Developing Duna - Part 7

Part 7 was flown in version 0.90 of KSP, mainly because there are still a few things I want to get done using the DunaDog planes before I move on to version 1.0.x. The nerfing of the ion engine thrust in even Duna's thin atmosphere, and the hit taken by the solar cells (which now follow a proper 1/r2 law) and the 48-7S engines, means that the DunaDogs will no longer work well in 1.0.

But fear not for flight in Duna's atmosphere -- I have already tested a fuel-cell-powered version of the DunaDog with more engine power that works well. I'm sure Elon Kerman's engineers are hard at work building what they think will be a vastly superior plane back on Kerbin...which will only prove to have about the same capabilities once the 1.0 hammer smacks my game.

Alien Artifact

After the end of Part 6, the Barsoom Base crew continued to explore the environs of Helium Planitia and the mouth of Barsoom Canyon. Then a call came in from Thompbles at Duna Base...

Thompbles: "The big brass at KSC would like you to explore the basin at the other end of Barsoom Canyon. Specifically, they would like Emilynn to take the DunaDog up the canyon and into the basin flying northwest, then turn west when you get to 17 degrees latitude."
Emilynn: "Sounds fun. Am I looking for anything particular?"
Thompbles: "Based on the messages from the alien marker Hellou and Kurt visited, they expect some kind of alien marker at 17 North. They aren't as sure about the longitude, but they expect it to be between 84 and 87 degrees West."
Emlynn: "What if I don't spot anything from the air?"
Thompbles: "After you make the sweep along that latitude, you are allowed to land and use the plane in rover mode to search. Do not use more than 45% of the DunaDog's need to be able to get back to Barsoom Base. After reviewing the data from the DunaDog's surface scanners, Hellou and Kurt will follow in the Fido rover to explore the area in detail."
Hellou: "Great! I've been wanting to get a look at the area."

Below: The planned flight path.

After double-checking the systems of the Amelia DunaDog plane (landing parachutes repacked? Tanks fully fueled? Snacks packed for a long exploration?) Emilynn pointed the Amelia north-northwest and took off using the thrust from the rear 48-7S engine.

Emilynn: "Fifteen hundred meters.Switching from rocket engine to ion power. Amelia is being a good girl. All of the science instruments are on and the recorders are running."
Hellou: "Thank you. We have a good datalink to the sensor feeds."
Emlynn: "Beautiful day for a flight. Too bad this bird isn't a two-seater. You should see the view!"
Hellou: "I'll stick to rovers, thanks anyway. The rocks are handier that way.

Emilynn: "Now cruising at twenty-five hundred. The canyon is getting narrower up ahead."
Kurt: "Roger, Hawk. Try to keep it between the hard stuff."
Emlynn: "That'll be no problem at all. This is nothing compared to flying through Beggar's Canyon back on Kerbin."
Kurt: "Don't remind me about Beggar's Canyon."
Emilynn: "Why, Jaymak? What happened?"
Kurt: "I used to have a cabin in Beggar's Canyon. It was a great least until the day some punk flying a T-16 came blasting through and shot all my pet womp rats."
Hellou: "That's terrible! Some people are so rude."

Emilynn: "I've turned the bend and am heading northwest now."
Hellou: "Roger, Emi. Could you please roll the plane left and right more often to play the scanners' fields of view toward the canyon walls?"
Emlynn: "Will do, Chickadee."

Emilynn: "The canyon is widening out. I'm now entering the basin, which I shall name Lesser Helium at Hellou's request. Although I'm not sure what this place has to do with nobel gasses."
Hellou: "Thank you, Emi."
Emlynn: "Speaking of noble gasses, my Xenon level is at 72%. I'm banking to line up along fourteen North. Now at seventy-two West longitude."

Emilynn: "OK. Still nothing. Just red sand and rocks. Maybe I'll have to make a lower pass on the way back. If this marker is as small as the one you guys found, it wouldn't be easy to pick out amongst the boulders."
Kurt: "Roger, Hawk."
Emlynn: "Longitude eighty-five, Still...wait. I see something off to the right. Let me get lined up on it."
Kurt: "What does it look like?"
Emlynn: "A red lump...but larger than any boulder I've seen on Duna."

Emilynn: "Well, well...don't that beat all. It's a giant rock that looks like the face of a kerbal. Sort of."
Hellou: "Are you sure? Sometimes just the way light and shadows fall can make things look..."
Emlynn: "Nope. This ain't no picture of a unicorn on my toast. I'm flying over it now. Take a look at the video feed from the surface scanner."
Hellou: "Ah...yeah. That's a face."
Emlynn: "And she's smiling...I think she likes me."

Emilynn: "I'm turning around for a landing. Whoa...Amelia was a bit squirrely there for a bit. Ions are off. Throttle off. Belly engine activated. Gear down and locked."
Hellou: "Be careful."
Emlynn: "No worries. Chutes out. Chutes are good. Annnnnnd...landed. Piece of cake."

Hellou: "How's it going, Emi?"
Emlynn: "It took a while to drive over because it's a bit hilly here. The BirdDog may have been a good rover design on Laythe, but the DunaDog is not nearly as good on the surface of Duna. It can't get enough traction to go straight uphill, so I've been driving along the contours. I'm getting there now."

Emilynn: "The face looks about 50 meters long...maybe 20 meters high. I can't see any obvious openings like doors or tunnels into it."

Emilynn: "I'll fly up on top now. If she eats me, or I explode in a puff of smoke when I touch it, you can have my collection of Howandalander fertility goddess pottery."
Hellou: "Don't talk that way!"
Kurt: "I'll take them."
Hellou: "Kurt!"
Emlynn: "OK. Looks like I get to keep 'em. No chomp. No explosion. Just rock. Dusty red rock. I'll plant a flag on her forehead."

[In fact, the collision mesh of the face does not quite match the visible surface. Walking along the top, the kerbal floats a couple meters above the surface. The eyes are insubstantial, and there is an invisible slope extending from the top of the head that is climbable. But let's ignore all that for story purposes.]

In the Map view below, I have erased the icons of ships that aren't on this side of the planet for clarity.

Back at Barsoom Base, Hellou and Kurt were preparing the Jesica rover for another expedition.

Hellou: "Well, at least we now understand the picture that was on one of the projected images we found."
Kurt: "The one that looked like it was telling us to poke ourselves in the eyes?"
Hellou: "Yes...we're supposed to poke the eyes on the big face. But if the mission controllers back at KSC are right, we need at least two kerbals there to do the poking. And I want to see the rocks along the way."
Nelemy: "Dudes! What am I supposed to do with everybody gone?"
Kurt: "Just hold down the fort, Nelemy. If the thing with the face takes a while, and if Hellou falls in love with the rocks over there, we may need you to fly the Lander Hab to that location for longterm exploration. In the meantime, don't eat all the snacks."

Below, Hellou and Kurt leave in the Jessica rover to the Lesser Helium Basin.

[You may notice that the parachutes on the rover are not repacked in the image above. The parachutes WERE, in fact, previously repacked, but when the rover started moving, the chutes deployed, looked around and noticed that their ship was actually on the ground, and immediately disappeared out of embarrassment. I've run into this bug several times recently, where I return to a ship that had previously had its chutes repacked, only to have them pop out when I start to move the ship...without having pressed the related action group key. This is especially embarrassing when the ship is trying to take off to space and ends up dragging its chutes behind. I don't know what is causing this behavior.]

The drive along Barsoom Canyon was somewhat long and not particularly challenging. I'm sure it was longer for Kurt, since no doubt Hellou wanted to make frequent stops for rock, regolith, and core samples. Below are some of their holiday snaps.

When Kurt and Hellou drove out of Barsoom Canyon into the lowlands of Lesser Helium Basin, the could see the rise in the distance where Emilynn and the Face were located.

Below is an overview of Lesser Helium Basin. Barsoom Canyon runs into the basin from the bottom of the image. The x marks the location of the Jessica rover when it was 15.5 km from the Face.

Emilynn: "Hey there! Took you guys long enough. Welcome to the Face On Duna Resort and Luxury spa, all rights and trademarks reserved by Emilynn Kerman."
Kurt: "Nice place you have here."
Emilynn: "So what do you think of it, Chickadee?"
Hellou: "From what I can tell, it was a giant impact basin originally, later filled with water, and then ice, and then dry. There's still a lot of subsurface ice below the surface, and even some kethane clathrates. This central dome appears to be a volcanic resurgence, probably due to the weakened crust beneath the center of the impact point."
Emilynn: "Um. I meant about the face."
Hellou: "Don't know. Haven't got any samples from it yet. Speaking of spas, would you like to borrow the rover cabin to freshen up? You've been sitting out here quite a while."
Emilynn: "Um. Yes. Don't mind if I do."

Later, after Emilynn was refreshed and Hellou had examined the Face...

Emilynn: "So what now?"
Hellou: "It appears to be made of the local volcanic rock...not constructed from pieces. I can't see any tool marks or signs that it was sculpted, but with longterm surface erosion, I wouldn't really expect to."
Emilynn: "I mean, what do we do with it now?"
Hellou: "Ah. Well, from what we can tell from the instructions in the projected images, we need to apply force to the eyes in a specific pattern."
Kurt: "How much force?"
Hellou: "The big brains back at KSC aren't sure about that because it depends on whether you interpret the forces in terms of the aliens' standard mass on Duna, or if they wrote it with Kerbin gravity in mind. In either case, a spacesuited kerbal should have sufficient mass."
Kurt: "Are you saying this spacesuit makes me look fat?"

Hellou: "No. I'll need one of you standing on each eye. When I say, I'll need you to fly off to the side of the eye, then come back and land on it when I tell you so. I'll handle the timing and call the directions. Any questions?"
Emilynn: "Normally I like my squaredance partner a little closer to me, but I think we can manage this."
Kurt: "Off to the side? Or can we just hover over it?"
Hellou: "Off to the side. If you just hover over it, your jet exhaust is going to impinge onto the rock with almost the same force you have when standing on it."
Kurt: "Ah. OK. How fast do we need to do this?"
Hellou: "The diagram indicates the pressed states need to be 20 seconds apart. We're assuming that the states must be true at the middle of the time intervals."
Kurt: "Um. OK. You're the caller. I'll just follow directions. Let me practice the move first...and let me get a full tank of backpack propellant. Good thing we bring lots of that stuff along."

Hellou: "OK. Ready?"
Emilynn & Kurt: "Ready."
Hellou: "Bow to your partner. OK....Kurt, off!"
Kurt: "OK...clear."
Hellou: "Wait...Emi off, Kurt back on! Good. Wait...Both off! OK...get ready to both go back...Now! Both on. Emi, you'll be next Next will be Kurt off and Emi on..wait for Good. Kurt, get ready to come back...Emi, stay in, Kurt on!"

Hellou: "...And we're not sure about the end...get ready to both fly off..."
Kurt: "I can feel the ground rumbling under my feet."
Emilynn: "Yeah. And there's dust rising from the mouth area behind you, Chickadee. Why don't you promenade on over here and I'll have a look-see."

Emilynn flew down to investigate.

Emilynn: "It looks like part of the surface slid down in a series of slabs to reveal an alcove. There are some sort of gold...signs on the wall. Six of them. With figures on them."
Hellou: "OK, I'm coming down."
Emilynn: "No. Stay there. I'll land and take some quick pictures. If the slabs don't seem to get it in their mind to come sliding back UP for a hour...then you can go play with them."

Emilynn's precautions proved unnecessary, because after an hour the slabs had remained stationary. So Hellou flew down to have a look.

Hellou: "Well...these appear to be telling us the orbital elements for some object. Or at least how we can find or calculate that information. Are there three monoliths on the Mün?"
Kurt: "You mean arches?"
Hellou: "No. Black monoliths, like the one north of the KSC runway."
Kurt: "Um...not that I've heard of."
Hellou: "Well, somebody's going to need to go look for them. But there's also more information here about another marker on Duna's southern ice cap. I've been wanting to get a chance to examine the ice caps."
Emilynn: "I've already sent my first pictures to KSC, but they want better ones."
Kurt: "Are the plaques really gold?"
Hellou: "I can't tell. They may be gold inside, but there's a surface layer of something my test probes can't its either artificial diamond...or something harder. Who knows what kind of technology these aliens had?"

Clicking on the image above will display a higher resolution version, if you'd like to see it.


Massive Mountains

While the big brains back at the KSC mulled over the new alien artifact information, Hellou, Kurt, and Emilynn got on with exploring the Lesser Helium Basin under Hellou's direction. It was decided that they wouldn't bring the Lander Hab over for a couple weeks at least, since the brass at KSC might have other plans.

As part of the exploration, Hellou wanted to drive up out of the far rim of the basin. And since it so happened that the highest mountains on Duna were also located in that direction (about 21° of longitude west of the Face), that was the trip she planned for herself and Kurt. Emilynn would stay behind and use the DunaDog to rover over the flatter areas of the basin gathering samples. The image below shows the location of the highest mountain relative to the Face.

[I always enjoy the challenge of getting a rover to the highest and lowest points on a planet or moon...if it's relatively handy. I was worried that the Duna Fido might not be able to handle the slopes due to the lower traction in Duna's lower gravity...but that worry proved to be unfounded.]

[I set up a waypoint using MechJeb's Rover Autopilot feature so that I could use the green beam as a handy navigational guide, and used its throttle control so I didn't have to keep holding down the i key (the key I remap for rover forward)...but I wasn't able to just put it on full autopilot because the rover can't simply go straight up the steeper slopes, so I had to weave back and forth across the terrain in some places to make headway.]

Once up on the plateau over 6000 meters, there was a lot up up and down driving. This sometimes resulted in going a bit too fast and catching some of the thin Dunan air, and resulted in blowing an occasional tire when hitting the bottom of a v-notch a bit too hard. So Kurt had to perform some basic repairs.

The guide beam in the image below slicing through hilltops shows the bumpy nature of the plateau well. When cloud layers moved overhead (this install uses the Environmental Visual Enhancements mod, which I hope I'm able to continue using in version 1.0.x), the highest terrain was accentuated as islands poking above the sea of clouds.

The thick clouds would occasionally block the view of the target peak, and above 7000 meters, the Jessica was often driving through clouds.

The final peak was relatively steep, and Kurt had to drive winding up along the contours to get to the top. At the top there was the usual problem that the mountain had multiple high points...and the other ones always looked to be slightly higher than the one they were they had to check the elevation of a few locations before finding the highest one. Hellou planted a flag and named the mountain Mt. Idaho.

I wasn't looking forward to the long drive back...but, happily, that drive did not need to be done because a new directive came from the KSC mission controllers...


Polar Cap Pyramid

Thompbles: "The big brains back on Kerbin are pretty sure they know the location of another alien marker. It's even visible from orbit, or at least you can see a hill that it's near. It seems likely that you'll find an artifact there that emits an audio signal that contains encoded pictures. Rather than return to Barsoom Base, we want you to boost your rover to the BANT 6 in polar orbit for refueling, then land by the mystery hill. Nelemy will be doing the same with the Lander Hab, so you can set up for some longerterm exploration of the polar cap that you've been asking to do."
Hellou: "What about Emi back in Lesser Helium? Is she going to come as well?"
Thompbles: "No. The DunaDog isn't useful that far south because of the low sunlight angle. She's still continuing the survey you set her to doing, and when she's done with that I'm going to have her continue with the testing of the long-distance capabilities of the DunaDog."

Step 1 was to have Nelemy fly the Lander Hab up from Barsoom Base to the BANT 6 nuclear tug in its 88° inclination near-polar orbit. This is inconvenient because your have to wait for the plane of the orbit to align with the launch site, but it's easier to be more fuel efficient than when LANDING from polar orbit. When landing, your ship will likely be in position along its to land when the orbit is not quite lined up with the landing there usually needs to be a small plane shift before landing. But when launching, you can wait until the launch site is exactly lined up with the orbital plane, then launch into a lower orbit than the target. Then all you need to do is wait until it's time for the transfer burn to rendezvous (or you can use a phasing orbit if you are in a hurry).

In the second image below, the Barsoom Base site is just about to line up with the BANT 6's orbit (seen edge on).

Below we see the launch of the Lander (oops...paying too much attention to lining up the orbit, so I forgot to retract the antenna and ladder), and the boost to orbit (after some quick retracting).

The BANT 6 nuclear tug was fortuitously located in a good spot along its higher orbit, so Nelemy was able to perform the rendezvous transfer less than one orbit later. The docking was routine.

The BANT still had propellant in its rear tank after the trip from Kerbin to Duna...more than enough to refuel the Lander (which had made it to orbit with 29% of its fuel remaining).

The rendezvous and docking of the Lander went so quickly that it was done before the Mt. Idaho site passed under the BANT's orbit, so Kurt and Hellou were able to launch in the Jessica on the same day.

The location of the BANT was not as fortuitous for the Jessica, so Kurt and Hellou had to wait for a dozen orbits before transferring up to the BANT for rendezvous.

Below is the view out of Kurt's cockpit after rendezvousing with the BANT.

Kurt: "Hey there, Nelemy."
Nelemy: "Dude! Welcome to BANT-6 Station!"
Kurt: "Um...weren't you supposed to rearrange the rear propellant tank of the BANT to the other side of the ship? As is, the Junior docking port I need is right next to the nuclear engines. I don't fancy parking that close to the nukes."
Nelemy: "Oh! Yeah...that was in the plan...but we were expecting that I was going to have to wait an extra day before your rendezvous...and that was on the schedule for tomorrow. Um...I can do that now."
Kurt: "Huh. Hellou, do you feel up for a little EVA?"
Hellou: "Sure, I can do that."
Kurt: "OK. Just to save time, you and I are going to EVA over to Lander, then I'll remotely dock the Jessica to the port between the use getting more rads than necessary."

So Hellou and then Kurt EVA'd over to the Lander, and then the Jessica Fido was docked to the side of the BANT.

Below we can see the view out of the Jessica's cockpit window after docking, and this should make it apparent why Kurt didn't fancy being there. Yes, those engines hadn't been fired recently, but NERVA-style engines only have significant radiation shielding from the top, not from the sides.

The rear tank of the BANT had almost exactly the amount of propellant left in it to refuel the Jessica rover.

Kurt: "We can send down a probe first to look over the site."
Hellou: "Are you going to try to land right on it?"
Kurt: "No...I don't know exactly how steep the sides are. We'll aim for a nearby flat area."

Below, the retro burn of the Probe Lander, and the fine targeting of the landing point using MechJeb's landing prediction feature.

Kurt: "The probe's chutes are out."
Nelemy: "How's it look, Dude?"
Kurt: "On target. We're getting the feed from the landing cameras. The resolution on those is low...but, yup...that hill there is oddly square."

A Duna-day of monitoring the probe's telemetry didn't show the hill doing anything. No strange signals were detected, either. So Kurt separated the Jessica rover from the BANT and EVA'd over to it. Only Kurt would be landing in the rover -- Hellou would come down in the Lander Hab with Nelemy. The reentry and landing went off without a hitch.

Kurt: "I'm going to repack the chutes on the lander probe in case we want to hop it later."

Kurt drove the rover around the pyramid, but saw no obvious entrances into it or devices poking out of it. The pyramid was about 500 meters along each side, and about 120 meters tall. The traction on the side of the pyramid was just fine, so he could easily drive the rover up to the top where he planted a flag.

Hellou: "How's it going, Kurt?"
Kurt: "Still no signals...not on the radio scanner, and not when I pressed my helmet to the ground."
Hellou: "Well...Nelemy and I will be down tomorrow to help you study it."
Kurt: "Hmmm...this is odd. I'm checking out the southeast corner edge of the pyramid has a couple flatish ledges..."
Hellou: "Yes. We can see those on the landing camera images."
Kurt: "Yes, but when I try to drive along them, the rover is hardly moving...until I reach the slope up, and then it lurches forward."
Nelemy: "Dude, that sounds like the weird anomalies Aldner and I found when driving near the poles of Tylo. We never did figure out the cause of that."

[I tried all kinds of ways to zoom in and out while panning up and down with the rover at various places on the pyramid, but I couldn't manage to get the camera below the surface to hear the SSTV signal...which people report is now below the surface where you can't get to they appear to have been correct. While zooming and panning using the flag as a target, I did find that my flag was showing some odd glowing bits.]

The next day (late afternoon at the landing site) when the orbit of BANT 6 again aligned with the landing site, Nelemy separated the Lander from the BANT and prepared to descend. Note that only the daylight landing opportunities are being used...otherwise the landings could be done a half-Duna-day apart. Retro fire occurred on time for the landing target point 66° 8' South.

In the image below, the Jessica rover can be seen parked on top of the pyramid as the Lander flies overhead. Most of the braking was done by Duna's atmosphere, with the rocket engines used to cushion the touchdown.

Nelemy: "Landed! Less than 800 meters from the Jessica. Nice aim, eh Kurt?"
Kurt: "Well, that was the furthest landing of the three, but its fine."
Nelemy: "Dudes! Look at all the ice! Have you tried skiing down that hill yet?"
Kurt: "No. I've tried specifically to NOT slide down the hill."
Nelemy: "I'm going over the check on the Goo-dudes on the lander probe."
Kurt: "Hellou, do you want me to come pick you up in the rover."
Hellou: "No, thanks, Kurt. I'll walk over to get a better look at the terrain."

Nelemy hoofed it over to the lander probe, and below we can see him communing witht he Goo, with the Lander off in the distance.

Hellou started hiking to the pyramid, but got distracted by one of the large ice-covered boulders near one corner of the pyramid.

After examining the rocks, Hellou proceeded up the pyramid to Kurt's location.

Hellou: "Hi, Kurt! Nice to see you and the Jessica again. What have you found out?"
Kurt: "Still no signal. I used the rovers core sampler to drill down into the pyramid. There's only two meters of ice before it went into rock. I put one of your geophones down the hole, but it's not picking up anything."
Hellou: "The frequency sensitivity on the standard geophone only goes up to a couple hundred hertz. We need to use one of the special audio pickups. Let me get one of those."
Kurt: "Oh. Ooops. I guess that's why it pays to have an expert on site instead of me just improvising."

Hellou: "OK! The microphone is in place and I can hear the signal. I'll record it so we can send it back to the KSC for processing."
Kurt: "Wow. So this can be processed into a picture?"
Hellou: "You hear the periodicity in the sound? Those are the scan lines of the image."
Kurt: "It sounds like the same thing each time.
Hellou: "That's the 'greeting' image being played over and over. If the experts at the KSC are right, then when the sun is overhead we should get two additional images that will tell us the semi-major axis and eccentricity of the orbit for the alien planet. Assuming the experts are interpreting the Duna Face messages correctly."

But that's enough for episode 7. Below is an overview of the pyramid area showing the Jessica at the peak of the pyramid, the lander probe located 583.6 meters to the south, and the Lander Hab located 769.4 meters to the south (at the top of the's hard to see that text against the ice).

And, no, your Duna Face anomaly will not work as described if you poke it in the eyes.