Developing Duna - Part 4

Space Station Stuff

This episode will mainly concern the testing of vehicles on Duna. But first, a couple of the tugs in Duna orbit needed to be docked to Duna Space Station. During the Laythe mission, it was generally Thompbles who took care of the thankless tasks of remotely piloting ships in orbit...and so it shall be on the Duna mission as well.

The BANT D1 Tug that had carried the Base, a Fuel Fido, and a Fuel Station to Duna, had only its rack of four Small Science Lander probes left attached. It also had a lot of propellant remaining, and that would be added to the stores at Duna Space Station. A relatively small burn put the BANT into an elliptical phasing orbit. After a seven orbits of waiting, tiny burn at periapsis and apoapsis targeted the intercept with Duna Station, and a final burn matched velocity with the Station to complete the rendezvous.

At Duna Space Station, the BANT D1 was backed in to dock with one of the Senior docking ports in the lower tier of ports. The rear Kerbodyne S3-7200 Tank of the BANT would become part of the Space Station after the Tug later returns to Kerbin, increasing the fuel storage capacity of the station and extending the docking port further from the Station axis.

Note: I generally don't go in for mods with lots of parts, but I do like several mods that add or improve some visual or user interface features. One of these is the Lazor Docking Cam mod. This makes docking more fun (none of that constant shifting around of your viewpoint to make sure everything is lined up). Plus I can't imagine my kerbals being able to do a lot of the remote piloting of ships that I have them do without having some cameras onboard to help them see what they are doing. I hope SQUAD adds small external cameras and docking port cameras to the list of KSP features in the future.

The other tug that had completed its payload delivery mission was the SP Tug A double tug that had delivered the two DunaDog aircraft. Three of its Rockomax X200-32 Fuel Tanks were still full (as well as the nacelle tanks), and that propellant would be added to the Space Station as well.

Eventually, another S3-7200 Tank will be added to complete the symmetry of the Station (the other BANT tugs are in polar orbit, so they won't be added to the equatorially-orbiting Space Station). But for now, SP Tug A was docked to the remaining open port on the tier of Senior docking ports.

Below: Today's work on the Space Station is finished.


Surface Stuff

Thompbles: "Kurt, while the geologists are doing their initial digging in the dirt around the Base area, I want you and Nelemy to prepare all of the rovers and planes for their test missions. Top off their tanks and verify that all systems are working."
Nelemy: "Dude, I'll check out the Fuel Station first!"
Kurt: "OK."
Thompbles: "Also check the parachute systems on Duna Lander 1. Aldner said that there wasn't an immediate response from the parachute deployment action while we were landing, and he had to use the alternate staging deployment method...but that's not going to work again when we need to hop that Lander."
Kurt: "Probably a software glitch. I'll check its SFS file settings against those in Lander 2."

Below we see Nelemy driving one of the Duna Fido rovers over to check out the Fuel Station. Unlike on Laythe, on Duna the kerbals can use their rocket packs to move between vehicles. The rocket packs struggle in Duna's gravity compared to low gravity moons, so they aren't going to be great for flying long distances, but they'll get the job done for short hops. This meant that various vehicles, such as the Fuel Station, could be designed without extra ladder parts.

Nelemy re-packed the Fuel Station's parachutes for neatness (it's not planned to hop it later), but his main interest in checking over the Fuel Station was to visit the Goo. All of the Fuel Stations are equipped with a Goo Canister to monitor Duna surface conditions, and this canister had been opened automatically upon landing.

Nelemy: "Hey, little Goo-Dude! Are you enjoying your new home on Duna? Huh...Hey, Nelemy calling Hellou. Come in Hellou-dude."
Hellou: "What's up, Nelemy?"
Nelemy: "The Goo looks like it's blushing. Do you think it's embarrassed about being on Duna?"
Hellou: "No, Nelemy...that's probably just the very fine dust. It blows around easily and gets on everything. What is the Goo doing?"
Nelemy: "Just pulsing a little. I think its happy. The GooCam is working, so I'll have it send its report back to KSC."

Meanwhile, Kurt was driving the Fuel Fido over to the DunaDog planes. The Fuel Fido handles and corners well with its grippy wheels, but you do have to be careful when stopping because it has more of a tendency to tip than the Laythe rovers with their longer wheel base. You just have to remember to slow down with reverse throttle before braking to a halt.

It is my contention that the Claw units contain refueling hoses that Kurt can string to nearby vehicles to facilitate refueling. But the in-game mechanic is just to dock the Claw to some handy surface and transfer fuel. For the DunaDogs, the easiest place to grab with the Claw is any of the four ion engines on the back. This had all been tested in the "Duna Yard" back at KSC, of don't want to find out something like this isn't going to work AFTER you get your ships to their destination.

I really do wish SQUAD would just give us hoses for surface refueling. Even if they don't want to add some fancy graphics and game mechanics for kerbals to connect up hose (although I hope they do), they could add a feature that allows fuel transfer between any nearby ships with the standard right-click-on-the-tanks method.

The relatively new feature that allows you to right-click to select many tanks at once so that fuel can be transferred out of one and into all of the others simultaneously is certainly handy. Below, Kurt is transferring Xenon from the Fuel Fido (which has four Xenon tanks on its underside) to the port row of six Xenon tanks on the DunaDog. The DunaDog had used very little Xenon during landing, so this went quickly. Afterwards, Kurt topped off the DunaDog's starboard Xenon tanks, and topped off the main FL-T800 Fuel Tank of the plane (to replace the propellant used during retro fire and landing).

Kurt next undocked and moved the Fuel Fido over to DunaDog 2 to similarly top off its tanks.

After DunaDog 1 was fueled up, Aldner did some short-range taxiing tests to check out the rover capabilities of the plane. An important limitation became apparent when the plane's batteries rapidly depleted: You must be very careful about Ike eclipsing the sun! As seen from Duna, Ike is about five degrees wide (ten times the size of our Moon as seen from Earth), so eclipses last a fairly long time, during which your solar panels are useless. When roving, eclipses just mean you have to stop and wait a while...but if a DunaDog is in flight and relying on its ion engines to stay aloft, an eclipse could be fatal (depending on what terrain is below). So DunaDog missions will need to be carefully planned with the location of Ike in mind.


Polar Pilot

Aldner: "Thompbles says we can do a DunaDog test mission now. I'll flip you for the honor of doing the first mission, Hawk."
Emilynn: "Fair enough, Buzz. Did you bring a coin to Duna?"
Aldner: " But it's traditional to have Kurt pick a random number. Closest guess wins...and the loser can drive Hellou on her rover expedition to the north."
Hellou: "Hey, I'm right here! How rude."
Aldner: "I mean...the winner flies the plane...and the second-place winner gets the honor of escorting our dear geologist north."
Kurt: "OK. I'm thinking of a number from one to three million. Hawk gets to guess first."
Emilynn: "I'll take 1,500,000."
Aldner: "I'll have...1,499,999."
Kurt: "The number was 1,479,940. Aldner wins."
Emilynn: "Have a good flight, Buzz. And I get Chickadee all to myself. It'll be just like the good ol' days on Vall."

Kurt: "Have you picked a name for your plane yet?"
Aldner: "I'm naming it 'Aragorn'."
Hellou: "Ah...a DunaDog named after a DĂșnadan. Only you would think of that. I'm happy you still remember things from the book I loaned you during the Laythe mission."

Below, Aldner took off the next morning while the sun was high in the sky, but while there was still plenty of time before Ike would eclipse the sun. Alas, no jet engines on oxygen-less Duna, so the takeoff run was powered by the rear 48-7S rocket engine (which is toggled on/off via action group 1).

The takeoff seemed very slow, with the tri-plane lifting at less than 35 m/s but rising very slowly. This was partly because of all the lag around the Base area, but mostly because the terrain slopes upward as you head north from Duna Base.

Aldner: "Gear up. Climbing slowly."
Thompbles: "Roger, Aldner. Have a safe flight."
Aldner: "Thanks, Friendly Flight Controller. One thousand meters on the altimeter...I'm firing the ion engines. All four are hot and looking good."
Thompbles: "Roger. Remember to keep the sunlight angle on your wings in mind at all times."
Aldner: "Yes, Mother Hen. Fifteen hundred meters. Rocket engine off. The silence sure is weird. Looks like I used about 10 percent of the rocket fuel for the takeoff. Climbing slower now."

Two minutes into the flight, Aldner was passing through 2,900 meters, still climbing slowly. The plane was tooling along at a non-hair-raising speed of under 88 m/s. Because things were moving slowly, most of the flying was done a 2X physical time warp. It was also handy to click on one of the solar panels to monitor the sun exposure. Thus far the photovoltaics were providing all the power needed by the ion engines at full throttle.

Hellou: "Chickadee calling Aragorn. Aldner, you remembered to turn on all the science instruments, right?"
Aldner: "Yes, Assistant Mother Hen. All scanners running. Thirty-five hundred meters."

The main reason for the existence of the DunaDog planes can be seen on the underside of the Aragorn. There are four generic science instruments on the plane's belly, which represent a High-Resolution Surface Camera, a Multi-Spectral Imaging Scanner, a Cosmic Ray Induced X-ray Emission Spectrometer, and a High-Sensitivity VanAllen Detector. While the BirdDog rover/planes were the primary exploration craft on Laythe, the DunaDog rover/planes are primarily for gathering swaths of low altitude data in support of the Duna Fido surface rovers.

The parachute mast of the DunaDog also has science instruments mounted on it, including an Infrared Spectral Analyzer, two different Catalytic Detectors, and the excitingly-named Particulate Accumulator With Laser Zap Analysis Probe.

Aldner: "I'm at four thousand on the altimeter, but that large lumpy red thing below me is still trying to get close. I wonder if it wants to be friends with me?"
Thompbles: "I'd advise against that, Aldner."
Aldner: "Yeah. I'm passing to the west of a big lump...I should clear the shoulder ridge. Still climbing at about 10 meters per second on the ions."

A minute later...

Aldner: "Uh oh. No you don't."
Thompbles: "Problem?"
Aldner: "The vast lumpy red thing was getting too frisky. I had to use a burst of rocket power to climb faster to get away from it. That single rocket engine seemed kind of anemic during takeoff, but it sure is sporty relative to the ions."

By the time Aldner got to 5000 meters (at about 6 degrees North latitude), he was safely above most of the surrounding terrain, even if only by a few hundred meters as he passed over ridges. At this point he leveled off and started experimenting with finding an optimal cruising altitude and speed for the DunaDog. About 5300 meters with a pitch angle of 20 degrees seemed to work well with the four ion engines at full throttle, giving a cruising speed of around 165 m/s.

Aldner continued experimenting with the cruising altitude for a long time. He got the plane cruising along as high as 6300 meters, but that required angles of attack near 40 degrees, without a lot of increase in horizontal speed.

Aldner: "Oh, hey! Ice!"
Thompbles: "Your wings are icing up?"
Aldner: "No, Oh Amusing One...I can see the ice cap on the north horizon. I'm currently at 35 degrees north latitude. I think I'll go have a look at it."
Thompbles: "Copy that. Remember to watch your sun exposure."
Aldner: "Sure thing. It's at 90 percent now."
Thompbles: "Yes...but it's the sun angle when you are RETURNING that is the concern. You are clear to go as far north as 60 degrees latitude...but the engineers back at KSC advise against going further north than that."

Aldner: "White and lumpy. Not at all like the smooth ice cap on Laythe. Forty-four point three North. Still over sixty-one percent Xenon remaining."

At about 45 degrees north latitude, Aldner passed over the boundary of the polar cap and continued North.

Aldner: "I thought the all-red landscape was getting kind of boring, but this all-white terrain gets a bit dull after a while, too. Forty-nine north...Xenon at fifty-seven percent."

About 38 minutes after takeoff, Aldner was approaching is target distance (the planets in KSP really are pretty small).

Aldner: "Xenon down to 50%. Shutting down the ion engines. Ooops...went a little below half there...but the plane will be lighter on the way back, so that shouldn't be a problem."
Thompbles: "What's your location?"
Aldner: "A little short of 58 degrees. I really wanted to get to sixty North. I'll do a little burn with the rocket motor."
Thompbles: "You don't have to go all the way to sixty."
Aldner: "Ah, but if I can make a 120-degree round trip, it will mean the DunaDog can do an around-Duna trip in three legs."
Thompbles: "True."
Aldner: "OK...looks like I didn't need the extra boost. I'm going to easily glide past sixty North now. I'll land to get some surface samples for Hellou and Kelby."

Aldner pitched up hard to lose speed. When the speed dropped to 110 m/s (at an altitude of about 1.4 km above a relatively smooth patch of ice) he deployed the parachutes (action group 5).

The belly engine was activated (action group 2) and it was used to further decrease the forward speed. The Aragorn touched down at 5 m/s just north of 62 degrees North latitude.

Aldner: "Landed safely, no problems. Belly engine deactivated. Liquid propellant now at eighty percent. I'll get out and have a look around."
Thompbles: "Remember to re-pack your parachutes."
Aldner: "Yes, Mom. First thing on the list."

Out on the ice, Aldner did a walk-around to see that his plane was OK. It wasn't a particularly memorable location, so he decided to not plant a flag.

Hellou: "Hellou calling the Aragon."
Aldner: "Hi, Hellou. I've only been gone a little while, and you missed me so much you had to call. How sweet!"
Hellou: "Right. I'd like you to get two core samples. Also dig a small trench and take pictures. Get plenty of surface samples."
Aldner: "I miss you too. But I'm not staying here long...I have a deadline with the sun. Anyway, I'm already digging the little trench. Huh...the ice is nice and white on top, but it's kind of pink underneath."

After about 30 minutes of sampling, Aldner got back into the Aragorn to prepare for his return trip.

Aldner: "All right. I have the plane turned around. It handles well enough in rover mode on the ice. Time for a quick snack and then I'll be heading back."
Thompbles: "Roger."
Hellou: "Have you got all the surface samples taken care of?"
Aldner: "Yes, Ma'am. The ice cores are in the insulated holders under the wings, the surface samples are in the little freezer, and two chunks of ice are in my cold drink."
Hellou: "You're drinking the polar ice? We haven't tested it yet."
Aldner: "Yeah...I'm testing it now. If there's any bugs that are going to kill us here on Duna, it's best to find out now. Besides...having a drink that doesn't contain recycled pee is nice. Hmmm. Duna tastes good. OK...heading back now."

For takeoff, Aldner used both the rear rocket engine and the belly engine to shorten the takeoff roll (also because he was at 2900 meters of elevation). The plane pitches up pretty quickly after takeoff with the belly engine on.

At 100 meters over the ice, Aldner switched on the ion engines (with the rear rocket engine still burning) to see how they would do. With the plane facing south, pitched up to climb, the sun exposure on the solar cells was weak (about 10% at 10 degrees, and 5% at 25 degrees), so the batteries were rapidly draining with the ions at full thrust.

Aldner: "The ions are drinking the batteries fast. I'm using the rocket engine to gain altitude."
Thompbles: "Watch out...asymmetrical 'flameouts' of the ion engines can cause the plane to yaw."
Aldner: "Yeah, that's what I was gonna say, but I'm too busy here to use long words like asymmetrical."

At 4500 meters, with over 1600 meters of air below him, Aldner switched off the rocket engine and leveled off to see what he could do with just the ion engines.

Aldner: "I'm flying on just the ions now. Pitch at 10 degrees. Sun exposure 33 percent. But that's still draining the batteries. I'm throttling back to two thirds."
Thompbles: "Copy that. Keep me informed when you have the time. We have a good link through the polar comsat."
Aldner: "Hmmm. If I cut back to half throttle and pitch down a little for a slow descent, I can get the batteries to charge. If I get too low, I'll use some of that precious charge to goose the ions."

Things were a bit tense there for a while, but it got easier and easier as the plane flew further south. By the time Aldner was approaching the edge of the ice sheet, he was able to set the throttle of the ion engines up to 100% with a sun exposure of over 50%.

Once he was back into sunnier climes, Aldner was able to do some more cruise testing, and found that the now-lighter DunaDog could cruise along at over 200 m/s at around 6000 meters. With the Duna Base set as the target, it was easy to guide the plane toward that marker...but he was basically paralleling his previous path back south.

About 24 km out from base, cruising along at 208 m/s at 5200 meters, Aldner cut back the ions to half power to begin his descent. As he approached the Base area, the sun was past noon, but still a long distance away from its eclipse by Ike, so there would be no problems with that.

About two kilometers out, at an altitude of 1500 meters, Aldner toggled the ion engines off. There was still over 11% of the Xenon remaining.

Aldner: "Tower, this is Aragorn requesting a flyby."
Thompbles: "Negative, Aragorn, the pattern is full. But you're going to anyway, aren't you?"
Aldner: "Well, it's hard to buzz the tower when you're gliding. Passing over at 200 meters."

Aldner overflew the Base, then circled around in a glide to head in from the west. This required a little burst from the rocket motor, but he got the plane lined up to pass just south of the surface vehicles, gliding over at 72 m/s at 220 meters altitude...then deployed the chutes, which immediately opened fully.

Rear engine off...Belly engine activated...and with judicious burts of the belly rocket, Aldner touched down at 4 m/s.

Aldner: "Down safe. Wheels stop. Less than fifty meters from Lander 2. That was one-hundred and twenty-four degrees of travel, ladies and gents, with eleven point five percent of my Xenon and fifty-four percent of my LFO remaining. Celebration at the main Base module."
Thompbles: "Roger. Good work, Aldner. But get your plane refueled and buttoned up before thinking about a party."
Aldner: "Aye, aye, Cap'n. I'll get out a re-pack the chutes first."

...And this is where one of the strangest bugs I've ever encountered in KSP happened. When I pressed the EVA button to get Aldner out of the cockpit, there were suddenly TWO kerbals, both flying off, tumbling through the air toward the south from the DunaDog. They bounced and skidded to a halt on the ground with the furthest on about 50 meters from the plane. When I clicked on them...they were BOTH labeled as Aldner Kerman.

I did a quicksave...but when I tried to switch to the Space Center, that didn't work and the game hung up. I have often had weird things happen just before KSP was about to crash due to memory leaks filling up the space available to the program (things like having ships mysteriously crash and report that they had hit faraway objects...or textures going seriously wonky), but this is the weirdest one. When I restarted the game, there were still two Aldners. Some people suggested that I keep both Aldners as a fortuitous bounty from the Kraken to make up for all the negative bugs that have happened over the years... But I revert from bad bug occurrences, so it would not be fair to keep my new Aldner. I will have a little fun with him before I throw him back, however.

Back to the story...

Aldner got up and dusted off the red dirt.

Aldner: "Yo, Thompbles. Something strange just happened. As I was getting out of the plane, I suddenly got knocked off into the air..."
*** Nothing but static on the radio ***
Aldner: "Aldner calling Thompbles. Can you read me?"
*** Still nothing but static on the radio ***
Aldner: "Aldner calling anybody. Can anybody hear me. I think my receiver may be broken."
*** Still just static ***

At this point, Aldner noticed the other kerbal to the north of him, so he started walking that direction. He muted the radio channel, since there appeared to be something wrong with his radio...but he knew that when got closer to the other kerbal, the short-range IR comm system would automatically kick in...assuming that wasn't also broken.

Aldner: "Hey, the strangest thing just happened to me. When I was getting out of the cockpit, I suddenly..."

Aldner stopped when he realized that the other kerbal was not one of his crew mates. He approached more slowly, looking over the stranger carefully.

Aldner: "OK, buddy. Who the hell are you and why are you wearing my spare suit?"
Other Aldner: "I am a solid projection created in your likeness when you came in contact with the Duna Moving Equatorial Marker's surface trigger. I am not wearing your suit; it is just that this projection looks identical to you to facilitate communications. You have nine questions left."

Aldner: "Is this some kind of joke? And what do you mean I have nine questions left?"
Other Aldner: "This is no joke. I am a projection generated by the Duna Moving Equatorial Marker. Like all the other markers, I am here to give you clues to locating the planet of the Creators. But the Creators did not intend to make this quest easy, because they want only a persistent and intelligent race to find their, as with the other markers here on Duna and elsewhere, there are limits to the information I can relate...and in my case I am limited in the number of responses I can give. You have seven questions left."

Aldner: "Ohhhhkay. This is above my pay grade, and my radio is broken. I'm going to need you to come with me to that Base vehicle over there."
Other Aldner: "There will not be time. The energy required to maintain this solid projection is substantial, and the Marker will soon move out of range. You have less than ten minutes remaining to question me. Also, sorry about the radio interference; that is a side effect of the solid image generation field."

Aldner: "Damn. OK...who are these 'creators' you're talking about?"
Other Aldner: "The Creators are the race of beings that created your race. They inhabited this system long ago, but one of their experiments in mass teleportation went awry. The failure sterilized all intelligent lifeforms in the system and ripped their planet from its orbit. As one of their final acts, they seeded your planet with lifeforms that they hoped would evolve into intelligent creatures to carry on with their work. So they left clues for you to find their planet and acquire their advanced technologies. You have six questions left."

Aldner: "OK. Where is the creators' planet?"
Other Aldner: "There are some questions I can not answer, and that is one of them. But the clues to the location of the Creators' planet can be found at the other anomalies on Duna and elsewhere..."
Aldner: " I wasted a question just because you refuse to answer it?"
Other Aldner: "No. Questions that I am not allowed to answer do not count against your total. But the question about the asking of questions does count. You have five questions remaining."

Aldner: "Ah. OK...Where are the other Duna markers located?"
Other Aldner: "I can not give you their exact locations, but I can tell you that they emit intermittent pulses at pi gigahertz. You can locate them that way. You have four questions remaining."
Aldner: "OK...Now we're getting somewhere."

Below, the two Aldners were join by a third kerbal, whose approach was unnoticed until he got into IR comm range.

Nelemy: "Dude! Thompbles says your radio isn't working, so we're supposed to find out what's going on. But it looks like Kurt got here fir...Dude! That's not Kurt! That's another Aldner! Dude! Why are there TWO Aldners??"
Other Aldner: "I am a projection generated by the Duna Moving Equatorial Marker. I was generated when Aldner came in contact with the surface trigger beam. I am here to answer questions about the location of the Creators' planet. You have three questions left."

Aldner: "No! Stop! Don't answer any questions that guy asks you!"
Other Aldner: "I must answer any question asked by anyone, as long as I am not prohibited from answering that particular question."
Nelemy: "Dude...quit being mean. Why can't I ask questions?"
Other Aldner: "You are allowed to ask questions until the question limit is reached or until this projection can no longer be maintained. You have two questions left."

Aldner: "Nelemy...Look...just don't ask any questions. Just don't say anything. I'm not being mean here. This guy is some sort of alien projection, and he'll answer questions about the location of the home planet of a super powerful alien race that has advanced technology that we can go get."
Nelemy: "Wow, really? Even advanced snack technology?"
Other Aldner: "Yes, really. And, yes, the Creators had the technology to make a wide variety of very tasty and nutritious snacks in vast quantities. Those were you final two questions."
Aldner: "No, wait...!"
Other Aldner: "I may be able to appear again in the future if trigger conditions are met, but this session has ended."

And the Other Aldner vanished with an audible *pop*.

Aldner: "Arrrrgghh."
Nelemy: "Um...Dude. Am I in trouble?"
Aldner: "You're gonna be when you have to explain to Thompbles what happened just now."
Nelemy: "But...Dude. I was confused. I panicked. I...I guess I should have stunned both of you to be sure."
Aldner: "Stun us with what? Now you're just blithering. Come on...I still have to safe the systems on the Aragorn."

Aldner: "Nelemy...why are you walking that way. Is your leg hurt?"
Nelemy: "Um...No, Dude. But you have to walk like this so as not to attract the sandworms."
Aldner: "OK...I think you're a little frazzled. You just go over to the Base and tell Thompbles what happened. I'll be over as soon as I get the Aragorn buttoned up."

Below, after Aldner re-packed the DunaDog's chutes, he tried getting in and out of the cockpit again several times to see if anything strange would happen. Nothing weird happend. But when he got back into the cockpit, the radio was blaring in there with messages from Thompbles for Aldner to turn his suit radio back on and get his butt over to the base module to explain what Nelemy was blabbering about.

Back at the Base, there were many questions and explanations and disbelief (until they checked Aldner's and Nelemy's suit cam recordings). Then there were protracted discussions with KSC. Then there was a gag order placed by the KSC on saying anything about this to the press. Then there were more meetings and contingency plans explained. Oh what a bother while I'm just trying to peacefully explore Duna. But enough said about this event for now. I don't want to be violating any gag orders.


Return to the Routine

After a couple days' delay, it was back to the routine work for the crew. Duna wasn't going to explore itself, you know.

Aldner got back to the his DunaDog and raised the nose gear to put in in rover mode, then drove it over by the Fuel Station. Kurt then drove over with the Fuel Fido. The normal procedure would be for the Fuel Fido to dock to the Fuel Station to load up on propellants, then undock and move over to dock with the DunaDog to transfer the propellant to the plane. But the Fuel Fido has only four Xenon tanks, so this would require several iterations. The boys wanted to try out an alternate plan.

First, Kurt docked the Fuel Fido to the DunaDog, which was aligned with its rear end toward the Fuel Station. Then Kurt dragged the DunaDog along with the Fuel Fido as he docked to the Fuel Station. VoilĂ ! One big happy ship for easy transfer of propellants.

Below, we see where I tried to use the same technique of transferring Xenon from one tank on the Fuel Station to many tanks at once on the DunaDog...but while this technique worked well when the tanks each need only a little Xenon, it turned out to be easier to select individual recipient tanks when they need lots of Xenon.

After all the tanks of the Aragorn were full, Kurt undocked from the Fuel Station and backed off. Then he undocked from the Aragorn and drove away. No planets were destroyed by annoying Claw bugs -- just remember to NEVER dock your active vehicle to the Claw of an inactive vehicle (or world-shattering KA-BOOMs can occur, as I found out on Laythe).

The next job Kurt performed was docking to Duna Fido 2, which Adly had named "Dune Buggy," to fill up its tanks. The four FL-T100 tanks of that rover were partially depleted from the retro and landing burns. Adly and Kelby were going to test out the Fido by making a long trip to the east...and just in case they needed to hop the rover back to Base, they wanted to be sure it had full tanks.

Kurt: "There you go, boys! All gassed up. Did you need me to clean your windshield?"
Adly: "No, that's fine, Kurt. But I'll certainly recommend your service station to all my friend visiting Duna. We're off!"
Kelby: "See you in a week or two, Kurt."

Adly and Kelby headed off to the east, with Kelby the geologist riding on top in the "Granny Klampett chair" where he could get a better view of the surrounding terrain.

The terrain to the east was a continuation of Kelby Planitia, the relatively flat basin where Kelby first landed on Duna long ago, and where the current mission set up their main Duna Base. So the terrain was pretty gentle for the initial test of the Duna Fido rover. It soon became apparent that the rover could safely zip along this rolling terrain at 30 m/s, and (happily for me) could easily tolerate 3X physical time warp. The way parts of the rover jerked around relative to each other when the rover hit bumps at high warp was somewhat disconcerting (which is why I decided not to cruise along at 4X), but it seemed to tolerate the warp much better than I remember my older versions of the rover doing (they used to sag quite a bit at high time warps). I suspect that this may be the result of the stronger joints we have nowadays in KSP.

While Adly and Kelby were headed east, Emilynn and Hellou were driving on an expedition to the north into the Shield Wall Mountains, which Hellou had named. She was also the one who named their Duna Fido 1 rover "Jessica."

Emilynn: "Why 'Jessica'? Not that I's a pretty name."
Hellou: "I named it after Jessica Atreides, a Bene Gesserit from the Duna book."
Emilynn: "So her last name isn't Kerman?"
Hellou: "No. In science fiction stories, they often use alien naming systems where not everybody has the last name Kerman."
Emilynn: "You sure read some weird stuff, girl. All strapped in back there?"
Hellou: "Yes. But please drive carefully."
Emilynn: "Sure thing, Chickadee. I've got precious cargo on board."

The drive into the highlands was more challenging that the drive across the lowlands. The wheels on the Duna Fidos have less traction than the grippier ruggedized wheels, but that also makes it less prone to try to flip during braking. All the fuel onboard and the shorter wheelbase does make the Duna Fidos more susceptible to tipping than my previous Fidos, so it requires more care to drive (always slow down before braking). Because of the lower friction of the wheels, it's necessary to toggle the SAS off during turns (by holding down the "F" key)...but that also makes it more liable to tip, so don't turn rapidly when moving fast.

The Jessica could tolerate 2X physical time warp on the rougher terrain (and 3X in flatter areas), but high time warps will make the rover slide downhill. This 'skating' effect at time warp speeds does make the rover less susceptible to tipping when brakes are applied.

The rising terrain did limit the rover's speed to around 10 m/s, and steep slopes required attacking them at an angle with a switchback maneuver (where a grippy wheel rover would be able to drive directly upslope).

NOTE: I'm using my same Rules For Driving Rovers on my Duna mission as it did on my Laythe mission. That is to say, I expect that my kerbals are going to drive along at a safe speed, taking several days to do a drive I perform in an hour or so at high time warp and hair-raising speeds...Because I get bored driving slow at 1X, even with my trusty audiobooks to entertain me. So I will push the limits of safe driving into the insane driving regime. If I make it through a leg of the journey without incident, all is good. If I wipe out during a leg of the journey, I have to repeat it...preferably at a safe speed, because if I wipe out again when trying to be careful, it's an official occurrence in the game.

Also note that the Fido design includes a single-kerbal lander cabin that represents a space where the kerbals can stretch out one at a time and get some more comfortable sleep or wash their hair or whatever...all to make long rover expeditions less grueling.

Nothing hair-raising happend on the drive north...mostly because the rising terrain limited the speed of the rover. Below, we see the Jessica passing a nice hill.

Beyond the hill, our heroines found a moderately level area at about 4100 meters elevation, 5.33 degrees north of the equator.

Emilynn: "We've arrived at that level area you wanted, Chickadee."
Hellou: "Thanks, Emi. Jessica rover calling Duna Base. Hellou calling Thompbles."
Kurt: "Thompbles is busy right now. Can I help you ladies?"
Hellou: "Yes, please. We found a nice area at 5 degrees 21 minutes North, 42 degrees 10 minutes East. I'd like you to send down a Science Lander."
Kurt: "Sure thing. I'll have to check the Station position, but I think I can deliver that for you in 45 minutes."

Kurt remotely separated one of the Science Lander Probes from the Space Station and set it to land at the coordinates specified by Hellou. The Lander has more than enough delta-V to shift its orbital plane for a landing in the highlands near the Jessica rover.

The Science Lander has two ROUND-8 Toroidal Fuel Tanks and one Rockomax 48-7S engine. The plane shift and retro burn was nominal, and the the probe dropped into the highlands (the target site indicated by the yellow arrow in the image below).

Most of the work slowing down the probe and lowering it straight down was handled by the parachutes, so only a little thrusting was need for a gentle landing.

The Science Lander touched down 2.4 kilometers north of the Jessica, and Emilynn quickly covered that distance in the rover.

The Map View below shows the location of the Fido 1 rover and the Science Lander (north of the Base in Kelby Planitia), and the Fido 2 rover with Adly and Kelby currently off to the east of the Base.

Hellou gathered SCIENCE from the Lander's bevy of instruments (being sure to say hello to the Goo as she had promised Nelemy she would).

Emilynn: "There's still plenty of fuel left in the Lander. We can have it hopped down to the midlands so we can grab some more science from it on our way back. I'll go re-pack its parachutes."
Hellou: "Sounds great, Emi. Oh! Here's a beautiful rock!"
Emilynn: "Oh? This one has a different shade of red?"
Hellou: "No, no. All of these rocks aren't red. Come look. The rocks all look red because they are covered in this very fine iron oxide dust...but look what happens when I brush that off."
Emilynn: "It's green!"
Hellou: "Indeed. Those are some fantastic olivine crystals. Now where did you come from, my beauty?"

The next day, Emilynn and Hellou were ready to continue their journey. But before leaving, Emilynn wanted to watch the Lander take off for its hop south.

Emilynn: "Jessica rover calling Duna Base. Are you ready to hop that Lander?"
Kurt: "Roger, Hawk. Ready when you give me the all clear."
Emilynn: "OK, Jaymack. I have my Chickadee safely in her nest. Boost away."
Kurt: "Roger. Launching now."

The fuel tanks on the Lander probe were over two thirds full, so it was easy to lob it south and tweak its trajectory to land in the relatively narrow band of midlands biome north of the Base. Things got unexpectedly exciting after the probe gentle touched down on a slope, and started to roll end over end down hill. But the rolling was pretty gentle, and didn't seem to damage the Lander. After half a dozen rolls, some judicious use of the reaction wheels brought the probe to a stop on its legs. Good enough.

Emilynn and Hellou took the Jessica a bit further north along the ground track of Aldner's DunaDog flight, but it wasn't long before the rover test was declared a success, and our heroines headed back south.

In fact, this is when the drive got more exciting (happily so for Emilynn...less so for our fretful Hellou). Going downhill, the Fido can easily reach speeds over 40 m/s if you aren't careful, and the steeper slopes require both reverse throttle and brakes applied to keep the speed in check. The rover 'caught some air' several times on the drive downslope, much to Emilynn's delight (she enjoys an exciting ride). This actually went quite well at 2X time warp.

On their way south, they stopped off at the repositioned Science Lander (where the second Goo canister had been exposed), and picked up more SCIENCE.

Then our heroines made the rest of the trip downhill out of the Shield Wall Mountains to Duna Base, where the boys welcomed them home with the best party ever thrown on Duna.

Kelby and Adly missed the party because they were still roving east of the Base. Kelby had tried to find the location of his original landing on Duna, but couldn't seem to find any spot that looked as flat as he remembered his landing site was. They also ordered a Science Lander for delivery to a spot ahead of them so they could gather wonderful lowland biome SCIENCE.

Adly: "Looks like the Science probe came down 23.2 kilometers east of us. Let's go get it."
Kelby: "OK. I'll ride on top again."
Adly: "Sounds good."
Kelby: "I'm getting some lousy reception of the football playoffs on my pad up here."
Adly: "Hmm...none of the comsats is currently in optimal position...let me extend the high gain. That'll help."
Kelby: "It's a shame when you can't get decent game coverage on an alien world. The engineers need to plan better for these important contingencies."

Luckily, the boys arrived at the Science Lander at halftime, so they were able to get in some quick science gathering before the second half.


That's it for this episode. Next time I think we'll be doing some long distance hopping and setting up for some more distant explorations.