28 December 2012

Adventures in KSP: Roving Eve

In this series of posts I'll tell my progression (and my throwbacks) at the brilliant Kerbal Space Program. I have currently set my sights to the neighboring planets, Eve and Duna. Join me in my quest for exploratory glory!

After losing a rover en route to Eve, I refitted the design with solar panels and some scientific instruments, which I formerly wasn't able to employ due to resolution-issues with the interface. Other than the added solar-panels on the tanks of the nuclear engine stage and the detectors on the front, there wasn't a difference to the former version, as I was confident that I could actually get this thing to Eve, given that I didn't run out of electricity.

Nothing but two large rockets strapped to an automatic car, really...

The start was somewhat shaky but the dual-rocket layout did work well against the spin that some of the larger rockets tend to gain when accelerating through the higher atmosphere. The flight went into a path that would lead it straight out of Kerbin orbit when the large thrusters finally ran out of fuel and were jettisoned relatively close to the home planet.
See if you can spot the piece of thruster-sheath still in the picture!
So the next hour or so in real time was spent matching up orbits. As I hadn't looked at planetary alignment at all and I still am puzzled at such things as transfer orbits, I matched up the orbit of my probe with that of Eve in two long burns of the nuclear thrusters, then got it a bit lower in one half of its orbit and waited for the two to catch up with each other. Almost two years of in-game time later, I got my chance to retro-burn into an orbit around Eve.
First good glimpse at Eve.
Achieving an orbit around 500 km above the surface I could pick my landing-spot. It was important not to land in the oceans or on one of the high mountains, as I was pretty sure that the rover wouldn't swim and I was afraid that the chutes wouldn't open in time if the ground was to high. I have had some bad experience with that in an earlier version of the game, trying to chute-land on the polar ice of Duna... Picking my spot, I retro-burned until the course down was in an okay angle to the solid ground below, always taking into account that the planet was spinning too. I transferred some of the RCS-fuel from the thruster-tanks into those of the rover, while I was at it.
Deceleration in effect
Now the interesting part would start. I powered up the nuclear thrusters and then detached them to get rid of them. The rover was now in free fall. Would it work out the way I had intended? Would the chutes deploy in time? Not rip it apart? Would it land with the right side up?
Looking at it like this it looks somewhat insane. To the left is the lake I was aiming for.
I jolted in my seat as the chutes deployed. So far, the rover wasn't ripped to shreds, which I counted as a victory. I didn't really feel like doing the past two hours of play-work again. I was waiting anxiously for the chutes to deploy and slow down the rate of descent.
Not pictured: The whole thing shaking like mad.
The rover was slowing down but looking at the map again and again I realized that I was indeed going to go down on a rather high plateau. Then the drag chute unfolded.
Landing like this wouldn't be very helpful.
I tested righting-up the rover with the RCS-thrusters in case the other chutes wouldn't deploy in time but that was probably just a waste of fuel. All I could do was sit and wait while the rover was descending at around 17 meters per second. Then the relieving sound of the other chutes deploying:
I assume that at this point, everyone at Kerbal Space Centre was applauding.
The rover got down safely but on a plateau in the middle of nowhere. As it was my mission to analyze the oceans of Eve too, I turned on the RCS, took away the brakes, and started to head for the nearest lake.
Half an hour of driving and 97% of my fuel later...
I had to get the rover over two ridges on the way there and the thick atmosphere of Eve made that a very fuel-intensive endeavor. In the end I reached the shore with 25 units of RCS fuel left, which translates to a bit less than five seconds of acceleration for the rover. Mission accomplished though, as this enabled me to get scientific data from sea-level Eve.
Retracting the gears so the rover can drink...
With that, I consider Eve explored. I am unwilling to send no-return manned missions down there and Duna is a more reasonable and interesting place for those. I may even do some airplane-construction for exploration of Kerbin, as I have finally spotted the airport near the KSC. This has been a rather purple post. Hopefully more colour in the next.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice blog you have here, been reading all of your Kerbal space program entrys and was inspired and managed to get my own ship onto the mun! Good luck with your space travels .