orbit, 300 m/s are necessary to get captured on Pol, for plane change and capture. Still it leaves 400 m/s of margin

FCT2-Discovery returned to Pol without problems.

Science recap

Spoiler

In space high you can run 10 science experiments: EVA report, EVA experiment, crew report, goo observation, materials study, temperature scan, atmospheric pressure, gravity scan, infrared telescope, magnetometer boom. Except for the gravity scan, all are global. So you can run high space experiments equal to 9+1*biome.

In space low the situation is sligtly different; you can't use the infrared telescope, but EVA report also can be done in multiple biomes. So the numer of experiments is 7+2*biomes.

I am collecting all space science in Flying Christmas Tree 2. It's easier to keep track of which experiments I may be missing if I divide the reports. I'll count them after I'm done with all space science.

On the ground you also have 10 experiments (seismic scan and surface sample are available, but you lose magnetometer boom and infrared telescope), and all except EVA experiments are biome-specific. So you get 1+9*biome. Plus surface features. On Pol there are 4 biomes and 1 surface feature, so there are 38 reports available and collected so far.

In atmosphere you have 7 experiments: EVA report, crew report, goo observation, materials study, temperature scan, atmospheric pressure, atmospheric analysis.

Flying high, all those experiments are global except for the atmospheric analysis, giving 6+1*biomes flying high experiments.

Flying low, EVA report, crew report and temperature scan are also biome-specific, giving 3+4*biomes experiments.

On Jool there is only 1 biome, for a total of 7+7 = 14 reports collected on Jool.

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That's amazing, how different vessels and mission plans can exist to reach the same goal. Especially to reach Jool's lower atmosphere, I think, the only common in our missions is the crew (pilot-scientist), and that is only because you accidentally deviated from your original plan :), everything else is probably as different as possible.

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Posted (edited)

Part 6: Need for Speed: Tylo

Flying Christmas Tree 2 drops Tamarromobile on Tylo. It's a completely different experience than it was with Dancing Porcupine, with sustained speeds between 150 to 200 km/h.

As Tylo is big, this piece of report only covers the first half. The second half of the circumnavigation is still underway.

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Two pictures to get a clear view of the western emisphere of Tylo. Flags are 90 km apart

Meaning that between flags 10 and 11, as well as 15 to 16, I crossed 90 km in 28 minutes. It gives an average speed of 193 km/s (53.5 m/s, close to the maximum of the wheels at 58 m/s), but the time includes planting a flag.

6.1) I thought docking issues would be a thing of the past

Spoiler

Flying Christmas Tree 2 Discovery has a hard time getting back into its spot, with both Not Albatross and Tamarromobile blocking the way. But it does not need to get back in its place; it can just dock with the narrow nose on one of the small docking ports to refuel, before grabbing Tamarromobile.  I'm going to Tylo to drop the last of the really oversized landers. Also, because the previous time I found Tylo boring while I liked Vall and Laythe better, and I'm saving the most fun worlds for later.

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Docking Discovery with Tamarromobile. Good thing Discovery has an RCS

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I wanted to limit the number of pics included in this report, but I can't hold back from showing those beautiful ships

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And a couple views from Tamarromobile's rotating cupola

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Leaving Pol

The wheels of Tamarromobile are very large, also its sky crane, but I angled the docking so that four out of six engines of Discovery were unblocked. I also had to reduce the lower ones to 80%, to compensate for the unbalanced mass of the sky crane, afterwards thrust was fine. Nothing compared to trying to fly Flying Christmas Tree 2 straight with Garibarge docked on a side.

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Rocket ignition seen from the cupola on Tamarromobile

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Sky crane is lowering Tamarromobile to the ground

I started from roughly 4 km altitude and am angling the thrust upwards to keep vertical speed (Vel. ascesa in the italian interface) between 40 and 50 m/s. This is far more efficient than burning purely prograde, but it also keeps a large enough margin of error to be reproduceable by a human pilot without mods. After the Slate landing, I downsized the sky crane, adopting a more sensible compromise between emergency fuel and total mass.

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Final step of landing

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Landed, with 9 seconds of hovering time left

I actually landed on the first try. I'm not sure I ever managed it on Tylo; maybe once before, with the Horseshoe lander on the A'Tuin mission, but I'm not sure. I generally need many reloads, Tylo is hard. But having learned the maneuver of keeping vertical speed constant helped, it's a lot safer and easier. It doesn't really matter the altitude at which I start the retrograde burn.

Now, Tamarromobile has two separate sky cranes, because I needed the cupola in the middle. Well, I didn't actually need to install a rotating cupola on top of a rover, but I wanted a good panoramic deck. Anyway, this complicates undocking of the sky crane a bit.

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Igniting a single engine, and releasing the docking port to send the sky crane flying

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It exploded, but it's normal, it always slams into something

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Ok, this is not normal. Maybe I should rune down the engine a bit

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Flawless separation! This is how it's supposed to go

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Scattered remains of sky cranes

6.2) Beautiful desolation

Spoiler

Tylo has 9 biomes. Lowlands, midlands and highlands are everywhere; drive some distance in any direction, and you'll find all three. Two biomes are scattered, but small; there are many mara and minor craters, but you're unlikely to just stumble upon them. Still, if one is planning to circumnavigate Tylo, one is guaranteed to pass close enough to one of them that a minor deviation will work. Finally, there are four major craters. As can be seen in the images at the beginning, they are all close to the equator, spread in opposite emispheres. So I will have to make an equatorial circumnavigation to catch them all. I also find a mara conveniently located between craters Tycho and Gagarin, and a minor crater requiring only a small deviation in the long trip between craters Gagarin and Galileo.

Since I have to circumnavigate equatorially and visit all four craters, I didn't pay much attention to where I landed, except that I wanted somewhat west of Tycho crater.

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First of all, though, I scan the surface features. I can find them along the way, but I prefer to just get the task out of my mind; light stone

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Dark boulder. Tamarromobile looks like some weird insectoid creature in this image, extending a pedipalp towards its meal

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And checkerboard, the only one where the rover arm can be seen from the inside. For the other features, it's too low

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Now starting! And going fast downhill!

After driving a bit in the darkness just to show off the floodlights, I decided to wait daylight.

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This pic is here just because I like it

I took 300 images of Tylo and I'm barely halfway. It was already hard to pick the 50 or so I included in this report. The previous time, driving Dancing Porcupine, I wrote that Tylo was boring and featureless and didn't include any image of the landscape. It's funny how much my perspective has changed. Now I find Tylo fascinating.

Tamarromobile has 36 wheels for 36 tons of mass, giving a strong acceleration. Its large base grants excellent stability. It brakes strongly, and while it tends to skid laterally as it does so, it comes to a stop quickly and safely. Its only weakness was hitting a bump with the front wheels, but the Mantis Claws protect from this danger. Tamarromobile was made for Slate, a much rougher world than Tylo.

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Tamarromobile got joustled by hitting something, but it ultimately remained upright

On the other hand, Tylo is treacherous. It has those large flats where you can safely sustain high speeds that lull you into a sense of security. Then you start going downhill, and you accelerate real quickly. If you got distracted by all the flatlands and the beautiful desolation around, you can quickly become too fast and break something. Or, you can become tempted to go faster, and break something.

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Like here. I wanted to reach 100 m/s to establish a speed record. Almost there...

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Nope!

Sometimes I tried to set records, but I always paid for it. I remember Dancing Porcupine making it to 120 m/s before coming safely to a stop, but that was before a major redesign that made wheels more frail. I don't think I could achieve that anymore. I learned by trial and error that below 70 m/s, it's mostly safe. Unless I hit a surface feature, which actually happened more than once.

Besides, this part of Tylo is too flat for a speed record. The ruggedized wheels can only accelerate to 58 m/s, the only way to go above that speed is downhill. And this part is just too flat.

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The Mantis Claws in action. On Slate, hitting such a slope at this speed would have broken the front wheels. The two frontal plane wheels absord the impact perfectly

The strange visual on the bottom of the image is a glitch that has been plaguing me all the time on Tylo. I get those shadows flickering on and off quickly. It's got nothing to do with lights or even with the rover, I tried selecting a flag away from the rover and I still get the same glitch. At least it is purely aesthetical.

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After hitting a slope, Tamarromobile taking some scary jostling

But the Mantis Claws proved limited. After hitting an obstacle, Tamarromobile goes tail up, then slams the rearward wheels with force. They are the ones that got broken most often. If I could go back to drawing board, I would add similar "claws" even on the back.

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Still, breaking some wheels is not an issue, I brought a crapload of repair kits

And I also brought science experiments. That was accidental, they were there for Slate, and they remained there after I imported the vehicle and readapted it. I never touched the content of the hitchhicker container.

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Well, since I have those stations, may as well use them. Their science will not be counted towards the Jool 5 anyway

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Trying again to break the 100 m/s speed record for Tamarromobile

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But I only broke the rover. Again

I eventually learned to only try speed records right after saving.

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Using the cupola to look backwards, just to put it to good use. Too bad I can't drive like this, it scrambles the controls

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This could be the rim of Tycho crater, I'm not sure

This section of Tylo is mostly flat, gently rolling hills, like in the picture above. Slopes are rarely more than 10 degrees, which means Tamarromobile can tackle them easily

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Passing besides a checkerboard

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Tycho crater!

Tycho crater is mostly flat. Even the border is hard to distinguish, except from orbit; it's so worn out, barely there in many places. I didn't even realize when I left it.

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First sighting of Laythe above the horizon

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Magnifying Laythe, Pol also becomes visible. It's in the high left corner, below the question mark for the commnet

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And this is just a graphic glitch. It went away eventually

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Vall also becomes visible, in a rare image from the Mk3 crew pod. I never used it for driving

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The same from the frontal pod, which I use more often

In the original Slate mission, I spent most of the time in the small crew pod, because it offers an unobstructed view of the ground and it's great to gauge dangerous slopes. Tamarromobile didn't have the "claws" in front, and its frontal wheels were vulnerable; I had to slow down every time I saw an obstacle. I developed the Mantis Claws for the next rover specifically to tackle that problem, and they worked so well that I retrofitted them to all older rovers. But now I no longer have much reason to drive from the frontal pod. If I'm not using an external perspective, I use more often the cupola, which gives a better panoramic view from above. The cupola on the original Tamarromobile got bent out of shape after a few hundred kilometers, but this time I improved it by balancing its weight better; it still shakes dangerously every time the rover takes a rough turn, but so far it keeps pointing straight. I don't use the Mk3 pod, though it would be nice, because it offers poor visibility directly ahead.

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Jool also becomes visible. By now I reached Gagarin crater

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View from the cupola is magnificent. Laythe is about to get eclypsed by Vall

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Still Gagarin crater; this crater is the flattest place I've found on Tylo so far; I scored the long distance speed record (90 km in 28 minutes) because I could accelerate safely

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Lowest elevation reached. Tylo's absolutely lowest is just 2 meters below this level, but it's somewhere else

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This is not an asteroid field passing in front of Jool. By now I found flying boulders on most planets

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Climbing up and out of Gagarin crater. It also has very eroded borders that only become noticeable from orbit

6.3) Mountains ahoy!

Spoiler

Next target, the minor craters biome, is some 700 km away to the east-north east.

If one looks at the map in the opening of the chapter, it can be seen that by making a beeline for it I will cross plains, and skip the large mountain area to the north east of Gagarin crater. But I do like driving in the mountains (also in real life, if I have an excuse for it), at least if I have a rover that's up to the task. I came right between those mountains during the Dancing Porcupine trip (a matter of poor navigation, I didn't knew how to set target locations), and they were an absolute nightmare, but this time with a more powerful rover I want to try them. So, instead of beelining, I turn a bit more northward than I have to.

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Meanwhile, the sun is setting

Tylo rotates slowly, but I already crossed 110 degrees of longitude since I started, in about 8 and a half hours. Between the road eastward and the time, the sun is soon going below the horizon.

 

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On one hand, I'd rather drive by day. Not because it's more dangerous by night; Tylo doesn't have craters with steep walls that I need to avoid, like Slate, and the regular boulders are just a virual effect and can be driven through - on Slate, they caused collisions. I still have to dodge the occasional surface feature, but they are rare and can be avoided. Besides, the light stone - by far the most common feature - is small enough that it passes underneath the rover, and even if hit by the wheels, most times it causes no damage. No, the reason I'd rather drive by day is that I can look around.

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A bubble of light in the dark has a certain nice feeling, but it gets old after a while

On the other hand, after I'm making speed records, I don't want to stand still in one place to wait for the new day. I decided I'll complete the circumnavigation in one go, as fast as reasonably possible. So I keep driving by night.

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There is a sort of canyon just to the northwest of my position

 I steered even more northward to try and cross the end of that canyon. But while it shows clearly only from orbit, it's not much on the ground. I crossed it without even realizing.

Ultimately, I didn't point northward enough. For all that I wanted mountains, I missed them, only barely climbing some foothills.

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Bop has become visible, in the center of the image, in the bright halo to the right of the equatorial belt - or however one wants to call that feature crossing the celestial equator

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And here I turned on light amplification

I didn't want to use light amplification, but the alternatives of standing still and driving without seeing the landscape were less desirable, so after driving a 90 km stretch just to prove a point that Tamarromobile can drive in darkness, I made light again.

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Here pointing the cupola backwards to see the visual effect

This image highlights an issue with this game and lights. Namely, the game won't render more than a half dozen lights at the same time. You can see the lights on the front right of the rover are not working. They are turned on, but the game is just not rendering them. So, adding more lights does not make you see better, it only makes the game more glitchy. Which also greatly spoils the effect on Garibarge. I hope they improve it for ksp2. I doubt somebody made a mod to fix some lights.

At some point I shut down the lights on the cupola; the remaining lights are few enough that the game can render all of them, and they provide adequate illumination.

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More looking backwards with the cupola, you can see the ascent stage

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At some point I decided I didn't like the docking ports on the rooftop, remains of the sky crane. So I dropped them with eva construction

By the way, you can see that I ate through a lot of repair kits for the wheels. I go fast, and I don't want to slow down to save, and so if I break a wheel I'd rather not reload. But going at the current consumption rate, I have enough repair kits to finish the circumnavigation.

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I arrived to the minor crater. It's bigger than it looks like, the rim is almost 30 km from side to side

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Here there's a good slope, and I managed the 100 m/s speed record! Yay!

I also crashed a few times trying before achieving it, but I had saved just before launching down the slope. I tried a few times just to get the record.

Shortly before the crater, the land became mountain. So far I skipped them, against my will. Now I have to cross some. Mountain terrain is noticeably more rugged. Or, I didn't notice it while driving, but I started breaking wheels already at 50 m/s, while in the flatter ground I never broke anything below 70 m/s. The ground must be more irregular to cause more accidents. Also, I occasionally find slopes of more than 20 degrees. I had to resort to switchbacking a few times. Though I went to reread my old diary of Slate, it's an entirely differet level.

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Bassopiani means lowlands. How is it lowlands at 6700 m?

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Spotting a mountain in the distance, I go for it

I didn't got a chance to climb a mountain yet, I take a detour to reach the top. This is good, it shows that even after 1800 km I still like driving on Tylo; else I'd just go to the end as straight as possible.

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Here I am driving around the mountain; it's too steep to go straight up

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This part is less steep and I can climb again frontally

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But I run out of battery before running out of slope. I had to stop and recharge

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Finally, the top

I called it Mount Leaning Tower because it overlooks the Galileo Crater. According to lore, Galileo did his famous experiment of dropping two spheres, of lead and wood, from the top of the leaning tower of Pisa. So it felt right to place the leaning tower next to Galileo, in case it wanted to run some experiments.

I started at 175° W and am now at 5° W, so I technically miss ten more degrees of longitude to the halfway point. But this chapter has run long and heavy enough already, better to close it here. I generally have less pictures for the second half of a circumnavigation anyway.

7.4) Bonus: Back to El camino de muerte

Spoiler

In the previous Flying Christmas Tree mission, I had a much less capable rover (on the ground; let's not forget that Dancing Porcupine could fly), and some mountain passages were a bit of a nightmare. Here's what I wrote about the experience.

Quote

Driving on Tylo is a different experience from all the other worlds I trudged upon before. The high gravity grants stability, so I can go much faster. on the other hand, it also makes going uphill more difficult. I cannot climb any slope steeper than 5°, and descending at more than 10° means my brakes won't be able to stop me.

Spoiler

Tylo itself has a varied landscape. Half of it is flat featureless plain, devoid of anything interesting. Boooring.

The other half is killer mountains that will have you look fondly at the boring parts.

Three years passed since that mission, but I still held the memory of skidding downhill hoping that I'll find some uphill slope to stop. And above all memories I held one, of a mountain trail I named El Camino de Muerte.

I am italian, I am fluent in english, I don't speak spanish - though it's almost mutually intelligible with italian. But I did pick specifically a spanish name for this because, well, it just sounds more ominous in spanish. The trail of death doesn't have the same vibe.

Anyway, I was hoping I could cross El Camino de Muerte again in this circumnavigation. I knew it was in the mountains northwest of Gagarin crater - indeed, I pulled more northward than optimal because I was hoping to find that place again. But to no avail, I passed too south for the mountains. For a moment, I thought El Camino de Muerte was lost forever. Then I went to check the old report, and hey, I planted a flag there and highlighted it for the orbital picture. That gave me coordinates; 0 N, 72 W. I passed 7 degrees to the south this time. But I wanted to try it, so I cheated Tamarromobile in position for a single run.

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El Camino de Muerte

El Camino de Muerte is a high mountain valley going from 8000 to 5000 m. It goes down 3000 m in 15 km or so, and its lateral slopes are even steeper. I can see how this place wrecked Dancing Porcupine many times.

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Tamarromobile going down El Camino de Muerte

Tamarromobile is an entirely different issue. It aced the trail with ease. The main difference is brakes. When braking, a rover skids. Tamarromobile has a very wide base and will remain upright while skidding, Dancing Porcupine not so much. And going downhill on Tylo is too much for the Porcupine armor. So, it would pick up speed downhill, and then it would be unable to brake and doomed. Tamarromobile will reach 70 m/s and brake easily. Took me only a few minutes to reach the end.

But I'm happy I got the chance for this revival.

Edited by king of nowhere
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Why don't the surface experiments count???

As you didn't mention the deployed science experiments in your Pol post, I was really surprised, and I had the hope, to get more points than you, even without the ability to "land" on water.

Edited by DennisB
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16 hours ago, DennisB said:

Why don't the surface experiments count???

As you didn't mention the deployed science experiments in your Pol post, I was really surprised, and I had the hope, to get more points than you, even without the ability to "land" on water.

rules are explicit about them. only recovered science counts, not transmitted, and surface experiments are transmitted science. that, and the science lab.

that makes sense, too. the amount of science that could be recovered that way is potentially infinite, i think.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Part 7: Climbing and spelunking

After taking a detour to visit Tylo's cave, Tamarromobile finishes the circumnavigation of Tylo in 33 hours - an average of 35 m/s.

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Two pictures to get a clear view of the eastern emisphere of Tylo. Flags are 90 km apart

I slightly improved the speed record with 27 minutes between flags 31 and 32. I ended the circumnavigation not on flag 1, but on flag 2, because I wanted to exclude the waiting time I had just after flag 1.

7.1) Crater to crater

Spoiler

To start, since I am on top of a high mountan, I try to set a new speed record going down

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I make it to 110 m/s easily enough

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But I usually explode afterwards

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This is the actual speed record, I got to 111 and started braking immediately

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Here's few seconds later, I'm down to a safer speed and still whole

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After breaking the 110 m/s barrier, I try for 120 m/s. I manage to reach it

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But the success is short-lived

If I had to repeat this mission, I would add four retratable plane wheels extending below the normal wheels, so that going downslope I could take them out and only touch the ground with the hardened plane wheels. It would allow more speed downhill, while uphill the plane wheels would stay retracted.

I could swear I did 120 and survived with Dancing Porcupine, but that was before a game update that introduced repair kits and made wheels much more frail. I eventually get tired of trying and move on.

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For the actual descent into the crater, I went much more carefully

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Galileo crater. Unlike the other craters, its bottom is a lot less regular

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It also has taller borders. Here I run out of electricity while climbing out of the crater

Between Galileo and Grissom craters, there's another highly dangerous area. The mountains climb up above 6000 m after the first crater, before quickly falling down into a depression between them, only to climb again. Those mountains are very rough. Amid here I remember naming a particularly hard crossing "Valley of fear" while driving Dancing Porcupine. But I left no marker, I can't identify it like I did for El Camino de Muerte. Still, even with this more capable rover, I needed plenty of reloads.

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Going downslope. I would crash a lot less often if I could bring myself to brake more

I started at 174 W, so this place also marks halfway through the circumnavigation.

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Jumping over a ledge. The wheels did not survive

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Falling face-first on the ground. The Mantis ClawsTM did actually cushion the impact...

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But, as can be seen in this image takes one second later, the rover still capsized

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Eventually I got down to the mara between the two craters

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Once more, I manage to capsize Tamarromobile despite its extremely wide base

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Overlooking Grissom crater, the last biome I was missing

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Grissom crater is mostly flat, though not as flat as Gagarin crater

7.2) What are 400 km in front of eternity?

Spoiler

Realizing that the cave complex is relatively close, I decide to go for it. It's roughly on the same direction, I'd just have to steer slightly north to reach 174 E 44 N. Then I could move southward back to the first flag. It would only add some 400 km, not too much. I've never been to the cave complex - with alt-f12, sure, but it's not the same thing - and I want to bring Tamarromobile to it.

The terrain is mostly unremarkable. Some flatter areas, some rougher areas. Sometimes it goes up, sometimes down. However, this is the longer part of the trip (it did took me nearly three weeks for this update) and I didn't find anything especially remarkable like the mountain area north of Gagarin crater or the one between Galileo and Grissom craters. Few elevations above 6000 m, in general.

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Here Tamarromobile was spun head to tail, but I wanted to keep the speed for going uphill, so I kept going like that. Rover wheels can provide the same power in reverse gear as they do going forward

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I turn around the observation deck to help drive in reverse gear

The problem with this setup is how confusing it is to drive. When in IVA inside the cupola, I am going forward, I accelerate by pressing W. But as soon as I go back to third person view, I switch perspective, I am driving backwards, all the controls become flipped. I made it to the top of the hill before turning the rover around again.

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Here I am once more capsizing the rover

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And here I hit a black boulder, do notice the misplaced wheel to the right of the picture

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At 60° E I start seeing the sun again

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The halo of the sun in first person perspective

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At 66° E I cross a ridge and see Kerbol directly

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A rare IVA view from the Mk3 cabin. I don't need to use the lab anymore, so I brought the scientist here too

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After shutting down a few main lights, I can afford to turn on some of the secondary ones I included for beautification. The rover was always supposed to look this way

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Around 70° E, a stretch of road flatter than most. I take advantage to push speed again. I will get 29 minutes between flags here

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Emboldened, I keep pushing

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Eventually crashing the rover again

Suspicious about the "unflippable" rover flipping too often, I investigate how it became suddenly unstable, and eventually realize it was the wheel settings. I ramped up friction to improve mountain driving, so the rover would not slip down on a lateral slope. But this also makes it more susceptible to capsizing. With low friction, the wheels just slide on the ground and the rover remains upright. I did decrease friction, and the rover became stable again.

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Once I managed the run without capsizing, I got rewarded with improving by one minute the previous speed record between flags

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At 90° E, Jool is disappearing below the horizon

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This formation looks like a double crater, but it's actually a mountain

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Some of the higher elevations in this section of road. The biome map still calls them lowlands, though

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One more instance of hitting a black boulder and breaking wheels. Those are hard to see from afar in the irregular terrain; they hide among regular boulders, which have no collision

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Though this was another instance, the result is many broken wheels. My repair kit supply is holding strong, though

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At 150° E, more mixed terrain

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The cave complex is in the middle of the mara, the black terrain in the distance. It's now visible without map view

7.3) Things to do with a cave complex

Spoiler

In the usual manner of features in this game, the cave complex suddenly appears from nowhere when it comes in physical range.

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It's not here...

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Until suddenly it is!

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I never realized it was so big

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Let's climb it!

Yes, of course once here I'm climbing the cave complex. It's not trivial, but still much easier than reaching Pass Thoushaltnot on Slate. I turned up wheel friction again for this stunt, it wasn't hard. I only got a real issue when I run out of electricity without realizing it, and didn't understand why Tamarromobile wasn't pushing as hard as it was supposed to.

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The top! The cave complex is over 600 meters tall, quite a large hill

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Some views from the top

On top of the cave, I set the cupola to rotate and took a video

I am probably the first person ever to record a 360° from a rotating observation deck on top of the Tylo cave. I mean, surely plenty of people visited the cave, but I don't think many people before thought to put a cupola on top of a rotating servo to create an observation deck on a rover.

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After going up, I go down inside the cave

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I'm not sure when I activated light amplification and why

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This is in natural light. The sun is about to set on the west, can't see anything. The cave is big enough that the floodlights won't illuminate it

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Leaving the cave behind, it suddenly disappears. Nothing remarkable here citizen, move on!

7.4) End of the road for Tamarromobile

Spoiler

Finally, to finish the circumnavigation I have to reach the first flag, some 400 km to the south-east-south. I actually go for the second flag, not the first. Moving diagonally, the distance is not much longer, and this way I'll have a continuous circumnavigation, without pauses - except those taken to recharge batteries on the rare mountain stretches where it was needed, and the time taken to climb the cave complex. After waiting a few days between the first two flags to drive by daylight, I ended up regretting it; I wanted to see how much time of continuous driving I would need to circumnavigate Tylo.

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A stretch of road at 34° N

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And at 21° N

Those last 400 km are also mostly unremarkable road.

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The first flag enters in the 100 km range

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Followed, shortly afterwards, by the second

The shadows are stretching long, I am about to experience another sunset. Tylo rotates slowly, but I'm moving eastward, which increases the apparent rotation of the sun.

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I almost run out of repair kits. Then again, I can say I brought just the right number

Those missing kits represent 40 broken wheels. About one every 100 km.

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The sun finally sinks behind a hill for the last time...

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.... just before Tamarromobile reaches the last flag. Not that it would be visible in this image if it wasn't targeted

And this is the end of Tamarromobile. I did drive it nearly 8000 km between Tylo and Slate (probably over 10000 km considering the times I crashed and reloaded), and it's been a pleasure. It takes a very special rover to drive so long without getting bored. Goodbye, Tamarromobile; until the next time I will bring you out of retirement.

7.5) Return

Spoiler

Leaving Tylo is not trivial, but I tested it all before the mission began, no problems here.

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Loading all crew on the ascent vehicle

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Launch

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I almost crashed back on the ground to try and have the most shallow ascent possible

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Got to orbit with 47 m/s. The return vehicle was optimized for minimal weight

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Reunited with Flying Christmas Tree 2 - Discovery. Also showing the number of science reports collected

From here I went into an elliptic, inclined orbit to get all the space science. I didn't include pictures; I have 3 km/s, and must only go from Tylo to Pol. I don't think you need to be shown the way, nor do I see any benefit in posting a few pictures of circling Tylo over and over until I finally pass over one of the tiny craters.

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I did include this picture because it was nice, though

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Back to Flying Christmas Tree 2 - Resilience

Science recap

Spoiler

In space high you can run 10 science experiments: EVA report, EVA experiment, crew report, goo observation, materials study, temperature scan, atmospheric pressure, gravity scan, infrared telescope, magnetometer boom. Except for the gravity scan, all are global. So you can run high space experiments equal to 9+1*biome.

In space low the situation is sligtly different; you can't use the infrared telescope, but EVA report also can be done in multiple biomes. So the numer of experiments is 7+2*biomes.

On the ground you also have 10 experiments (seismic scan and surface sample are available, but you lose magnetometer boom and infrared telescope), and all except EVA experiments are biome-specific. So you get 1+9*biome. Plus surface features.

In atmosphere you have 7 experiments: EVA report, crew report, goo observation, materials study, temperature scan, atmospheric pressure, atmospheric analysis.

Flying high, all those experiments are global except for the atmospheric analysis, giving 6+1*biomes flying high experiments.

Flying low, EVA report, crew report and temperature scan are also biome-specific, giving 3+4*biomes experiments.

It's easier to keep track of which experiments I may be missing if I divide the reports. I am collecting all space science in Flying Christmas Tree 2 - Discovery - which also gathers the Jool atmospheric science . I'll count them after I'm done with all space science. Leaping Mantis will collect ground science from Pol, Bop, Vall. Tamarromobile collects ground science from Tylo, and Not Albatross atmospheric and ground science from Laythe.

Flying Christmas Tree 2 - Discovery:

Discovery will get all space high (9 + 1*biome) and low (7+2*biome) on 6 different planets.

On Jool, biome = 1. 10 space high experiments, 9 space low, 19.

On Pol, biome = 4. 13 space high experiments, 15 space low, 28.

On Bop, biome = 5. 14 space high experiments, 17 space low, 31.

On Tylo, biome = 9. 18 space high experiments, 25 space low, 43.

On Vall, biome = 9. 18 space high experiments, 25 space low, 43.

On Laythe, biome = 10. 19 space high experiments, 27 space low, 46.

As for flying inside Jool, there is only 1 biome, for a total of 7+7 = 14 reports collected flying on Jool.

In total, 224 science reports should be gathered inside Discovery.

Leaping Mantis:

On Pol there are 4 biomes and 1 surface feature, so there are 38 reports available.

On Bop there are 5 biomes and 1 surface feature, so there are 47 reports available.

On Vall there are 9 biomes and 3 surface feature, so there are 85 reports available.

Tamarromobile:

On Tylo there are 9 biomes and 1 surface feature, for a total of 85 reports available.

Not Albatross:

On Laythe there are 10 biomes and 3 surface features, for a total of 104 landed reports.

Plus not sure how much splashed down science I'll be able to collect.

Edited by king of nowhere
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I'm reading this Tylo now. You seem to have been a little faster than me - my rover capped out around 43 m/s, and of course I shun quickloading on the surface - but it's still a long way, and for whatever reason my Mk VII was very stable on Tylo where you seem to have had more trouble roving. (I was worried about random pinging up into the sky earlier circumnavigators had reported, but had no issues - maybe you did?)

The idea of landing mostly manually by a procedure like "I started from roughly 4 km altitude and am angling the thrust upwards to keep vertical speed (Vel. ascesa in the italian interface) between 40 and 50 m/s" - is interesting.

I experimented on the Mk II with a camera boom (to look down at the landscape like your cupola) but I found it would inevitably get knocked off in a roll. I also had to stop midway up one of the crater rims on Tylo for a brew-up of electricity, and I can't help but feel that I just dodged some terrible terrain by pure luck, where you had the misfortune to rove right through it.

I'll add this to the scoreboard in the next few days, but for now, congratulations. Tylo is a hell of a slog.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Part 8: Garibarge against mountains, 2-2 draw

Flying Christmas Tree finishes taking space science (almost) and brings Not Albatross to explore Laythe.

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The route taken around Laythe; the image is centered on Crescent bay

8.1) For ease of mind

Spoiler

I have calculated how many experiments will be collected by Flying Christmas Tree 2 - Discovery. But so far, I have a bunch of half-explored worlds. I have the nagging doubt that I may have skipped some biomes, and I can't check it. To make things worse, when I passed over Laythe for gravity assists in chapter 5 I took as much science as I could, but flying fast over tiny biomes I couldn't get all 4 copies of the experiments; so I now have a different number of experiments in each probe core. So I decided, to put my mind at ease, I will finish space science first.

FCT2 - Discovery does not have science instruments of its own, except for a gravioli detector that was recovered from Tamarromobile. I need to couple it with one of the landers. By far the most practical way to collect science entails running all the experiments with a hotkey and clicking "gather all experiments here" on the containers. But I don't want to take the experiments that I already gathered in Leaping Mantis, so the only choice is to carry with me Not Albatross, which still has no experiments inside. I'd rather run Bop before Laythe, but I'll just drop the plane on Laythe once I'm done with space science and go back to collect the rover.

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Docking with Not Albatross, in IVA view

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Leaving Pol. In retrospect, I should have loaded more fuel

Not many screenshots here. Navigating the moons of Jool is easy enough, and all I have to do is get in a polar orbit and wait to pass over every biome. I first went to Bop, that was easy. Then I went to Vall, where I tied up some loose ends.

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The relay probe still on Vall

Those relay probes are the only ones with a kerbnet connection, I'm using this one to plan the route for Vall circumnavigation. I need to touch all 9 biomes, and I want to reach Vallhenge too.

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I am including one picture of FCT2 - Discovery on Vall because Vall is beautiful

Getting all Vall biomes is harder; orbit is faster, so you don't stay a long time over some of the small biomes, and some biomes are very localized. Still, not a problem.

Laythe was a bigger problem. It has some tiny, tiny biomes that you need luck to pass over. And since you orbit fast, you only stay a few seconds above them, there's no time to gather all 4 copies of gravioli and eva report, so I need more passages. Still, it's just a matter of time and patience.

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Bob is about to pass over Crater Island, the tiniest biome on Laythe. He's already out, ready to grab an EVA report

At this point, I start feeling the lack of fuel. I really should have loaded more when I left Pol. Moving between polar orbits is a lot more expensive than moving equatorially. I left Discovery parked in its high orbit, used Not Albatross alone to finish scouting. I still brought the science reports back, though; I want to keep them orderly.

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Not Albatross brought back the last science reports

There's 222 of them, while they were supposed to be 224. But I already know the issue; when I was on Bop, I didn't take crew reports, because I didn't realize the crew pod linked to the science hotkey was empty. So I miss crew reports for Bop space high and space low. I found the issue when I was on Vall, and by then I didn't want to go back. I can take those reports easily when I explore Bop in full. What's important is that all space reports are accounted for. I feel better knowing it.

Now I have to return to Pol with a limited fuel budget from a polar elliptic orbit. Not easy, I will need some gravity assists to reduce inclination.

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Trajectory to exit Laythe

I kick Discovery out of Laythe's orbit with the minimum possible speed; I meet Laythe 7 days later, in a way that will slingshot orbit to intercept Vall. The planar node is perfectly on the orbit, guaranteeing an encounter.

8.2) Meeting Garibarge

Spoiler

 The other time I did this I liked Vall and Laythe, while I found Bop boring; so I want to run Bop first, and save Laythe and Vall last. But in the meanwhile, since I'll need to wait 7 days, I may as well land Not Albatross; the orbit is aligned just right to drop right over Garibarge.

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A spectacular joolrise over Laythe

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Reentry

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Not Albatross flipped during reentry, the materials bay overheated, the tip of the plane detached. Ooops!

Not Albatross can take a Laythe reentry just fine, but here I'm plunging very deep very quickly, because I want to land close to Garibarge. This leads to more heating than usual. Still, Not Albatross could take it, barely, if it didn't flip at the first wrong move on the controls. It turns out, while those canards I added in front help with maneuverability and with takeoff, they also make the plane more prone to flipping during a high speed reentry. Not surprising, as they add drag i front.

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Final descent

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Lost control during descent, crashed on water. Ooops!

And just like the canards make the plane more unstable during reentry, they also make it harder to recover if one loses control. The old Not Albatross was prone to flipping, but it was fairly easy to recover. This new version is more maneuverable at regular, propeller-driven speed, less likely to flip, but if it does flip, it is very hard to recover. I'm still happy about the change, though; I only have to do descent twice (now, and after orbiting I'll need to return to also take Donnitta, who is crewing Garibarge), while I have to fly on propellers for thousands of kilometers.

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Properly landed, close to an island

Ok, I landed. Now it will still take several days for Discovery to have its course correction, I may as well start exploring.

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To take off from water, Not Albatross must first gather speed, to around 50 m/s. Then it pitches up

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Soaring above water like a seabird. But not an albatross, just any other seabird

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Sending Bob in EVA to take science reports. There are 10 biomes on Laythe, and I need 4 reports on each, so I must send him out midflight 40 times

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Flying over an island

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And scanning a geyser

And now that I'm here I may as well reach Garibarge, only a short flight, so that Bob and Donnitta may keep each other company.

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Leaving for Garibarge, which is south-southwest of here, at the easternmost tip of Degrasse sea

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With my lousy piloting skill, landing 400 meters from Garibarge is the best I could achieve. That's why I could not make a real aircraft carrier

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Approaching Garibarge. For some reason, you can't see the water in this perspective. I have to say, the sea floor looks interesting, I would not mind driving a rover on it

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Going up the ramp; the propellers are powerful enough for it

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Now that it's on top of solid ground, Not Albatross can take [landed] science samples from this biome, in addition to [splashed] samples it would take while floating

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Dropping some useless parachutes. I included the picture because it's the only one showing both crewmembers together

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And Bob walking on deck to return in the crew pod; seeing Garibarge from the eyes of the crew offers a different perspective. Not Albatross is bigger than it looks like

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Not Albatross is latched with the robotic arm, for refueling and transport

This step was not smooth, Not Albatross exploded several times before I could make it work. Let's just say that grabbing something heavy in high gravity with a long leverage and a bunch of parts that could microclip into each other is not a safe procedure.

Now that I'm here, I still need to wait several days to go back to Discovery, I may as well change my schedule and finish Laythe right now.

8.3) We will not cease from Laythe exploration. How many times did I use that quote into a chapter title anyway?

Spoiler

Laythe has 10 biomes. Five of them are scattered around, two are localized but big, three are localized and small.

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Biome map of Laythe with the routes of Not Albatross and Garibarge. The part near the polar region is not accurate

Sagen sea is the global ocean, by far it occupies most of the surface. Closer to land you find shallows, it's generally on a thin strip of land (hard to pinpoint from space) but you find it around every island. Then there is coast, which stretches to include some water and the lower part of islands. Bigger islands have dunes, which is basically hills, and even bigger islands have peaks. Those five biomes are scattered around the surface, and can be taken easily; I collected them in the first island. Degrasse sea fills most of an emisphere (the large darker blue dot that's split in two in the map), which is empty of anything else. Starting the exploration from its fringe is most convenient. The other large localized biome is poles, which is, of course, in the polar regions. The localized biomes are Crescent Lagoon, near the center of the image, and Crater Bay and Crater Island, near the right (the former more greenish, the latter barely visible in the middle of the bay). To get all biomes, I must go from Degrasse sea to Crescent Lagoon to the poles to Crater island, which entails moving around most of the planet. The green line of Not Albatross does exactly that, with just one southward detour to go visit the monolith.

On this watery world, I can take two sets of samples for most biomes: [landed], when Not Albatross is on solid ground, and [splashed], when it's floating. Some biomes are only water, but I can still trick the game into taking [landed] samples by having Not Albatross over Garibarge. I can't take [splashed] samples from land biomes, though.

Degrasse sea and Sagen sea are purely water biomes, and require Garibarge. Actually, I discovered some bit of terrain near the poles where you can land on the ice cap and it's still Sagen sea; but it makes no difference, as Garibarge must cross Sagen sea anyway. There are also some places on some islands where you can get [landed] samples from the shallows biome, but again, shallows is common, no need for special detours. Crescent Lagoon and Crater Bay are two purely water biomes, though, so I need to bring Garibarge to both. Garibarge then has to go from Degrasse sea to Crescent Lagoon to Crater Bay, completing a large part of a planetary circumnavigation - hence the red line for its path. The line is curved because of the image artifacts from rendering a 3D planet on a 2D map; I followed the shortest path to connect the locations. At least it did not need to go for the poles.

As for taking [splashed] samples, coast includes a lot of water; poles is mostly the ice cap, but there are some places where it extends over water; Crater Island stretches over water. I will be able to take [splashed] samples from all those biomes. I looked in detail around all the planet, but I could not find anywhere a dunes biome on water, much less peaks. So I will only be able to take [splashed] samples from 8 biomes.

Now I have to reach Crescent Lagoon.

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Vall seen from Garibarge. Alone it can sustain 50 m/s over water, carrying Not Albatross slows it down a little

Garibarge was well built to be fast, as fast as something of its size that doubled as aircraft carrier and tripled as fuel depot could be. It's powered by a couple dozens RTGs underneath the flight deck, and pushed by four rotors. In the middle of the ocean there isn't much steering to make - and Garibarge also has very stable asset. I was able to leave it in background, only checking back on the game every ten minutes or so. This part took many hours, but very little effort.

Eventually I reached an island. Not a big one, I could have gone easily around it. But I did give Garibarge land capability, and I will have to use it to enter Crescent Lagoon if I don't want to take the full detour around one of Laythe's biggest islands, so I may as well test it.

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Approaching land, I pull down the retractable observation deck to take some pictures. In the middle of the ocean you just can't see anything

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Close to shore, but water is already 150 m deep. Laythe islands have very steep shores, the sea goes down very fast

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Garibarge conquers the shore with its extendable wheels

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It also puts on quite the light show by night

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It can climb up 20 degrees slopes, thanks to breaking ground overpowered propellers

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On top of the pass, 2200 meters above the sea, is not a place where one should find a ship. I plant a flag "Garibarge was here"

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Then down the pass, in a beautiful sunset

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Passing close to an erupting geyser

Well, barring some minor accidents when I got bumps too fast, this went very well. Garibarge 1, mountains 0!

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Unfortunately, when it's time to release Not Albatross, it instantly underwent a RUD

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I managed to detach it safely, but it's still bent out of shape!

Ok, so Garibarge can climb up a mountain, but Not Albatross stuck on its robotic arm is damaged by all the shaking. Looks like we're tied, Garibarge 1, Mountains 1.

I try to solve the issue of carrying Not Albatross by leaving it not stuck with the robotic arm, merely sitting on the flight deck with brakes on. But it will still slide slowly backwards. I find the solution by powering up Not Albatross propellers, so that it would go slightly faster than Garibarge. This way Not Albatross can move forward on Garibarge's deck, and get stuck on the walls (I'm so glad I put those).

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Like this. The arrows show the propellers working. Not Albatross is stuck by its front wheel

The only problem of this setup is that 50 m/s is close enough to the speed at which Not Albatross takes off, so taking a bump will result in the plane taking uncontrolled flight - and crashing down immediately. I solved it by going slower while on the mountains. It was just a matter of setting propeller angles. Garibarge 2, Mountains 1!

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After another long, uneventful stretch of sea, I am approaching the main island surrounding Crescent Lagoon

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Not Albatross starts slipping from the deck almost immediately

Well, I wanted to reach Crescent Lagoon and take science directly with Not Albatross on top, but since I need to make a detour anyway to reach the peaks biome, I may as well unload Not Albatross here and let it fly on its own. This is the last bit of mountains to be crossed, so it looks like we'll end up in a tie, at Garibarge 2, Mountains 2.

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Garibarge crosses those new mountains - including a 3000 m pass - without problems. But now it's not carrying a plane, I'm not counting it for the score

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And it reaches Crescent Lagoon just in time for a sunrise

8.5) Not Albatross moves on

Spoiler

Now Not Albatross will go on its own. First it must fly up and land on peak biome, since the first island where I got most biomes didn't have peaks. I could have sent Garibarge up on peaks, but I wisely refrained from doing so.

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Here's some good nice peaks

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And here's a perfect land-ooops!

Did I already say I'm a lousy pilot? I'm sure I did. That's why I always make sure to save before landing. But Not Albatross is perfectly capable of landing at high altitude. I regret bringing Arrowhead instead of Not Albatross during the whirligig world grand tour. It would have made exploration of Kerbmun a lot smoother, and it may have flown on Lito.

Speaking of saving and reloading a moving plane, the trick to avoid damage to the propellers is to stop the engines and brake the propellers before saving. It's only a few seconds, so it won't impact much the fly, but it will prevent the rotor blades getting bent out of shape, as I suffered the previous time.

Now, completely not required for the mission, but the green monolith is not too far - and by "not too far" I mean, it's close to 1000 km on the return trip, but Not Albatross is fast, so I go to it. Not Albatross is very stable in flight, more so than its previous version. Keeping the game in background and giving some slight nudge every minute or two (it tends to gradually pitch up over time, until it stalls if it's not compensated for) is enough. It can reach 230 m/s, but it's more stable at 210 m/s, and I kept that as cruise speed. With that, and the game mostly in background, those long journeys go in a breeze.

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The southern island is flatter and with more lakes. No, none of them can get me a [splashed] dunes sample, I checked thoroughly

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The monolith is seen as a small dark dot in the distance

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And now it's seen better. I also included coordinates, just to avoid having to try and describe exactly where I am

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The monolith

8.5) We're flying high into the sky

Spoiler

I haven't yet talked of a specific subset of science experiments: those taken in the high atmosphere. The previous time, I took them from space, lowering periapsis to 49.5 km. But it was complex, and especially unreliable for the smaller biomes. This time, after checking that high atmosphere starts just at 10 km of altitude - not much above Not Albatross climb ceiling - I decided to use the rockets to fly higher and take those experiments. It will work better for the smaller biomes. Garibarge has fuel to resupply the plane afterwards.

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About to fly on Crescent Lagoon, turning on rockets

Initially, this was supposed to be a short jump, to cover only Crescent Lagoon. But Garibarge has enough fuel for a half dozen such flights, so I decided to go big and turn it into a full parabolic flight that will also cover shallows, coast, dunes, and peaks. All narrow biomes that are relatively difficult to grab from space.

While there, I also take all the EVA reports - I could not take them during descent, too fast and too hot. I tried to also take all material bay and goo samples, by having Bob take a jetpack flight at the top of the trajectory. Unfortunately, while I did manage to fly around the plane and stay there for long enough to take all experiments, when I came back into the cockpit Not Albatross was plummeting down at high speed and it was in a completely wrong asset, leading to loss of control and crashing. Even in the best case, I could not take dunes and peak samples. Better wait, I'll make more high flights.

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Not Albatross now flying high over dunes

Just north of here is where I found the monolith in the Bolt mission. I was flying Craplane at the time, a vehicle so lousy it could only climb very slowly and could only take off by going downhill. I flew inside the valley shown in the right of the image, which I named V pass for its shape, because Craplane couldn't climb up enough to pass over the mountains. Good memories.

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Steering back to Crescent Lagoon

It's my first time flying high in the atmosphere. Normally, using propeller planes, I'm limited to lower altitudes. In the thin air the plane is very sluggish to control, it turns very slowly. It was a new experience.

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Landing back near Garibarge. I still haven't taken samples from Crescent Lagoon

8.6) Northward!

Spoiler

Now it's time to go north to the pole, and then south I can go directly to Crater Island.

Initial plan called for refueling. Sure, Not Albatross could fly lighter, but I'm not sure the center of mass is well balanced to fly empty. Still, due to the difficulty of docking with the robotic arm without breaking anything, I decide to try to fly with empty fuel tanks, and see how well Not Albatross performs. Maybe it can reach high atmosphere with just the nuclear engine?

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Yes, indeed it can. I could have saved all that rocket fuel

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Nice view flying high

As I turn off the engine, I realize with surprise that Not Albatross is keeping to the air.

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After some experimenting, I discover that Not Albatross, emptied from most of its heavy fuel, can fly to 10 km on its ow

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In fact, pushing it, I will later discover that it can fly to over 14 km - 40% less atmospheric pressure than it experienced at 10 km. And I still have 4.5 tons of fuel loaded

I was fooled because at some point the plane slows down, and I take it as meaning it can't go much higher. But in truth, it does not need its top speed to climb higher. It's perfectly fine at a lower speed. I really underestimated Not Albatross. And it probably means that my other planes also could climb significantly higher than I thought.

Well, I take the chance to finish collecting materials bay and goo experiments in high atmosphere. No need for multiple rocket trips, and no need for shallow atmospheric dips from orbit.

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About to land, very close to the pole

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Landed on the north pole. Check the coordinate!

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The same, in amplified light. Not much to see. It's rare to see a pole without a ground glitch

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And here, at 88 N 168 E, I found a lake that gives [splashed] science for poles. Its shores are vertical cliffs. Looks like there was some strange ground near the poles after all

8.7) Treasure Crater Island

Spoiler

I move on for Crater Island, using the newfound ability to fly in the high atmosphere. No, it's not faster, but it feels good.

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Some images are included just for aesthetics, this is one of them

On the way, I take a detour eastward to Degrasse sea to collect high atmosphere samples there too. So I won't have to take a dip from orbit. Not Albatross is fast and easy to handle, no problem.

No pictures along the way (except the altitude record I posted earlier). It was night, and even if I had turned on light amplification there would have still been only the sea to see.

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Crater Island. I reluctantly turned on the light to make it visible

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Landing. This time without accidents

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Here showing how it's still Crater Island biome in the water, so I could get [splashed] science

Now, to take [landed] science from Crater Bay, I must bring Garibarge all the way from Crescent Lagoon. It's over 1000 km. But it's mostly open ocean, I can leave the game in background.

While exiting Crescent Lagoon, I deployed once more the retractable underwater deck to snap some pictures, taking advantage of the low seabed.

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Also, this includes some rare images of the bottom of Garibarge

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And another nice view of a sunrise

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Garibarge arrives at Crater Island one day later. It will still take a while for Discovery to make its course correction

At this point, Garibarge is two thirds of the way to a Laythe circumnavigation, but I already did one of those, no need.

8.8) Back to orbit

Spoiler

After refueling, I send Not Albatross in space.

Actually, I could have waited, since I'll need Discovery to come collect the crew anyway. I could have left both Bob and Donnitta in a nice place with a breathable atmosphere. I could almost reload the game.

Anyway, Not Albatross got damaged in the last refueling, and it cannot take off from water anymore.

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Just too slow to take off. I never realized how little of Not Albatross is in the water. But then, check lift and weight, the plane is extremely light in those conditions, it takes very little to float it

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Rather than reloading, I just help myself with the nuclear engine to take off

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Now that I know to not panic when the plane slows down, can I reach high atmosphere even with Not Albatross fully loaded? So far I'm 2 km above what I thought possible

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Climbing is very difficult, but I'm so close

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Yes! I'm not sure Not Albatross can keep stable flight at this altitude, but I could have reached high atmosphere without unloading the fuel

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To orbit, I decided to try a new approach. Instead of going up to clear the atmosphere, I'll coast horizontally to regain lift

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At 550 m/s I stop the main engines, I am climbing up again

Still, that climb didn't last forever, and I had to restart the Darts a couple of times, eventually emptying all their fuel. I'm not sure if I gained anything, I probably exhausted a lot more nuclear fuel than needed; I will have to check when I orbit again to recover Donnitta. There's probably potential there to be more efficient, if I knew more of aerodinamics. I also curved my trajectory near the equator to reduce orbital inclination (a beautiful, wide curve at 30 km of altitude and 1 km/s of speed), so I surely lost something there.

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I gained nothing... except a few nice pictures of Not Albatross engulfed by flames

I forgot to take pictures from orbit, but they wouldn't add much. This chapter is already too long. I consider removing this section entirely; I already showed Not Albatross can orbit Kerbin, of course it can do it on Laythe. But I like some of those pictures too much.

Science recap

Spoiler

In space high you can run 10 science experiments: EVA report, EVA experiment, crew report, goo observation, materials study, temperature scan, atmospheric pressure, gravity scan, infrared telescope, magnetometer boom. Except for the gravity scan, all are global. So you can run high space experiments equal to 9+1*biome.

In space low the situation is sligtly different; you can't use the infrared telescope, but EVA report also can be done in multiple biomes. So the numer of experiments is 7+2*biomes.

On the ground you also have 10 experiments (seismic scan and surface sample are available, but you lose magnetometer boom and infrared telescope), and all except EVA experiments are biome-specific. So you get 1+9*biome. Plus surface features.

In atmosphere you have 7 experiments: EVA report, crew report, goo observation, materials study, temperature scan, atmospheric pressure, atmospheric analysis.

Flying high, all those experiments are global except for the atmospheric analysis, giving 6+1*biomes flying high experiments.

Flying low, EVA report, crew report and temperature scan are also biome-specific, giving 3+4*biomes experiments.

It's easier to keep track of which experiments I may be missing if I divide the reports. I am collecting all space science in Flying Christmas Tree 2 - Discovery - which also gathers the Jool atmospheric science . I'll count them after I'm done with all space science. Leaping Mantis will collect ground science from Pol, Bop, Vall. Tamarromobile collects ground science from Tylo, and Not Albatross atmospheric and ground science from Laythe.

Flying Christmas Tree 2 - Discovery:

Discovery will get all space high (9 + 1*biome) and low (7+2*biome) on 6 different planets.

On Jool, biome = 1. 10 space high experiments, 9 space low, 19.

On Pol, biome = 4. 13 space high experiments, 15 space low, 28.

On Bop, biome = 5. 14 space high experiments, 17 space low, 31.

On Tylo, biome = 9. 18 space high experiments, 25 space low, 43.

On Vall, biome = 9. 18 space high experiments, 25 space low, 43.

On Laythe, biome = 10. 19 space high experiments, 27 space low, 46.

As for flying inside Jool, there is only 1 biome, for a total of 7+7 = 14 reports collected flying on Jool.

In total, 224 science reports should be gathered inside Discovery. Only missing crew report from Bop

Leaping Mantis:

On Pol there are 4 biomes and 1 surface feature, so there are 38 reports available.

On Bop there are 5 biomes and 1 surface feature, so there are 47 reports available.

On Vall there are 9 biomes and 3 surface feature, so there are 85 reports available.

Tamarromobile:

On Tylo there are 9 biomes and 1 surface feature, for a total of 85 reports available.

Not Albatross:

On Laythe there are 10 biomes; on Laythe you can use the spectrovariometer, so science collected is 10*biome+1; including the surface feature, there's a total of 104 landed reports.

While splashed down you can't use the spectrovariometer nor the seismometer, nor can you collect the EVA experiment, so the total number of splashed reports is 8*biomes; additionally, splashed down science can only be collected on 8 biomes, as dunes and peaks don't include water. This gives a total of 64 experiments.

In addition, there's 16 reports available flying high, and 43 flying low.

The total for Not Albatross is then 227.

Edited by king of nowhere
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1 hour ago, king of nowhere said:

 

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Sending Bob in EVA to take science reports. There are 10 biomes on Laythe, and I need 4 reports on each, so I must send him out midflight 40 times

Laythe was a bigger problem. It has some tiny, tiny biomes that you need luck to pass over. And since you orbit fast, you only stay a few seconds above them, there's no time to gather all 4 copies of gravioli and eva report, so I need more passages. Still, it's just a matter of time and patience.

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Why do you need 4 copies of the EVA report? It gives full science score already for one.

 

1 hour ago, king of nowhere said:

There's 222 of them, while they were supposed to be 224.

Are they really all space science reports? According to my calculation, there should be only 210 available.

 

1 hour ago, king of nowhere said:

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Not Albatross flipped during reentry, the materials bay overheated, the tip of the plane detached. Ooops!

This reminds me on my tests on Jool. I had the same issue (without flipping), and it looked like this. Exploding nose cones and exploding science jr. Unfortunately, the explosion destroyed the batteries and the reaction wheels too, and as a result, I had a spaceplane, which was uncontrollable in the upper atmosphere and in space.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, DennisB said:

Why do you need 4 copies of the EVA report? It gives full science score already for one.
 

A good point.

However, having a different number of experiments in different cores would be confusing. By taking 4 copies of unnecessary experiments, I ensure that each core has the same number of experiments. So if I accidentally only took 3 experiments in a biome, I would notice immediately. I am also keeping strict track of which experiments I run in a datasheet, but I was doing that the previous time too, and I still missed one. Having four copies is a further guarantee of thoroughness.

Quote

 

Are they really all space science reports? According to my calculation, there should be only 210 available.

 

They also include the Jool atmosphere reports, taken from Phoenix. The science recap at the end of every chapter has the complete count.

Quote

This reminds me on my tests on Jool. I had the same issue (without flipping), and it looked like this. Exploding nose cones and exploding science jr. Unfortunately, the explosion destroyed the batteries and the reaction wheels too, and as a result, I had a spaceplane, which was uncontrollable in the upper atmosphere and in space.

Well, once things start exploding, I reload. It doesn't really matter how much is salvageable afterwards.

EDIT: moving the answers to @damerell here

On 3/25/2024 at 5:01 AM, damerell said:

I'm reading this Tylo now. You seem to have been a little faster than me - my rover capped out around 43 m/s, and of course I shun quickloading on the surface - but it's still a long way, and for whatever reason my Mk VII was very stable on Tylo where you seem to have had more trouble roving.

 I was just going faster. I could have limited speed to 40 m/s, and it would have been very safe (except hitting the occasional surface feature) but it would also have been boring.

Quote

The idea of landing mostly manually by a procedure like "I started from roughly 4 km altitude and am angling the thrust upwards to keep vertical speed (Vel. ascesa in the italian interface) between 40 and 50 m/s" - is interesting.

It is a slight modification of the suicide burn.

The very efficient landing, used by those that go for low mass records, is to lower orbit to the level of the highest mountain on the equator, then brake while pointing upwards so that the vertical speed is always 0, and time it all so that when they stop they are right on top of the highest mountain. this way minimizes gravity drag. However, timing it all so perfectly is impossible for a human. my variation is a human-friendly compromise that's only slightly less efficient.

Quote

 I can't help but feel that I just dodged some terrible terrain by pure luck, where you had the misfortune to rove right through it.

Misfortune? It was nice, I regret not going more straight north after Gagarin crater and skipping the main patch of mountains. Difficult terrain keeps things interesting, so long as the rover is capable to handle it.

Edited by king of nowhere
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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Part 9: Rough yet smooth

Leaping Mantis circumnavigates Bop, taking care to check both the kraken and the monolith.

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Because of the position of the monolith, my circumnavigation was a bit lopsides, crossing the north pole but only making it to 60° south. The path is still two semicircumferences, though

9.1) Pre-Bop

Spoiler

Before driving on Bop, I still have to take care of some unfinished business. For start, I had Flying Christmas Tree 2 - Discovery short on fuel around Laythe; last we saw of it, it managed to find an intercept for Vall. I generally wouldn't bother showing trajectories around the moons of Jool, but in this case it was not trivial.

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Discovery comes home

However, after spending 85 m/s to ensure a gravity assist from Vall - the hardest part is not colliding with Laythe or Tylo first - I found a trajectory that would reach Pol with 600 m/s of intercept, leaving almost 200 m/s for safety. One problem solved.

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Discovery grabs Leaping Mantis

Then, last chapter I said I would not circumnavigate Laythe, because I already had that specific achievement. But then I wondered, why not? I am running this mission that circumnavigates all moons, except I would leave Laythe out when I'm two thirds of the way?

Laythe circumnavigation with a boat is very easy anyway. Direct it, put the game in background. Just check every few minutes in case course corrections are needed.

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Garibarge crossing one of the straits leading out of Crater Bay

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And pointing at its own debris

Remember when I landed back in chapter 3.3, I jettisoned most of the parachutes? Well, those dropped parachutes on the bottom of the ocean are still there, and they are as good as any flag to point my direction. Maybe managing a full circumnavigation dropping only debris instead of flags would earn some cool points? Regardless, Garibarge is pretty stable, I only need to steer it every few minutes. I could tell it to point straight at the target, but it would then cruise with the rudders slightly turned, which would significantly impact its top speed.

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Garibarge reaches the debris where it started the whole circumnavigation and passed right over them

Ok, now I can say this mission entailed circumnavigating all the moons.

I still missed Tylo's monolith to be really complete, though.

9.2) Proper Bop

Spoiler

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Having taken care of business, here I am at Bop

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And I immediately start pushing the limits of how fast a rover can go in the low gravity

Bop has a nominal diameter of 65 km, but it has an average elevation around 10 km, so actual diameter is around 75 km. It gives 470 km of circumference, but with all the ups and downs it's probably closer to 500. I never noticed, but Bop is extremely flat. Sure, it is the planet with the highest difference in elevation, but that's on the large scale. On the small scale, the surface of Bop is flatter even than Eeloo. You can see the image above, color it blue and it could pass for the flats on Minmus. Most terrain is like that, except on a slope.

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Going up the first mountain; the gravity is not strong enough to interfere

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On the summit. Which still looks flat, except the land starts going down

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Taking some really high jumps. Here 370 m high

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Landing after the jump

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Leaping Mantis survives the fall! What a champion!

This first part was exhilarating. I went fast, I never had to worry about braking, I made really cool jumps, I never exploded. I never even paused to save between the flags, which was foolhardy, but I felt safe.

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Leaping Mantis crossed that mountain, 38 km in 19 minutes. Doesn't seem much after Tylo

initial plan was to plant a flag every 20 km, but I decided for 30 after seeing how much fun it was to just keep going. In this case I made it to 38 because I couldn't brake. I was going too fast, the rover was just bumping on the ground.

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Only now scanning the surface feature. Brown on brown, it mimetizes quite well with the background. Besides, it's not found in every biome

But as I resumed racing, the spell was broken. I suddenly was exploding all the time.

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Here Leaping Mantis took a hard slam and broke a light. I realized those lower lights are too low, they are jutting out of the trusses that should be protecting them. Bill shifted them up

But fixing the lights didn't solve the main problem. Wheels were getting broken too. And I realized I brought no extra repair kits; I only have those left inside Leaping Mantis, which are enough to fix 12 wheels. And they must last through Vall too. I have to be conservative.

The problem comes from the angle of the ground. Before, I was coming down fast, but the ground was sloping in just the right way that Leaping Mantis could keep going. Here, there are three consecutive ridges in the ground that seem designed just to make me jump, then slam on the next ridge at the worst possible angle.

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The three ridges

But while this was one of the worst points on all Bop, I have a more general problem. Bop is more dangerous than it looks. Going uphill is all right. But going downhill is treacherous. As you pick up speed, you jump forward. As since Bop has long, long slopes, it will take you a long time to touch land again. And you'll gather quite some speed, even in this low gravity. I was very lucky to find a spot where the slope of the ground was just such that it would allow me to race, and even then the rover took a couple landings so hard I was surprised it didn't explode.

So, playtime is over. I must be a bit more careful. I can still go pretty fast, and those 500 km take a few hours.

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The north pole. The small fissure is the terrain glitch, but you can't fall inside

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The kraken

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I wanted to drive a bit by night, as always, but then I waited dawn. Bop looks better in light

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I like those views, Bop is beautiful in full light. The first time I got there I found it ugly, but it was probably in shadow. And I didn't knew how to increase light

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While falling down a hole, I  ended up as high as 700 m

That time, falling on the ground - at 37 m/s of vertical speed - was too much. The plane wheels may have managed, but the return capsule prevents their full use. I burned some fuel to cushion the impact. On the plus side, 500 m above ground is high enough that the game will let you save, so I didn't lose much when I tried and failed to use the plane wheels.

That hole is more or less on the equator, marking the halfway spot of the circumnavigation. Now I should continue to the south pole, but the monolith lies exactly on the side of my path. If it was in a different place I would make a detour and go first to the pole and then to the monolith, or viceversa. But as it is, it's more hassle than I want. I still will make a half circumference in going from here to the monolith to the first flag, so I'm not cheating on the distance.

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Bop often has graphic glitches like the one seen here. By the way, is the ground slightly violet?

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More striking vistas

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The speed record, set on a long, flat downward slope. It's almost half the orbital speed, I don't think I ever went so fast anywhere

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The monolith

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The first flag becomes visible

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More vistas, and more of the visual glitch

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Falling in another hole, even higher than the first one. I got to 800 m this time

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Landing at 44 m/s. And I haven't saved in a while, I must use the rockets to soften the blow

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The hole where I fell. I went down that ravine, except that I jumped straight to the bottom

I survived, but to travel light I was only carrying a minimum of fuel. Now I don't have enough to orbit again, Bop requires 230. Or do I?

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Circumnavigation complete

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To save fuel, I use the wheels to pick up speed

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By the time I turn on the rockets, I am already at 50 m/s. The fuel left is enough to orbit

Nominally, Bop requires 230 m/s to orbit, but that's from sea level. Starting at 10 km I'm already saving a bit, and accelerating by wheels saved another 50 m/s. The 174 m/s I had left were enough to orbit, barely.

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Reunited with Discovery

I am quite pleased with Bop. Every time I land there, I like it more. However, I can't wait to be on Vall. It's been a while since I last did drive there. I'm also looking forward to removing those lateral fuel tanks, they cause all kind of inconveniences.

Edited by king of nowhere
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Part 10: A trip through memory lane

Leaping Mantis goes to Vall. This first part covers from the equator to the south pole to Vallhenge.

Some of that road I already covered four years ago in one of my first challenges. I got a bit nostalgic about it, hence the chapter title.

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Standing above the southern pole terrain glitch

10.1) Need for Speed: Vall

Spoiler

Once more, no special difficulty to reach Vall, let's go straight to the landing part.

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Leaping Mantis departing from Discovery

Departing from Flying Christmas Tree 2 for the last time, Leaping Mantis can shed some of its attachments.

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Moving the fuel tank on the return pod

In particular, now I can jettison the upper docking port on the return pod and try to move away the fuel tank there. Leaping Mantis couldn't use the upper wheels (which, remember, are extra sturdy and can protect the rover from a high fall that would kill regular wheels) because it needed more clearance from the return pod. Let's see if now there is enough space to avoid it getting damaged.

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And of course, the bulkiest part to be removed are the drop tanks

Removing those drop tanks made the rover a lot more limber. Their mass on the sides of the rover caused high torque and made the reaction wheels a lot more sluggish. Now Leaping Mantis has significantly more attitude control while airborne.

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Obligatory scanning of a surface feature. The red hue is not the laser, but the flashing lights indicating reaction wheels are off

By the way, those ice chunks are small and easy to miss and strike with a wheel, but they do not cause damage if a wheel impacts them - and they are low enough on the ground that the main body of the rover will just pass above. 

Now the circumnavigation proper can start. Vall has 9 biomes. Four are scattered around: highlands, lowlands, midlands, mountains. Vall is made of plains surrounded by rings of mountains, and those biomes are distributed concentrically around those mountains. A circumnavigation has no issues touching all them. Then there's poles, and they are found obviously on the poles, a polar circumnavigation will pass them. Then there are four localized biomes, two for each emisphere, close to the poles, on opposite sides: northeast basin, northwest basin, southern basin, southern valleys. Since they are on opposite sides of the poles, one can pass through all of them by picking the right meridian on which to circumnavigate. That meridian passes close enough to Vallhenge, so it will be included in the tour. Vall has a 300 km radius, for a circumference just shy of 2000 km. I'll be planting a flag every 50 km.

I am starting on the equator on the opposite side of Vallhenge. I'll be moving south and approach Vallhenge from the south after the south pole. Mostly because I have fond memories of driving there with Dancing Porcupine during what will soon be my previous Jool5 science record, and I want to check the road now that I know how to increase lighting.

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Vall is mostly even terrain, Leaping Mantis can go pretty fast

The gravity is also pretty good for driving, providing a decent grip without being oppressive. On the down side, brakes are sluggish, despite being set to max.

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But one has to be careful to not hit a boulder! Ooops!

Those boulders are a real hazard. The normal terrain scatter boulders don't cause collision, and one gets used to just passing through them. But the boulders added as surface feature by the breaking ground expansion do cause collisions, and they have the same size and a similar shape and color to the terrain scatter; it's easy to mistake one for the other. I could just deactivate terrain scatter so that the real boulders would stand out more, but I like it more this way.

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Cryovolcanoes are also a prominent feature

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I'm going straight for the marker, and by pure coincidence there is a large pass in the mountain range straight in my path

The "valleys" on Vall are roughly 100 km from side to side, surrounded by mountains. Those can range from nearly vertical walls, to more easily accessible. They are usually 3 to 5 km higher than the valleys they surround.

In some places, especially near the boundaries of the valleys, the terrain is more scattered and I have to be more careful while driving. Suddenly driving out of a cliff may result in a jump high enough to kill the rover.

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Jumping over a cryovolcano. This just is low enough that Leaping Mantis can land without problems

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Southern valleys are extremely flat. Good for speeding. I like the light effect of the floodlights with the icy surface

The wheels are still restricted to 58 m/s top speed, they need a downward slope to go faster. On Vall there is enough gravity to pick up some speed, though nowhere near as much as on Tylo.

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This gently sloping flat is perfect to try and push the boundaries. Here reaching 75 m/s, but the terrain is still going down slightly

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Over the next three minutes, the terrain when down another 1500 m while remaining very flat, and the rover picked up more speed, up to the record 107.7 m/s

Being a nerd, I tried some energy calculation. For a unitary mass, it takes 3020 J to accelerate from 75 to 108 m/s. On Vall's gravity 1500 m of altitude entail an energy potential of 3450 J, so there was very little wasted energy. Of course, wheels in ksp have no drag while just going like that, but every bump on the ground costs energy. Meh, I'm overthinking this.

After staying at 100 m/s for a minute, I slowed down to a safer 70 to not jeopardize safety too much. Just in time, as I was faced with an unusual obstacle.

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What the hell is that?

A terrain glitch away from the poles, as a narrow strip where the terrain does not exhist. Colliding with it as that speed damaged a wheel, but fortunately I have enough repair kits to use if it's been more than a few minutes since the last time I saved. This accident costed me a few minutes - mostly because I could no longer pick up the same speed - but I still went fast enough for long enough to break the previous speed record:

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14 minutes for 50 km, an average of 59 m/s

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Good light play on the ice, and nice sky. I am in natural light, and Kerbol is backlighting Jool and its other moons, leaving them as dark spots

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As I near the end of this second valley, I eventually have to cross a mountain range. Finally.

I was looking forward to some mountaineering. I brought no less than 5 different rovers to Vall before Leaping Mantis, and they all had problems with climbing.

First was the unnamed small lander/rover in the Marco Polonium mission; it was made to be light, and I included wheels only because they were not heavier than landing struts. It took a couple weeks to climb a mountain a couple of kilometers, because it had a tiny battery and some small solar panels. Then there was Dancing Porcupine; it's an excellent compromise between rover and spaceship, performing adequately in both roles. But having to carry all the fuel and rockets, while needing to eschew too many heavy wheels, did impact its performance. It was capable of climbing only with help from the rockets, which I'm always reluctant to use for prolonged amounts of time. After that, there was Stool, from the Bolt mission; it was optimized as flier, and performed poorly upslope. In case I could not afford to stay for the radiations, I also brought a small, unnamed rover. That one had lots of wheel power and could even climb 30° upward on Tylo; unfortunately, it had a high baricenter and flipped on the vertical climbs of Vall. Finally there was Horseshoe, in the A'Tuin mission, and it also was optimized as flier, with wheel power very much sacrificed for lower mass.

In all those missions, going uphill was a chore. With Dancing Porcupine I could at least use the rockets, though I had to mine more fuel afterwards. With the others, I had to switchback. Slowly. Very slowly.

But no more! Leaping Mantis was designed specifically to tackle mountains in higher gravity than this. It can go straight up like a breeze! After so long, it feels good to be able to just do that.

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Going straight to slam against the slope. I didn't have many chances to use the Mantis Claws. As on Wal, they worked perfectly and the rover impacted the wall with no damage

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Nice view from the mountains. The only concession to the slope is that speed is lower, but still high

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Stunning view from the mountain

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Now let's see if I can improve the speed record going down the other side

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I can go faster than ever...

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But I can't survive it

I can accelerate to 120 m/s, but I always die in the end. Unlike on Tylo, I can't brake much here. The downward slope has even terrain, but the plain at the bottom is rugged, and Leaping Mantis can't cruise it at 100 m/s. I could only set the previous record because the land was very, very flat.

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Shortly afterwards, there was a big jump. Too fast to survive with regular wheels, I try again the rooftop

I remember in my previous mission naming one similar place the "ah crap ravine", because I've been driving nonstop for 15 minutes, I didn't see it, I crashed, and lost a lot of progress. I was coming in the same direction, it may well be the same place.

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But one of the four probe cores explodes

Damn, I really regret not making the return pod detachable. I could move around those probe cores too, but I fear for the science they hold.

As for survival, I just have to drive a bit more slowly in this part of the road.

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Leaving the mountain behind, under a spectacular sky

10.2) Return to Kraken Maw Peak

Spoiler

I am quickly approaching the south pole. The pole is crossed by a long, narrow mountain chain; back when I felt I had to name every major geographical feature I encountered, I called them the Mohawk mountains, because they stood on the top of Vall like a mohawk haircut. And on the pole itself was the biggest peak, which I dubbed Kraken Maw peak for the distincitve outlook of the terrain glitch. To date, it's my most successful name.

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The Mohawk mountains are in front of me. Kraken Maw peak is the one on the left

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More of Vall being pretty

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Approaching Kraken Maw. It still does not look like much

With Dancing Porcupine I climbed the mountains earlier, taking a diagonal approach; it was the easiest ascent. But this time I have a rover made for climbing, I will take the dreaded north face.

Wait, when the mountain is at the south pole, every side is the north face. Well, it's a difficult climb anyway.

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Here we are. The cliff looks less vertical than it actually is because the rover is already going upwards

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Still manageable

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Now it's getting really hard

Leaping Mantis has the power to climb, but it doesn't have enough grip. The climb is complicated by irregular terrain, causing the rover to jump, which causes loss of grip and a fall downward. So I am trying to move diagonally and avoid any discontinuity. I am surprised the center of mass is still under the wheels.

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Bit by bit, helping with reaction wheels, I climb towards the top

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The last obstacle, getting on top of the ledge

When the rover starts passing the ledge, half its wheels are in the air, which causes it to lose grip. I had to approach it diagonally, again.

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But in the end, the mountain was conquered

The description doesn't give it justice, it was a really engaging climb.

One on top, while I planted a flag on the tip of the peak, I took several dozen pictures. Here are the ones I liked most.

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But I took pictures of Kraken Maw peak before. Now I know how to take pictures of Kraken Maw peak with light enhancement! Behold my power to see what's in shadows!

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Truly, this is one of my favourite places.

10.3) Return to Shadar Logoth Trail and Vallhenge

Spoiler

Next target is Vallhenge. Last time, I followed a regular trough in the ground going perfectly straight along the 90° meridian. I want to do it this time too, because I want to see what it was like now that I know how to use light amplification.

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I sometimes make a point to drive in natural light

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But in the darkness, I can't see how beautiful Vall is. Lights on

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One final look backwards at the peak, the Maw is still visible

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Here you can appreciate the straight line in the ground. From up close it looks natural, but from afar you notice it goes straight forever

Back when I was still naming everything - which I stopped doing because I eventually run out of imagination - I called this the Vallhenge channel. I am curious to see how much it keeps going straight, but I have to turn west to find the southern basin biome. Ok, I checked with alt-f12, the channel is no longer visible already in the Vallhenge valley; it still leaves a cleft in the mountain chain north of it, but the more it goes north, the less it is recognizable. At 50°S it's no longer recognizable unless one knows it's there, at 40°S it disappeared completely. I was hoping for something more dramatic.

Anyway, forward on Vallhenge Channel. More beautiful landscape follows.

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Sometimes I still take a picture in natural light to appreciate the difference

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Before approaching Vallhenge, the Vallhenge channel crosses a mountain range along a pass. Since it was dangerous and always in shadows, I called that passage the Shadar Logoth trail, after a specific location in the Wheel of Time franchise that was dangerous and in shadows. Just to make a testament of how long I spent playing this game, when I named the Shadar Logoth trail the Wheel of Time was a book saga for nerds with enough free time to read 10000 pages, now there's already a second season of a tv show - so maybe more people will understand the reference.

Anyway, the sun was north, on the other side of the pass; the Shadar Logoth trail was deeply shadowed. It was a hard climb that required Dancing Porcupine to abuse the rockets. And I broke the rover there a lot of times before getting it right. Of course, being able to actually see makes all the difference. Having a rover made for climbing and with a better center of mass also helps greatly.

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The Shadar Logoth trail. I can see how in darkness that cleft in the terrain can be tricky to navigate, while the sloping walls prevent one from finding an easy workaround

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Straddling the Vallhenge channel gives the chance for new positions to plant flags

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Up through Shadar Logoth trail

It was a hard, killer mountain pass. With this rover and this light - and a lot more experience - it is a breeze. I took only a few minutes to cross it.

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The way to the pass is pretty long, anyway. There are lower passes around it, but in the darkness I could not know

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Finally, jumping past the last bump, I can set my gaze upon Vallhenge valley. This place is every bit as magical as I remembered it; the spectral lighting probably enhances the effect

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Vallhenge itself can be seen as a dot that glitters in the light, though you wouldn't tell it apart from a cryovolcano without some zooming of the image

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Going down, I try again to set new speed records. Again, I have to give up because I can't brake effectively

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Vallhenge. It was a powerful moment, getting here the first time. I'm getting a bit emotional the second time too

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I've been wanting to take an image from this perspective since I got rid of the lateral tanks

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Alas, while I was busy looking from the inside, I broke the rover arm. I hadn't saved in 10 minutes, it will stay like this. I won't need it anymore

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Vallhenge marks one third of the circumnavigation. I don't know of any other major feature along the way (no, Batman pass was not distinctive enough), though I do look forward to the north pole; I don't know what's there. Regardless, I am pretty sure I'll get enough material for another chapter.

I'm really loving Vall. I have a hard time deciding if Slate is still my favourite; it may be as general shape of the terrain, but it lacks powerful features like Kraken Maw peak or Vallhenge. For sure, neither Laythe nor Polta or Tekto can compare.

Edited by king of nowhere
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4 minutes ago, damerell said:

I look forward to more Elcano claims.

Oh, right. I forgot to mention in the Elcano thread I did Bop, in chapter 9. I also did Laythe, but I already had a circumnavigation there, I don't see the point of making another claim. I'll be busy at work for the next couple of weeks, so i expect Vall to take more.

Shall I post the Bop notification in the Elcano thread for the sake of linking?

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