11 December 2012

Adventures in KSP - Anomaly at MunBase Alpha

In this series of posts I'll tell my progression (and my throwbacks) at the brilliant Kerbal Space Program. The current object of my exploration is the moon, or Mun as it is called in KSP. Let's get into it!

So, I didn't have a MunBase in this version yet and only one of my Kerbals had travelled to the Mun and back. The addition of electricity in this version asked for a new design in MunBase. I went and designed the base to be a two-pod affair, with a two-person lander-can on top, below it a habitat that would in theory offer room for four astronauts but go up empty for now, to be filled up later. Below was a fuel-tank and a thruster, eight sturdy landing-legs and, of course, a large asparagus-style four-stage rocket to get the thing to the Mun. On the top I added an RCS (mono propellant for maneuvering-thrusters) tank, a mast and some solar panels to be extended when the thing was landed. I was in good hope when the rocket proved to be enough to get the thing beyond a low Kerbin orbit and on course to the Mun.

For lack of fuel after getting into an orbit around the Mun (I always fly there directly - raising and equalizing an orbit with Mun is an incredible waste of fuel and effort in my opinion) I didn't have to much choice when it came to a landing-site but I was happy enough to go down on the day side in a large grey crater. Landing at night tends to be suicide as you can't really see the ground approach and the altimeter only tells you the height above sea-level, completely ignoring the hundreds of meters of terrain that are usually above that. So, MunBase Alpha was landing fine until, upon touch-down on the surface, I noticed that the ground was in fact sloping away - I didn't react quickly enough and the entire vehicle fell over and smashed most of its folded-in solar panels. This wasn't the last of the problems that should befall MunBase Alpha.

 I looked at the station. Beyond three out of four solar panels lying around broken it wasn't damaged but it was lying on its side. The RCS-thrusters weren't powerful enough to right it, no matter how I tried to incorporate the slope of the ground into my self-righting attempts. Then I realized that I still had a few seconds of fuel left in the larger thruster on the bottom of the station, which had been used to slow down during the descent on the Mun. Seeing as the alternative was to give up on the station, I threw all my eggs into one basket, turned on the main drive and used the RCS to tilt the now-moving station up. Using the retraction and extension-motion of the landing-legs, I managed to get the thing upright with the last bits of fuel left in the stations meager reserves. I had made it. The station stood. And with one solar panel left, it could even refill its batteries during the day to power lights and life-support during the Munar nights. I felt that I had salvaged the situation. I could now EVA the two Kerbals from the lander can into the habitat below.

MunBase Alpha - A bit damaged but working!
So I had one of the two Kerbals walk around a bit, inspecting the debris from the broken solar-panels and having a look around the area. A few kilometers from the station, the walls of the crater sloped up and formed a horizon but it was to far to walk to, as a Kerbal walks about four kilometers per hour on the Mun and I wasn't really willing to have the PC running whilst propping something up to hold down the W-key for hours. I decided that the place needed something interesting close by and got the idea that I could move the landed probe here, which was still sitting on the other side of the Mun.

I activated control for the robotic little thing and started its engine for a suborbital hop that would bring me to the crater that MunBase Alpha was located in. The little probe didn't weigh much and was thus actually capable of getting itself there - I could see the crater below it when there was something flashing to the Northeast of MunBase alpha, right on the edge of the crater-wall. I got rather excited and intrigued. Were there actual things to discover on the Mun? The implications were amazing: If there are things to find on the Mun, what about the other celestial bodies? The exploration can be endless if that is the case. I slowed the probe down. I wouldn't get a soft landing but I would try to get it to crash as close as possible so I could get a good look at the anomaly.

When the probe crashed around fifteen kilometers from the anomaly, I could see that it was some kind of arch, hoop or even portal. My mind wend crazy with the implications. I needed to get someone there. I sent one of my Kerbals out of MunBase Alpha. Kerbals may be slow when walking but they do have a jet pack. I practised a bit first, because losing a Kerbal is dangerous if you only have two on the Mun. After refilling the jet pack in the base, I had the Kerbal do a long jump - but not long enough. He ran out of fuel during the descent too, and although the impact wasn't enough to kill him, he was now stuck about halfway in-between MunBase Alpha and the anomaly. I estimated the walking-distance to be two and a half hours worth of walking - to much for me to actually consider a valid proposition because I needed to see that portal (which was, what I had convinced myself by now the anomaly was) up close fast. A different solution had to be implemented...

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