06 January 2013

Adventures in KSP: Probing Duna

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!

So, it was finally time to hit the first big point of interplanetary exploration. You see, Eve, interesting as the place is, was just a test. Or something like that. Anyways, Duna is the more interesting planet. Why? Well for one it has anomalies on it that can be discovered. Also, it's much more possible to do a manned shot with a return-option to Duna than to Eve. So, starting out unmanned, I launched an orbital Deliverator with extra fuel-tanks and a landing-probe attached to it in the general direction of Duna. Not only would this allow me to land an automated probe on the planet, it would also give me something with which to help a future mission retrieve their lander from a low orbit.

The mission started with a standard heavy-duty asparagus engine, in the middle of the night so that I'd get away from the sun and more towards the orbit of our target, Duna.

I'm missing something, aren't I?

Indeed, I was missing something. Scientific equipment. Great deal of probing that thing would do once on Duna... Oh well, I was already well on my way transferring orbits through interplanetary space, re-launching would cost me to much time. This would have to do.

A bit (in the real world; almost half a year in in-game time) later, I reached the sphere of influence of Duna. I decided to save some fuel by aerobreaking in the planets atmosphere but overdid it by quite a bit. Setting my periapsis only ten kilometers above the surface forced me to burn fuel in the atmosphere in order to keep the entire probe from crashing. With my apoapsis falling down much to quickly, I kicked the nuclear engine into full throttle and could only hope for the best, while the ship screamed through the atmosphere on the night-side of Duna...

Pull her up! Pull her up!
It worked. I had used more fuel than I had intended but the sun rose over the horizon to greet my probe as it made its ascent back up out of the atmosphere.
It was quite pretty too.
I evened out the orbit and then twisted it until it was roughly equatorial. The idea was that this landing would be a test for future manned landings and the landing-area I had designated was on the equator, one of the dry oceans. Low elevation means more work from your parachutes and the equatorial position will make future flights have a better starting position for take-off. I de-coupled the probe and used its tiny thruster and RCS to decelerate.
Look, it's Ike!
As the deceleration went exactly like I had planned, I could only hope that the fuel would be enough to aim for said ocean-area. My experience in an earlier version of KSP, crashing into the polar ice-caps of Duna because they are rather thick and the chutes don't open in time above them, had left me rather paranoid about such things. After the probe ran out of fuel, I could only wait and watch the descent.
Right above the target. Ignore rotation and lateral movement for now...
So I could only watch my probe fall. The chutes deployed and there was the usual tense wait until they popped open and the terminal velocity was low enough for me to call it safe.
Cue another round of cheers and applause in the Kerbal Space Center.
So the probe sat down softly on Duna. Nice to know it worked. Now the next step is to put a Kerbal somewhere in that general area too. And get them back to Kerbin afterwards. My plan is to construct a three-part spaceship in orbit around Kerbin for this mission. I could build a one-man capsule but considering the weeks and months of flight-time that would be cruel. This is going to be a three-man mission with one person in the lander, two waiting in orbit. Tune in for that one.
A useless piece of equipment, all alone on another planet...

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