Flieger, grüß' mir die Sonne, grüß' mir die Sterne und grüß' mir den Mond. Dein Leben, das ist ein Schweben, durch die Ferne, die keiner bewohnt! - Hans Albers, F.P.1 antwortet nicht (Adaptation in the 80s: Extrabreit)

Friday, 5 June 2015

Tour de Kerbin

Two more game sessions have passed. One of them consistet mainly of researching about mods and installing them. These are my current mods:
- EnvironmentalVisualEnhancements (EVE) - for nicer graphics
- Kerbal Engineer Redux - for data about deltaV and good in-flight information
- Waypoint Manager - showing nav points not only in map mode but in flight, too
- Kerbal Alarm Clock - for timing of maneuvers
- Science Alert - pings me when new science can be collected in flight
- Precise Node - for fine-steering maneuver nodes (I do not use it much, though)
- Docking Alignment Indicator - should help docking, but it seems I am docking in such a weird way that this tool is just getting confused
- Chatterer - random radio chatter in flight
- RCSbuildaid - installed it after getting fed up from annoyingly flawed RCS placement

Quite a list for someone who usually does not play with mods. But the mods from Kerbal community are excellent tools indeed!

After the two passenger flights with the White Goose at the end of my last report, the Omniscient is ready to go. Is it really? Did I forget something? Will I suceeed? It is amazing how this game instills a feeling of tension for such a mundane task as a travel itinerary. I imagine how it must feel to embark on a big expedition, or as if again a child, going on your first solo voyage on a flight or train. My tour de Kerbal SOI has commenced.

One thing I realize immediately is that two Kerbonauts are still sitting at the Space Center. But I am too lazy to still get them up; they are only pilots, their experience is not so valuable as I steer my vessels mostly via SAS or freely, anyways.

Many Kerbal stories in the forums are presented via a row of screenshots and I can start to see the usefulness of this format. Nevertheless, I also like to write a bit more about my stuff.

- sent off to burn during re-entry; goodbye, little thug, I promise to improve your design!

The flight plan is a tour de Kerbin SOI, to check all itinerary which is required by my tourist contracts, and to land at least on Minmus for my Kerbonauts to plant flags (this should give them enough experience points to finally advance a level!).

The Omniscient starts with 4700 deltaV, at Mun orbit with ~3500deltaV left, however, I want to block 1440 units of fuel to refill the Scientia2 -> down to ~2700 deltaV, and need another 1440 units of fuel as a reserve for the return trip -> down to ~2000 deltaV. 

- ready to embark!

The burn for Mun takes almost 2 minutes; a higher TWR would be cool, but such is the tech constraint. However, this ship turns like a slug when the engines are deactivated. Two normal inline reaction wheels are definitely too less; holding down a directonal key about 10 seconds finally induces a very slow turn. Ugh! Clearly a design flaw, but owed to that I do not have bigger reaction wheels available. RCS modules should have compensated, but they are surprisingly uneffective; maybe due to their position on the four outer rocket nacelles?

- some spacewalks to collect and reset scientific experiments; the ship´s lab gets the data

- the Omniscient closing in on Mun

Now I have to face a difficult choice. There is one tourist on board who ordered a Mun landing. This is what the docked Lander Mk2 can do at optimal fuel efficiency. However, I also still have that contract where I am to place an outpost on Mun. The Omniscient was built after I accepted that contract and it has all the parts which makes it eligible also as an outpost. So, I could try to land the whole goddamn big thing. With that crappy torque/RCS control surely a challenge, if feasible at all. Also, landing the Omniscient costs easily 20times more fuel than just using the Lander (four big Poodles vs. just one small Terrier engine). And, the consequtive question, will I have enough deltaV left to reach Minmus, land there, too, and then go into a solar orbit and then travel back to Kerbin?

I believe I spent almost an hour in just weighting my options. Then I do it the Kerbal way; by just doing it!

First, I decouple the lander, so that the mothership can land properly on its engines at all. Moments later, I realize that the lander got sucked out of fuel, because I forgot to block the fuel transfer. Redocking by using the awfully sluggish Omniscient thankfully works out because the Lander didn´t drift too far away yet. Good that I started to prepare well ahead of my intended maneuver node!

Next step is to go into a circular low Mun orbit. 1790m/s deltaV are left (exclusive the reserved fuel portions). This might just be enough for a landing and return to orbit ("screw-up bonus" included)!

- killing horizontal speed, letting Mun´s gravity grab my ship, now waiting for the time for a "suicide burn"

My biggest fear is the sluggish torque, so I let SAS handle the descent by activating "retrograde" position. Waitaminute, my SAS is not supposed to be able to hold retrograde? This must be my only pilot on board, Valerie, despite the fact that the Omniscient does not have a cockpit. Even the lander with its cockpit is not docked anymore. Interesting!

Anyways, Valerie´s retrograde piloting works well, and I can realize that during the suicide burn (i.e. slowing down from max possible descent speed by max possible burn), the ship steers well enough, thanks to the additional gimbal steering of the four Poodle engines. Unfortunately, the maneuver turns wrong in that moment where vertical speed drops to near-zero. Prograde and Retrograde markers veer off and inverse, Valeria follows the retrograde marker and shifts the ship almost horizontal. I understand too late what happened and react too late, but even an attempt at full throttle inverse cannot remedy this heading anymore. The Omniscient crashes at full engine power diagonally into Mun´s surface. Terminally.

I just have doomed 20 Kerbals at once to death. Jeez, failure really makes you feel bad in this game!

Of course, I reload the game; I am still too far away in skill to really do an "iron man" kind of playstyle in career mode! Unfortunately, my last save is still from leaving LKO, so I have to repeat quite some maneuvering. Including screwing up the Lander´s fuel supply, again! But, then, prepared for this unexpected-to-be-expected behaviour from SAS, finally, the touchdown!

- group picture; took 20 minutes to set it up...

- and again, a great moment when the Scienta again chooses to appear on the horizon and pass right over us...

- ... due to the inadvertetly chosen  prominent landing spot!

There is a little irritation; while my "put a station on Mun" contract blinks green, four tourist contracts suddenly give me a "failed" marker on the UI. Supposedly, I have failed to bring them back to Kerbin. Clearly a bug; what should I do? Reload and skip the Mun landing? Or can this still be remedied by actually bringing them back to Kerbin? Checking the mission office down on Kerbal in the Space Center, the contracts are still there and don´t show any signs of failure. So let´s try and see what is going to happen.

After some happy tolling around in Mun´s dust (sad that the other half of the crew, the tourists themselves, cannot do EVA), and gathering some surface science points, I launch the Omniscient again into low Mun orbit, switch to the Lander and re-dock it. Realizing that I forgot to refill its supply of monopropellant, this docking maneuver again requires more finesse than it should have. The Omniscient has now 280 m/s unreserved deltaV left, which could be just enough to reach...

- launch!

... my next destination in my "Tour de Kerbin": Minmus. Which raises the question, how to reach Minmus from here? Playing around with a maneuver node, I have to realize that I cannot just blow out of orbit like as if going from or to Kerbin! This is more like a mini-interplanetary travel. Which means I have to look for transfer windows and/or blow a lot of additional travel time and fuel. On top, I really do not want to miss the upcoming launch window to Duna, so I cannot travel too long on this tour. Regardless, I am a bit clueless how to setup course, the first node for getting out of Mun´s SOI, the second for a transfer to Minmus; but I do not seem to be able to find a SOI change to Minmus. This will take time to figure out, I guess...

... aaaaand again Kerballing this far caused a late night already, so I pause my ventures here.

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