Of course, the first destination on any Kerbalnaut’s journey is the Mun (after getting past the first few hurdles to orbit and unlocking requisite techs). A smarter Kerbal might hit up Minmus and save themselves a few dv.
Craft naming convention
My various crafts follow naming conventions:
- Vessels whose primary intention is to transport things and Kerbals in space, and space stations, are named after elements of the periodic table, starting at hydrogen and working up by atomic number.
- Aircraft and spaceplanes are named after constellations, starting at Andromeda and working up in alphabetical order.
- Landers are named after Celtic deities. I start with A and work up in alphabetical order, choosing one god/goddess with an interesting name that starts with that letter.
- Satellites and unmanned probes are named after famous scientists. I just pick names I like here because some of the unmanned contracts choose names from this theme randomly anyway.
I tend to create multiple craft within a single designation, so I might end up having e.g. Hydrogen I through IV and Andromeda I, II, and III. Any variation tends to be slight, but it could also be quite dramatic but still the craft itself still performs largely the same function (e.g. it’s still a relay satellite destined for somewhere in Kerbin’s SOI, but now it has a bigger antenna with more solar panels and battery power).
Obligatory Mun-landing shots:
Jeb gets too much attention. This is Bob. I like Bob because he can reset the science experiments, and pointing prograde isn’t so hard! Bob gets a lot of attention in this campaign.
This is the Lithium II (or the lander part of it, anyway). Yes, I went through a full three generations before I managed to get Bob to the Mun, what of it?!
I’ve always tended to ignore Kerbin a little bit, which I feel bad about, but it’s mostly because I struggle with aircraft. If I’m going to the effort of putting something into orbit, I hate to think that it’s destination is somewhere on Kerbin. So any missions on Kerbin I tend to try to solve with aircraft, which isn’t necessarily the best way, but it’s one of the few reasons I find to play with aircraft.
I’ve had a little more success in this run having visited Kerbin’s highest peak (near the north pole)! This craft is Apus II – I had some moderate success with its predecessors, Andromeda and Antila, but they were subsonic biplanes (of all things) and didn’t have the fuel capacity to get me to K1. The Apus I was practically identical save for the fact that it wasn’t loaded with separators and parachutes, which which necessary to land this thing on the uneven terrain it was destined for.
The peak is a little over 6700 m above sea level. I got there with my first supersonic jet (and ample use of warp). My first attempt had me arriving at K1 in the dark which, coupled with the clouds, didn’t work out very well.
I also realised there was little scope for me to land the jet on any flat ground! My initial solution was to add a separator for the cockpit, attach parachutes, and hope I landed somewhere close when I separated. Upon arrival, I decided to chance it, activated the drogue chutes, and floated the entire jet into position. I was several hundred metres off the mark so poor Jeb had to hike the remainder, all the while listening to the aircraft rumble (read: explode) down the mountain because the handbrake had been left off.
My first mission to Minmus was an unmanned one. I made a pretty sweet looking satellite (Maxwell III) for a polar orbit of Minmus, ready to map out its various biomes ready for a manned mission later.
Shots like this make the various visual enhancement mods come into their own. Just to the left of Kerbin you can see the Mun, with the satellite heading in the other direction for Minmus. I have various instruments extended to take Kerbin high-orbit measurements en-route to the final destination.
The thing about the USI (Umbra Space Industries) Life Support mod is that it makes going anywhere beyond the Mun really quite challenging. In addition to worrying about power, which you have to do in the base game anyway, you also have to consider various other resources, such as “supplies” (food) and “habitation” (the bane of my life). Run our of either of these supplies and you’ve got a 15 day grace period before your Kerbals go on strike (craft becomes unresponsive to commands). You can up the difficulty to make the penalty more severe.
Habitation, as far as I can tell, is a measure of how much space a Kerbal has on the craft and therefore for how long they can be tolerant of their cramped conditions. To increase habitation you add modules like Viewing Cupolas and Hitchhiker Storage Containers.
I discovered that I need pretty extensive habitation for a mission of any length (you can get away with it on a Mun mission, and just about on a Minmus fly-by if you manoeuvre for aerobraking back at Kerbin while you’re still out near Minmus). The Beryllium II completed the first successful Minmus fly-by.
This was followed by what was, up til this point, probably my most complex flight ever. (I don’t know if that’s saying much.) The Boron I was an attempt to install a space station in the orbit of Minmus and, while some Kerbals stayed aboard analysing whatever data they could get their green little hands on, another solo Kerbonaut would take a biome-hopper, the Ankou I, to the surface of Minmus and attempt to sample every biome before returning said samples to the Boron I in orbit.
The hope was that Boron I would stay there for some time, analysing the data and beaming it back to Kerbin as required. However, I severely underestimated the amount of habitation required, so I pretty much immediately had to make my way back to Kerbin. (Not quite immediately – I think I managed two weeks or so.)
Boron I was a bit of a beast. It was nearly an order of magnitude more expensive than anything I’d constructed before, but I had hopes it would pay for itself in science, never mind the gains from the missions I was carrying out. I didn’t need a rescue mission for this thanks to massive amounts of over-engineering. All-in-all, the mission was a huge success, and paved the way for a similar attempt at gathering data from the Mun’s various biomes.
And back to the Mun
Now at this point I was feeling pretty full of myself. A complex mission like that to Minmus without any rescue required? Granted, I didn’t get to keep the space station in orbit for quite as long as I would have liked, but I still got to bring all that juicy data back to Kerbin. And, by the way, that’s data from every biome on Minmus, thanks to Ankou I’s giant ass.
There were a couple of tempting missions for a Mun space station and to plant flags at the lowest and highest points of the Mun. I couldn’t pass up the photo-ops, so grabbed the bull by the horns and went for it.
Here was the plan:
- Launch the Mun space station first, science lab and all. Use the lessons learned from Boron I that I need a tonne of habitation. This is Nitrogen I. (The astute amongst you may have noticed that I skipped Carbon – more on that next time.)
- Launch the Mun biome hopper afterwards. Multiple launches kept the costs down. This lander is Camulus I and is a bit more heavy-duty than Ankou I. (Again, you may have noticed that I skipped ‘B’ – there is a mission “in-the-works”.)
- Land at the Mun’s lowest and highest points. Gather data where possible.
- Return Ankou I to Mun-orbit and dock with Nitrogen I. Transfer science.
- Keep Nitrogen I in orbit while analysing Mun data. Beam back data before habitation/supplies run out.
- Return all Kerbals back to Kerbin with any remaining science.
So here were the numerous problems:
- Camulus I was short about 600 dv so couldn’t make it back into Mun orbit and dock with Nitrogen I.
- I thought I could sneak in another paid mission to repair the Munar space station, Nitrogen I. I sent a craft, the Oxygen I, with the civilian engineer and another Kerbonaut scientist to up the science analysis aboard Nitrogen I. I hadn’t anticipated, however, that the civilian can’t go on EVA – they need to be docked to transport to appropriate modules. So now I have Nitrogen I, unable to return to Kerbin, Oxygen I, unable to dock with Nitrogen I to transport the civilian, and Camulus I, stranded on the Mun’s south pole and its operator rapidly running out of supplies.
- Flourine I to the rescue! This had a spare docking port to weld to Oxygen I (thanks KIS/KAS!) and a lightweight unmanned lander to land near Camulus I to return the stranded Kerbal to orbit.
After all this, I was able to bring a number of Kerbals (including the civilian) back in Oxygen I and leave a couple of scientists aboard Nitrogen I for further study. All-in-all, Nitrogen I will end up with a mission life of about 70 days if I decide not to rotate out the scientists again, which is much longer than anything I’ve managed before with USI.
It’s worth noting that Kerbals can be “rotated” out of a space station to maximise its useful life. Supplies will slowly run out as Kerbals use them, but habitation for any given Kerbal resets when they come aboard. If I do this, I could expand the lifetime of Nitrogen I to well over two years. It’s a question of whether I have the patience to do this every 40 days or so. Perhaps a better solution would be to expand the space station with additional habitation modules.