Long-term Laythe - Part 17

Vall Venture - Part 4

I dsconnected the two Senior docking port Tugs (that I had previously docked together last time in preparation for returning to Kerbin) and sent one of them out to get the triple-tug adapter. Below we see the Tug and adapter braking as they approach the Laythe Space Station.

I then docked the Tug+triple-adapter to the Senior port of the Tug L5 upgrade module (which had been left docked to one of the side ports of the sation). Below, the Tug pulls that upgrade module away from the Station.

Then (after moving the little RCS Tug from the Station's bottom docking port) I docked the upgrade adapter + tripple-tug adapter to the botom of the Station, then sent the nuclear Tug back off to rendezvous and dock with its fellow Tug (for later return to Kerbin). So now Laythe Station has five free Senior docking ports (although two of them are pointed in not-particularly-useful directions) and three additional tanks that can be used to hold propellant... which is always a handy thing, as Scotius pointed out.

Vall Venture 4

Back at Vall Base, Hellou and Emilynn perform the belated flag planting and pose for photos to send back to Kerbin.

Then they piled all the equipment and supplies they'd need for their epic drive to Vallhenge and headed off to the south-southwest. Yes, the episode details the location of Vallhenge, so if you don't want to know where this Easter egg is located, you will have to read nae further!

The Vall Fido 1 rover could easily zip along at over 30 m/s (since the route was sloped slightly downhill as our heroines drove toward the center of the long Eve Basin. I spent most of my time running the game at 3x or 2x time warp for most of this roving expedition, while holding down the "i" key (the re-mapped rover-forward key). The only problem was that I had to pay attention, or the Fido could pick up too much speed (and often did so as I was distracted by doing other things during the drive).

Off to the east, Jool slowly set as the rover moved further west. Hellou had Emilynn stop the rover every once in a while so that she could get out and collect some surface samples and drill an ice core...the F5 key apparently activates the core sample drill, since I pressed that at each stop. Evenually, having gotten up early to start the drive caught up with Hellou, so she decided to take a nap in the rear habitat module as Emilynn drove on.

Hellou: "zzzzzz"
***Zero gee. Wham!
Hellou: "zzz...hrf!?"
***Zero geeeeeeeeeeeee. WHAM!
Hellou: "Emi! What the hell is going on??"
Emilynn: "Just going over a few bumps, Chickadee. No worries!"
***Zero geeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee...
Emilynn: "Yeeeeeeee-HAH!"
Hellou: "Emi! This is a rover, NOT an airplane! Please keep it on the ground!!"
Emilynn: "OK, Hel. Yeah...that last leap was a bit more than even I liked."
Hellou: "Please take it easy. I'm sitting back here with the case of explosives, remember."

The Fido was going over some bumpy terrain in the center of Eve Basin...they looked like harmless little ripples on the map, really. The rover flew some amazing distances down those shallow slopes, but the SAS torque of the cockpit and crew cabin held the ship steady, and the eight wheels took the landings in stride. Even I was amazed.

In fact, the Fido didn't run into any problems until it had passed over all of the ridges and was back on smooth downslope...

Emilynn: "Uh, oh."
***Shake and shimmy.
Hellou: "'Uh, oh'? You know I never like it when you say, 'Uh, oh.'"
Emilynn: "No worries. I'm stopping now. I'm getting warning lights on four of the wheels."
Hellou: "Imagine that, after try to fly the rover."
Emilynn: "Nah, they survived that just fine. But on the downslope I let the speed get up over 60 m/s. A bit."
Hellou: "Emi...."
Emilynn: "But, hey... it's about time to stop for another core sample anyway, right?"

Below, Emilynn makes the rounds of the Fido, fixing the broken wheels.

Below, the first leg of the journey. See... those little ripples don't look dangerous at all, do they?

So they continued southwest, occasionally finding more ripples in the surface that could send the Fido sailing over the surface even at 30 m/s. But the Fido held up remarkably well in Vall's gravity.

The ridge seprating Eve Basin from the next basin was over 3570 meters tall, but the slope was fairly shallow and the Fido had no problems going straight up it. Again, it's going down the other side where you need to be careful, or your speed can easily get away from you. The eight standard wheels don't have a lot of grip on the surface, so slowing down sometimes requires not only using the barkes, but also using the "k" key for backpeddling. Still, I wouldn't want those ruggedized wheels because they can suddenly grab the surface while you're zipping along at high speeds and cause the rover to tumble (or so my earlier "engineering simulation" tests showed).

Emilynn: "Emilynn Kerman calling Laythe Base. You boys awake?"
Thompbles: "I read you. How are things going?"
Emilynn: "Just fine! We are now skirting the southern edge of Venus Basin, which is what we named the next basin over. I think I may have flustered my lil' Chickadee with my driving, but all is going well. How you boys all doing over there on Laythe?"
Thompbles: "We're doing just fine. The other guys are out building a shed at the moment."
Emilynn: "A shed? In space?"
Thompbles: "It's best not to ask."

Below, the second leg of the journey. The driving time (in game) from Vall Base to the top of the ridge separating Eve and Venus basins (the big dot) was about 2.5 hours. It was less time for me, of course, since I was running at 2x or 3x time warp. And I'm sure Hellou and Emilynnm took longer because of stops to take samples. They stayed fairly high in the hills along the south rim of Venus Basin rather than go down into the basin bottom because they were heading for the pass over into the next basin at the southwest corner of Venus.

The next basin was a large one, which they named Aphrodite Basin. Again, our gals stuck to the foothills that jut out into the basin rather than go down to the bottom, just to make the route shorter. The speed of the rover was kept to under 25 m/s in this terrain.

Heading down from the foothills into the southern part of Aphrodite Basin resulted in the Fido catching some more air -- er -- vacuum, although it looks to be higher than it really was in the picture below because the low sunlight angle puts the shadow far off to the side. But the Fido did blow a wheel on landing.

Hellou: "All right...that's it! I'm driving now."
Emilynn: "Awww.... And I was just getting really good at it."

Also, by this point, the beacon for the old probe left at Vallhenge by the expedition 12 years ago started to show up on the display. And ahead, you can see the gap in the mountains that is the gateway to the basin that contains Vallhenge.

Below, an overview of the approach to the gateway into Vallhenge's basin. We are zoomed way back for this image, and the rover is the little speck indicated by the arrow. At the low sunlight angles this far south, it was necessary to stop the rover a let the batteries recharge a couple times.

Below, climbing up the ridge and through the scenic Gateway, which gives our plucky crew their first view of the small basin, which they name Hecate Basin. (Hellou, being the nerdy girl she is, spent a considerable amount of time during her undergrad college days playing Kaves & Krackens, and the K&K universe featured all sorts of gods and goddesses that she's using for naming the basins.)

The map shows this leg of the journey. The probe icon marks the location of Vallhenge.

Below, with Emilynn riding in the Granny Clampett chair for a better view, our heriones approach the mysterious Vallhenge. Total driving time (ignoring time for breaks and sampling) was a bit under six hours. Keep in mind that this was a trip from a couple degrees south of the equator to a point 60 degrees south of the equator (and a very similar displacement in longitude). The great circle distance between thos points is about 190 kilometers (the radius of Vall is 150 km). It really hits home how small the moons and planets are in the Kerbol system when you see how far you can drive in just a few hours.

Hellou drives around the Vallhenge so they can get a good look at the whole thing. That high gain dish on the ground is the probe that was left behind long ago by Bob Kerman.

Emilynn: "Hey, Chickadee! That spire on the end looks like its floating above the ground. Is it supposed to do that?"
Hellou: "Emi, we don't know what any of this thing is supposed to do. But I don't recall Bob Kerman saying anything about any parts of the henge floating above the surface."
Emilynn: "Stop here. I want to have a look under it!"

Indeed, a closer inspection shows that the spire is floating above the surface, and Emilynn can fit underneath.

Hellou: "What does the bottom look like?"
Emilynn: "It hasn't got a bottom."
Hellou: "Eh? What's inside it?"
Emilynn: "It's full of stars."
Hellou: "What??"
Emilynn: "Well...not really... it's just that I can't see the spire at all from underneath it. All I see is the sky. I'm going to use my rocket pack and fly up inside of it."
Hellou: "Be careful, Emi!"
Emilynn: "Worry wart. Ow! I bumped my head. Ow. OK...I may not be able to see the spire at all from underneath, but the bottom is certainly solid."
Hellou: "Come back out. It gives me the creeps seeing you standing under tons of unsupported spire."

Our heroines drive through and around the monoliths and spires, the get out to have a closer look.

Emilynn: "What is this stuff. It's solid. But it doesn't really look like ice."
Hellou: "I don't know. But we're going to see what we can learn."
Emilynn: "Are these things radioactive?"
Hellou: "Don't know. Let me check the VanAllen meter. Hmmm... Huh. That's weird."
Emilynn: "Hot?"
Hellou: "No. I'm hardly getting any reading at all."
Emilyn: "Well that's good."
Hellou: "No... I mean I'm not even getting the background reading we normally get on Vall. Maybe the meter is broken. It might have gotten banged up when you were flying the rover like a fighter plane."
Emilynn: "You never let a girl forget, do you? VanAllen Kerman is going to be mad when he hears that we broke his newest toy."
Hellou: "Huh. No, it responds to the calibration source just fine. So the meter is working. This is weird. I wish I had some goo so I could see how it responds to the monoliths."
Emilynn: "Too bad they didn't have space-qualified goo samples ready for us to bring along, eh?"

While Hellou continues to take readings, Emilynn partakes of a kerbal tradition by using her rocket pack to fly up on top of the highest spire of the Vallhenge.

Hellou: "Ah ha!"
Emilynn: "Something interesting, Dr. Kerman?"
Hellou: "There is a strong magnetic field in this whole area! It must be deflecting the high energy charged particles from Jool's radiation belts from hitting this area."
Emilynn: "Well, then I know where I'm sleeping tonight! Did Bob Kerman measure any magnetic field when he was here?"
Hellou: "No. But I wouldn't trust Bob Kerman to be able to measure his own shoe size."

Below, Hellou and Emilynn set up camp for the evening, safe in the magnetic embrace of the Vallhenge.

Meanwhile, back on Laythe...

A shed? Well, yes. You remember those parts from the Base 2 heat shield that survived impact on Laythe? I'm not sure what those panels are made of...metal or composite or whatever... but I've decided that our intrepid lads on Laythe can have the necessary cutting tools and bonding technology to re-work those parts into something else... after they drag them into place using their rovers.

So here is the shed they built. Great for storing all those supplies that came packed in the Base and BirdDogs. OK... I'm just having a little fun. (The shed was assembled from the given parts and dropped in place with HyperEdit.)

Nelemy: "So how do you like the shed I built, Dude?"
Thompbles: "How did you handle all those big parts?"
Nelemy: "It was just a matter of clever use of leverage."
Thompbles: "Which you figured out?"
Nelemy: "Well...Kurt and Aldner helped, Dude. Isn't it great?"
Thompbles: "Did you have to put it outside my picture window?"

But let's get back to exploring the islands. Early one morning at Laythe Base...

Aldner: "Not that it hasn't been fun hanging out with you gents, but I'm heading off to conquer a dragon."
Nelemy: "Dude...what's a dragon?"
Aldner: "Some kind of mythical creature with nasty, big, pointy teeth. Hellou said the island to the southeast looked like a dragon. So I'll go see if I can land on its nose."
Nelemy: "Dude...what's a nose?"

And off Aldner headed to the southwest. Below, we see him passing over Wernher Von Puddle.

Soon he was out of sight of all land, cruising along at 10 km altitude. (I'm still not used to the new SAS on the plane...the tendency to pitch up at high altitudes seems to be worse than before. I disabled fuel flow from the front tank to keep the CG forward.)

It looked like the small peninsula jutting out from the dragon's nose was a likely landing spot, so he dropped down and headed in for a landing.

The BirdDog set down on an up-slope at just over 40 m/s. OK...I guess this is still do-able with the new SAS. Getting there used 23% of Aldner's fuel. And below is also the map. OK, *I* think the island looks sort of like a dragon. Or a cross between a dragon and a duck. Whatever

Aldner: "Yo, Cap'n Thompbles! I have arrived and would like to officially name the island."
Thompbles: "I read you, Aldner. Dragon Island?"
Aldner: "No sir...I'm naming it Thompbles Island."
Thompbles: "As I've told Nelemy before, I don't need an island named after me."
Aldner: "Well, I wasn't asking, I was just telling you. Please log it."
Thompbles: "OK, Aldner. Thanks."
Aldner: "Besides...I think you sort of have breath like a dragon, sir."
Thompbles: "I retract my thanks. Drive carefully, Aldner."

Aldner drove to one of the small lakes to do a kerbal hydrometer test -- he floated at bottom-of-helmet level. And below that we see an overview of the peninsula area where Aldner landed. The end of the peninsula was probably the best landing spot, but other spots near the base of the peninsula could also work. But there are no great airstrip sites.

Aldner drove the BirdDog eastward along the "snout" and into the depression he named "the nostril," much to Nelemy's continued confusion.

After heading along nostril valley and up into the hills, Aldner did a little weaving back and forth to get up over the ridge to where he could see "Eye Lake". When he topped the ridge and headed down toward the lake, the slope was moderately steep and he started picking up speed...so he just went with the flow, pulled back on the stick, and glided down the slope.

At Eye Lake, Aldner did another kerbal hydrometer test and got the same result. The south shore of the lake was a moderately flat are that might be good for a base. Aldner thought it might also be a good spot for a nap, since he'd gotten up early that morning to prepare for the trip, so that's what he used it for.

Back at Laythe Base, now that the sunlight had shifted further westward, Kurt took off in BirdDog 4 and headed southwest.

Kurt: "BirdDog4 calling Laythe Base."
Nelemy: "Dude! You are coming in load and clear. How's it going?"
Kurt: "Great! It's been too long since I've flown. I can't really tell if the SAS is acting odd -- it's been so long since I flew the BirdDog prototype back at KSC. I'm flying steady up over 9000 meters."
Kurt: "Yes. What about it?"
Nelemy: "Umm... nothing, Dude. Do you miss me, yet? But I guess with the new comsat links, it's like I'm right there with you."
Kurt: "Yeah. I noticed that."

As Kurt was passing over the eastern shore of Fredoly, I was again struck by how steep the land is there. Or does it just look that way from the plane?

Kurt flew over the mountains, then cut his power level and started gliding down into the highland basin on the other side. He set the BirdDog down on the gentle downslope about 7.5 km from the Laythe Base 3 (both to save fuel, and so he could drive the rest of the way over to see how the BirdDog performed as a rover).

Below, Kurt drives up to the Base 3 module and Compact Fido rover. Kurt's assignment is to check out the base and rover (since they were recently landed, and nobody has visited them yet).

Kurt headed up the ladder to check out the Base. (Note that you can get your kerbal to turn his head to the side while on the ladder by holding down the Shift key when pressing the "a" key.) OK...the base has a bit more tilt than one might like, but everything inside looked fine (if a bit crowded with boxes of supplies). Kurt set aside a case of yellow mush to take back to Laythe Base, since that's Nelemy's favorite...and so they're running low.

Finally, Kurt checked out the Compact Fido. OK...it's not very compact -- just a little shorter, front-to-back, than the standard Fido so that its heat shield wouldn't have to be as large. Kurt will give it a full test another day.

Back at Laythe Base, after waiting several more hours for the sunlight to move even further westward, Nelemy took off with BirdDog3, packed with extra yellow mush, and headed west.

Below, Nelemy flies over Bill Lake on Jebediah Island, edging the BirdDog up over 10 kilometers.

Nelemy: "Thompbles, Dude! I'm over 10k and flying smooth. I'm not seeing the problem Aldner was having."
Thompbles: "I copy. But remember that your new BirdDog is a bit different than Aldner's, with the avionics package and probe core removed from high up on the tail fin, and the air intakes lowered to be in line with the wing. Those changes should make it less prone to pitch up. Are you only draining fuel from the rear tank?"
Nelemy: "Yeah, Dude. I'm following my checklist. I'm going to try getting it up over 11k and see if I can beat Aldner's fuel use from his trip coming back from Aldner Island. How much did he use?"
Thompbles: "I'll look it up. Be careful...watch your pitch every moment."
Nelemy: "Dude, no problemo. Nelemy out, Dude."

Nelemy passed Jebediah Island and got out over a big empty stretch of ocean, and nudged the BirdDog up as high as 11.5 km and a speed of almost 400 m/s. Finally, Aldner Island rose above the horizon and Nelemy headed for the GasStation that had been landed on the southeast corner of the island. He had the GasStation set as his Target the whole time so that he could line up with the pink marker on the navball. At 22 km out, he cut the engine and glided the rest of the way to the island.

Nelemy: "Thompbles, Dude! I have landed safely on Aldner Island. I'm roving over to it now to see if I can dock with the GasStation. But I still have over 64% of my fuel left, so I COULD fly back home even if I fail to refuel. I only used 107 units of fuel getting here, Dude! What was Aldner's usage?"
Thompbles: "I copy you down safe, Nelemy. Aldner used 93 units of fuel to get back from there."
Nelemy: "Dude! Really? Bummer. Maybe he had a tail wind!"
Thompbles: "I believe he was flying at 12k most of the way."

After quite a bit of frustration, Nelemy managed to get the BirdDog docked and refueld from the second port he tried. The angle of the ground kept causing the plane to slide a tiny bit to the side as it drove into place, so the ports weren't aligning perfectly.

Nelemy celebrated by planting a flag. Because he has a usable fuel supply, he was cleared for his mission to start exploring the islands southwest of Aldner Island...probably starting with that group seen at the bottom of the map. But that will be another day, since Nelemy is eating some snacks right now.