Long-term Laythe - Part 29

Exit Expectations

On Laythe, Thompbles called a meeting of the whole crew.

Thompbles: "OK, everybody. I had a long transmission from KSC today about how we'll be leaving the Jool system after the astronomers give an all-clear on the Kerbol mega-flare activity."
Emilynn: "Do we get to finish our mission on Vall?"
Thompbles: "Yes. And possibly more, if you want. You know that there were missions planned to study Tylo and Bop and Poll, similar to your Vall mission. The boys at KSC have decided to continue sending that hardware out here during the moratorium on kerballed deep space flights. By the time those ships arrive, the flight restrictions are expected to be lifted... and rather than wait for new crew to get out here to use it, they are offering us the option of doing those missions before we return to Kerbin."

Aldner: "Why are they in such a hurry to keep sending out the ships? I thought their plan was to just put those mission on hold until the all-clear."
Thompbles: "Apparently there has been a lot of pressure by the rocket and spacecraft manufacturers to keep up the launch rates."
Nelemy: "Yeah, Dude...I know my Uncle Martin and Uncle Lockheed can be pretty persuasive."
Kurt: "Not to mention the Rockomax Mafia."
Thompbles: "Rockomax Conglomerate."
Kurt: "I calls 'em as I sees 'em. Those guys have more senators in their pockets than Nelemy has empty snack wrappers."
Aldner: "And that's saying a lot."

Thompbles: "So we need to look over the possible missions, examine the hardware capabilities, and carefully consider what missions we might be interested in doing, if any. The most dangerous, of course, is the Tylo mission..."
Aldner: "Mine."
Thompbles: "...um. What?"
Aldner: "Well, you know how Jebediah has used that, 'Hey, how about a free round of drinks for every astronaut bad-ass enough to have landed on Tylo!' line in the bar for years? I think it's time we took that away from him."
Nelemy: "Yeah, Dude. I'm coming along, too!"

Below: A photo from the historical files of Jebediah Kerman, the only kerbal to land on Tylo, with his Sacajawea lander on the airless surface of Tylo.

Aldner: "So what have they got planned for the Tylo hardware? Jeb's lander was a huge beastie, as I recall. Can they even launch something that big with our current Reusable Rockets?"
Thompbles: "The ships are already being assembled in Kerbin orbit. The big brains at KSC have determined that Jeb's lander was a lot bigger than necessary. By using the more efficient Rockomax 48-7S engines and staged/drop-tank landers, they have designed smaller ships that they think can tackle Tylo."
Aldner: "So not an SSTO lander? I thought they were all about reusability nowadays."
Thompbles: "No. For the mass of a reusable lander, they could send along two or three single-use landers. And it's not like we expect to do a lot of traveling to and from Tylo's surface. Also, because of the chances of landing failures, they are sending out two of everything: two crew-landers, two surface-habitats, and two rovers. Here are some of the launch photos."

Below: The first two launches to assemble the Tylo fleet. On the left is one of the Tylo surface habitats, sitting on a Triple-Tug adapter, being boosted on a Reusable Rocket. The Tylo ships will use the same Triple-Tug arrangements used to launch the Vall expedition hardware. On the right is the launch of the central nuclear Tug (and you can also see the returned sustainer from the first launch in the background).

Aldner: "Ah. So the habitat lander has a Hitchhiker module and a control cabin surrounded by six FL-T400 tanks."
Emilynn: "That sounds like my Vall lander."
Thompbles: "Similar. But the control center is a single-kerbal cabin, and it has twice as many Rockomax 48-7S engines as the six on your lander. Plus, some of the tanks are droppable. And unlike your Vall lander, this habitat lander is designed for a one-way trip down to the surface."

Below, the central Tug docks with the Tylo Hab 1 payload. My simulations show that the habitat can land on Tylo using just the six FL-T400 tanks...but because I'm not confident about my ability to land on Tylo, I've included an extra Rockomax X200-8 drop tank (marked with yellow arrow) to increase the amount of fuel available for final landing maneuvers. It's surprising how little extra fuel you end up with near the surface after adding all that extra fuel to begin with. A lot of the fuel gets used up just to slow down the extra fuel. "ADD MOAR FUEL" is not the best plan of attack when tackling Tylo.

Aldner: "What about the crew lander?"
Thompbles: "Here you go: Two single-kerbal lander cabins surrounded by six FL-T400 tanks, and a dozen 48-7S engines, only four of which are kept for ascent. That's supposed to be enough to land and return to orbit. But they also added an extra X200-8 drop tank for more margin. They are sending two of those landers."
Kurt: "So if they crash the first one, they can walk back to orbit and try the second one?"
Thompbles: "No. Because the landers have enough fuel to land AND return to orbit, the designers feel confident that the crew can land...but maybe not with enough fuel left to return to orbit. So the second lander can be sent down to see it it makes it with enough fuel to return to orbit. And if not, the ships are designed with surface refueling capabilities. Hopefully there will be enough fuel in all landed ships to get one of the landers back to orbit."

Below, Tylo Lander 1 being launched on a Reusable Rocket. The Refueler Topper on top carried fuel to be transferred to the nuclear Tugs later.

The Refueler Topper also provided the fuel and engines used for the orbital maneuvering to get the Tylo Lander docked to the Triple-Tug assembly in Kerbin orbit.

Below, the launch of Tylo Lander 2 shows a different view of the Lander configuration. You can see the 1x1 structural plate and junior docking port sticking out from one of the tanks that provides the surface-docking capability (tested using prototypes at the KSC). On the right is the return of the Reusable Rocket sustainer to KSC. I just let Mechjeb handle that, and I decided to let all of these sustainers sit on the ground until all of the launches for the Tylo armada were finished (just for fun...despite the slowly increasing launch site lagginess it caused).

Both of the Tylo Lander payloads were successfully docked to the Triple-Tug assembly on either side of Tylo Habitat 1.

Next, two more standard nuclear tugs were launched to complete the first of the Triple-Tug assemblies.

Below, the third nuke docks to the Triple-Tug ship. Afterwards, the fuel from the Toppers was used to top off the tanks on the Tugs. Then the Refueler Toppers were separated and the small amount of fuel left in them was used to return the Toppers to KSC for parachute landings. At this point, not all of the tanks of the ship were completely full because of the extra fuel storage space provided by the three tanks in the Triple-Tug adapter...but I'll take care of that later.

Next came the launch of Tylo Habitat 2 and the central Tug of the second Triple-Tug ship.

Nelemy: "So what do we get for a rover, Dude? We can't explore Tylo with BirdDogs."
Thompbles: "The rovers are the based on the eight-wheeled Fido design with a cockpit and a single-kerbal cabin as a habitat module."
Hellou: "So it's like the Fidos we used on Vall. The two-cockpit model you have here on Laythe is fine, but for long exploration drives, it really is nice to have the extra room of that cabin where one of you can stretch out and get some proper rest. Does it include lab facilities?"
Thompbles: "Some, but most of the lab facilities are in the Habitat Landers, so samples will need to be returned there for more analysis."
Aldner: "These drawings show that the Tylo Fido has four FL-T100 tanks built into it frame."
Thompbles: "Those hold some of the fuel for landing, AND they allow the rover to carry fuel between ships if needed. There are junior docking ports at two corners of the frame for surface docking to the Habitats and Landers. The four FL-T400 tanks on the sides hold most of the fuel for landing, and those are jettisoned after landing."

A second Tylo Fido rover and two more nuclear Tugs were launched to complete the assembly of the second Triple-Tug. Each Triple-Tug has a Habitat lander in the center, and then either two Landers or two Fido rovers on the sides (I did it this way rather than putting a complete set on each Triple-Tug because this way had better balance).

Below, the second Fido rover payload approaches the Triple-Tug core in the dark of night.

After the second Triple-Tug ship was complete, the Refueler Toppers gave up most of their fuel (again, not quite enough to fill all tanks on the Triple-Tug) and were separated and returned to KSC.

Below, a Refueler Topper descends over KSC. Eleven of the twelve returned sustainer stages from the Reusable Rockets can be seen in the background (the other on is out of sight below where the Topper is landing). Not seen, of course, are the 48 recovered side boosters of the Reusable Rockets that would be ringing the launch area within a couple kilometers (because those get de-spawned during their descents back to KSC), but you may join me in picturing them off in the distance. You can also join me in picturing the gleeful hand-rubbing by the rocket manufacturers over all the refurbishing work that now needs to be done on all those stages.

Nelemy: "Dude...so if all of this equipment is going to Tylo, how do Aldner and I get there?"
Thompbles: "They are also sending the interplanetary crew transfer / orbital habitat ship that was going to bring out the Tylo exploration crew."
Emilynn: "Now that looks exactly like our Vall ship."
Thompbles: "Yes. It will come here to Laythe on a double-tug train with plenty of extra fuel, so our Tylo explorers can use it to get to Tylo...and later to Bop and Poll as needed. Others of us can use our Laythe transfer ship and Vall transfer ship to head outward as needed."

Below, to send the Orbital Habitat/Transfer ship out to Laythe, I used a double-tug that had previously been returned to Kerbin from Laythe, which was waiting in Kerbin orbit. The small amount of fuel it had left on board was enough to rendezvous and dock with the Tylo Orbital Hab payload.

Because that double-tug was almost empty, it needed to be refueled. The two ships below were launched to refurbish the double-tug. The Refurb A payload on the left is just two Rockomax X200-32 fuel tanks and a nose cone that has a probe body and solar panels and a couple Sepratrons. It has no orbital maneuvering capability, so the Refurb B payload would have to perform the rendezvous.

Below, the Refurb B ship climbs toward orbit on the Reusable Rocket sustainer, and pops off its nosecone after the side boosters were dropped and the gravity turn started.

Once in orbit, the Refurb B docked to the rear of Refurb A. Then the ship was pointed retrograde and the two Sepratrons on the Refurb A nosecone were fired to deorbit the nosecone.

Then the combined Refurb ship rendezvoused and docked with the Tylo Orbital Hab/double-tug ship. The two full tanks were left attached to the double-tug, and most of the fuel from the Refurb B ship was transferred to the double-tug. Then the Refurb B refueler was separated.

Below, the Refurb B refueler deorbited using its remaining fuel, and landed at KSC.

The double-tug was not completely full at that point, so another Reusable Refueler (identical to the Refurb B ship) was launched (below, left...Sorry about the night launch picture). The Refueler docked with the Tylo Orbital Hab/double-tug and topped of its tanks (below, center). Then the Refueler separated and docked with each of the Triple-Tug ships in turn to top off their tanks (below, right). The Refueler was still not empty, so it was left in orbit for future use.

The three ships of the Tylo fleet were then ready to send off to Jool when the transfer window opened. The burns were done in two parts (as I typically do). Because of the fuel in the Triple-Tug adapter tanks, those heavier ships required longer burns (a little over 20 minutes). The ship carrying the Landers tolerated physical time-warp OK, but the ship carrying the rovers was too wobbly in time-warp (because the masses of the rovers were too much heavier than the mass of the central Tylo Habitat lander, I think...it pays to balance the weights of your payloads when using a triple-tug arrangement).

Tug Transfers, Etc. Etc.

After I got the Tylo fleet headed off, Kerbal Alarm Clock reminded me that it was time to send some other double-tugs back to Kerbin from Jool. These were the tugs that had been earlier boosted away from Laythe into Jool orbit (or, in one case, whipped outward by a Tylo encounter) to await this transfer window.

The burns for the two ships waiting in Jool orbit were straightforward, but the burn for the double-tug that had used the gravity assist from Tylo gave me more difficulty. It turned out that the ship was not quite out of Jool's sphere of influence yet, and setting up the necessary maneuver node was not easy (the directions were odd). I ended up mostly eyeballing it, and had to send the ship cutting back across Jool's S.O.I. the other way so that it would leave in a retrograde direction. It still took less delta-V than the other tugs, but I didn't save as much as I had hoped...and it certainly was a bigger pain. The problem mainly occurred because the Tylo gravity assist had actually sent the ship out in the wrong direction. The gravity assist from Tylo SHOULD have been timed to fling the ship out in a retrograde direction (whereas I hadn't timed the Tylo encounter at all...I just accidentally ran into it and decided to use if for fun). Below, pictures of the two double-tugs that departed from Jool orbit.

After getting those double-tugs sent off, Kerbal Alarm Nagger let me know that the Tylo fleet ships (out near Duna's orbit by then) needed attention for their plane-shift/fine targeting maneuvers. In all three cases, I target the ships toward Laythe encounters (example trajectory shown below)... but not just any old Laythe encounters. The encounters were targeted to come in tangent to the far side of Laythe's orbit. This requires the minimum aerobraking delta-V (as I found out previously by comparing incoming trajectories). This results in the most gentle aerobraking possible. The Tylo Orbital Habitat/transfer ship will be aerocaptured at Laythe, but the two Triple-Tug ships will just use Laythe to aerobrake into Jool orbits that will allow them to continue out to Tylo's orbit. I'm looking forward to trying that.

After the midcourse correction burns, one of the Triple-Tugs (the one carrying the rovers) had depleted its rear tanks, so those were dropped in orbit around the sun.

Next, Kerbal Alarm Clock reminded me that it was time to tweak the orbits of the tugs that were returning to Kerbin. It's always something. These only needed small burns (still out close to Jool where things move slowly), and all three double-tugs were targeted for aerocapture passes at Kerbin (they'll need tiny tweaks after entering Kerbin's S.O.I.).

Below you can see the resulting trajectories from my efforts: Three payloads heading from Kerbin to Jool, and three heading from Jool to Kerbin. Note that all of these transfers are done in my alternate time-synced save-game, so that there is less overall lag (that would otherwise be caused by all the ships that exist in my regular save-game file).

Not seen on this trajectory plot is the ShoreLab payload that would be currently approaching Jool. That's because I'd already zipped ahead earlier in my timey-wimey ways and taken care of that, so that ship was already pasted back into the main game file waiting for its time to appear.

ShoreLab Studies

In fact, let's take care of the ShoreLab payload now (since Kerbal Alarm Clock was telling me that it was time for it to appear). Below we see the ShoreLab on Laythe Tug 3 (which is returning to the Jool system from Kerbin yet again...hooray for reusable toys). It was targeted for a direct aerocapture at Laythe, but not for a low-relative-velocity encounter like those discussed above.

Below, the ShoreLab/LaytheTug 3 ship is shrouded in plasma as it is captured at Laythe. Then the nuclear tug adjusted the orbit for a couple smaller aerobraking passes, and then the orbit was circularized.

If you decide to employ my technique of doing interplanetary transfers in a separate, less-cluttered, save-game file -- be aware that you might experience a strange problem when cutting and pasting a vessel from one game file to another: If you paste the vessel in at a UT time that is earlier than the UT time you had in the other game file, you may find that the SAS, RCS, lights, gear, and brakes will no longer respond to your control. This is because the game remembers (for reasons I'm not clear about), the last UT times when you activated/deactivated these items...and it won't let you control them again until after that UT time has passed. So, if you run the game time forward far enough, these unresponsive systems will again be controllable. Or, you can go into the persistance file and find these settings at the end of the vessel's data, in a section labeled ACTIONGROUPS. The code there shows the names of these systems, whether they were left on or off (true or false), and the UT time they were last controlled. If you change those UT time settings to zero, the systems will respond again at whatever time you're at.

Below, the ShoreLab separates from Laythe Tug 3, and uses its four Rockomax 24-7 engines to deorbit. I used MechJeb's landing guidance data display to target the ShoreLab in for a landing on the western shore of Dansen Island, near the mouth of Fido Bay.

The X marks the landing location I was aiming for. The dot marks the location of the main Laythe Base area.

I watched the ShoreLab's trajectory from directly overhead as it approached the coast, and deployed the chutes when I was sure it had traveled far enough east to drop in on dry land.

The deployment altitudes of the eight chutes are staggered to minimize forces on the ship; two deploy at 700 meters, two at 600 meters, and four at 500 meters. The ShoreLab landed about 1.5 kilometers from the shore. With all the chutes deployed, the ship landed at a little under 8 meters per second -- a bit hard, but the parts of the ship are strutted to handle that.

The reason for building the ShoreLab was to get a look at what the topography of Laythe is like under the sea. On Kerbin, the oceans are transparent, and you can look down from above to see what the terrain is like offshore, such as the continental shelves and dropoffs to the abyssal plains. But on Laythe (at least on my computer, with the video settings I use), the seas on Laythe are NOT transparent, and I can't see what the terrain is like under the sea. I suppose it must be because of all the cyanobacteria that inhabit the surface of Laythe's oceans and are responsible for the rather substantial fraction of free oxygen in Laythe's atmosphere.

The ShoreLab is equipped with jet engines and parachutes that allow it to hop from place to place on the ocean. The cupola module on the underside of the ShoreLab will allow views of the undersea terrain, at least if its within range of the six high-intensity illuminators that are mounted around the cupola. At least it worked when tested by Jebediah offshore at the KSC.

The crew members chosen to conduct the ShoreLab mission were Emilynn Kerman (master pilot), and Dr. Hellou Kerman (who hopefully can make sense out of what is seen below the surface).

Thompbles: "Keep in touch, especially whenever you are going to make a hop. If anything goes wrong, I can send out Aldner in the BirdDog to scout the situation, and Kurt in the old Fido if a land pickup is necessary. If the ShoreLab breaks down off shore, we can use the NAMOR marine rescue ship to pull you out."
Emilynn: "Yes, yes. We've gone over this. Don't worry like an old hen."
Hellou: "Thank you, Thompbles."
Nelemy: "Dudes, I can go along if you want! There's room for more people in that Hitchhiker module!"
Thompbles: "No. For this first test mission, we will limit the crew to two."

Below, Emilynn and Hellou leave Laythe Base 2 in the Fido rover.

Their route takes them past the ancient lander stage that set the original Fido Pup rover probe down near Fido Bay (after which the bay is named). I enjoy seeing my old toys.

Hellou: "The terrain here seems to be a bit steeper than the boys described."
Emilynn: "Just goes to show that you can't trust the male of the species for accurate information."
Hellou: "But they are nice to have around when you need to move heavy furniture. Ooo! Stop here... I want to get a surface sample."
Emilynn: "As you wish, m'lady."

Below, our heroines arrive at the ShoreLab. The main body of the ShoreLab consists of a Hitchhiker module and a downward-facing Cupola pod. Four standard jet engines mounted on four FL-T200 tanks provide the in-atmosphere maneuvering power. The four 24-7 radial rocket engines that were used to de-orbit the ship could still be used, if needed, but they are not expected to be used (the jet engines are so much more efficient) and are deactivated with an action group. The four landing structures are built of girders to provide a wide, stable base both on land and in the water (because, as everybody knows, metal girders make great flotation devices...at least in KSP). There are some important struts between the cupola and hitchhiker module, and between the jet engines and the main body -- these were found to be necessary during tests of the prototypes offshore at KSC (otherwise parts can break off during a hard landing or rough parachute deployment. I could say that Jebediah gave his life finding this out...except that he strangely seems to be alive and well back on Kerbin.

First order of business: Emilynn climbs up and starts repacking the eight parachutes. These parachutes can be deployed with an action group key, and, as mentioned before, have staggered full-deployment settings.

Emilynn: "All strapped in, Chickadee?"
Hellou: "All set. All equipment stowed."
Emilynn: "Yo, Thompbles! We're going to make our first flight."
Thompbles: "Roger, Emilynn. We have a good data feed from you through ComSat 3."
Emilynn: "Chutes are packed. Rockets off. Jet engines activated. SAS on. Hair combed and boots polished. Here we go!"

The ShoreLab lifted off on jet engines at less than half throttle. Also, note the amount of fuel in the tanks at the start of the mission (the missing fuel was used for deorbiting).

Emilynn: "Tilting northwest. Heading out over the sea. The view through the bottom is great, but it surely is weird to fly in this orientation."

A vital part of flying the ShoreLab (and the similar NAMOR jet/parachute jump ship) is to remember to tilt back the opposite way to slow your horizontal velocity back down near zero before you deploy the parachutes. Also, slow the ascent and deploy the chutes right at apogee when the ship is moving slowly. Otherwise, you can rip off the chutes or pull the ship apart. Just ask Jeb. It isn't important to keep to a specific altitude...it's just getting above the correct location and not be moving too fast when you get there that matters.

Emilynn: "Chutes out! Eight good ones. 2,500 meters. Slowing slowly. Coming up on full deployment...hang on."
*YANK* *yank* *tug*
Hellou: "Whoa! That was a bit rough. We OK?"
Emilynn: "Yeah, all fine. I think I'll use the jet engines to slow us down before main deployment next time. Comining up on landing."
Hellou: "I'd appreciate th...OUCH!"
Emilynn: "Landed. You OK, Chickadee?"
Hellou: "Ah...yeah. I jus bit my tongue when we hit."
Emilynn: "And what did I tell you that you were supposed to do during landing?"
Hellou: "Um...You said I was to 'Sit there and look pretty and keep my mouth shut'... which I thought was kind of rude."
Emilynn: "Maybe you'll listen to momma next time."
Hellou: "Yes, ma'am."

The ShoreLab landed hard, but safely, about 3.5 kilometers off shore -- this distance could be judged by seeing how far away the marker for the Fido rover was located, and subtracting 1.5 kilometers. The first thing Emilynn did after landing was climb up and repack the chutes. This is not a step you want to forget. It's kind of odd, because she emerges from the cupola upside-down on the ladder, but there is a short piece of ladder oriented at 90 degrees (at her current location in the picture below) that allows her to turn around at that point. After packing the chutes, Emilynn climbs down and enters the Hitchhiker module, and Hellou can then climb down to the Cupola to make observations.

Below, the view from the Cupola. Ah. I looks like same patterns we see on the Laythe lowland terrain above the sea. Rippling sand. No rocks (at least at my usual setting of 20% ground scatter). I'm sure Hellou recorded all sorts of interesting things about it, but it just looks like normal Laythe sand to me.

After switching places with Hellou, Emilynn made a second hop to land the ship out at about 5.8 kilometers from the shore. This time she used the jet engines to slow down the ship before main deployment of the chutes, and before landing in the water. Much gentler. No more tongue biting. And the first thing she did was climb up and repack the chutes, of course.

The view from the Cupola was about the same at 5.8 km as it was back at 3.5...with a slightly smaller illumination spot and slightly closer spacing of the sand ripples, because the bottom was a little further away. The animated image below showed what the view looked like when the ship was wobbled a bit side-to-side with its reaction wheels. This is important because it helps differentiate which features in the view are real terrain, and which are artifacts (such as the lighter area in the center where the illuminator beams overlap). The ship can also be rotated around its vertical axis to see other parts of the bottom currently hidden by the control panel (just more sand ripples in this case).

Our heroines spent the night at this location to see if there were any illumination differences on the bottom between night and day (there were not -- the surface of Laythe's oceans is pretty effective at blocking light. Again, it must be all that pesky cyanobacteria. The thermometer reported a temperature of 4.72 degrees...normal for Laythe's surface.

The next day, Emilynn went out for a swim. As you can see, if you look at just the right angle, parts of the ship are faintly visible below the water. She was floating fairly high in the water her (compared to the bottom-of-helmet-level which is more the norm).

I also found out that if Emilynn dropped from the top of the ladder (up by the chutes) into the water, she would sink down and go rag-doll where the ladder extends below the ship. I could then zoom below the surface and get a view of the bottom illuminated by the lights...but I couldn't look in other directions or the view jumps back up above surface. And moving Emilynn at all causes her to pop back up above the surface.

Below, another jump, this time out to about 7.1 kilometers from shore. Emilynn again used the jet engines to slow the descent before parachute full deployment and before landing (speeds are displayed this time, in case you are interested).

The view from the Cupola out at 7.1 kilometers was quite dark...

...but with some Photoshop enhancement of the brightness and contrast, details can be seen. The spacing of the sand ripples shows that the bottom is considerable deeper here. There are some artifacts in the view (in the upper left and right) that are caused by the jet engine nozzles and struts...although, oddly, it seems like we can see through parts of them). What are ship-part artifacts and what are not can be determined by wobbling the ship, remember. But that rough lighter patch in the middle (and smaller lighter patches elsewhere) are real terrain features, and are apparently steeply-dropping terrain. So we appear to have located the distance where the island shelf is dropping down to the depths of the sea. Alas, no cool volcanic vents.

The location of the ShoreLab 7.1 km from shore is shown in the map view below. Alas, as cool as the cloud mod is for making planets look pretty, it IS inconvenient when you want to take map view snapshots. It would be nice if it had some obscure keystroke combination that could toggle the clouds on and off easily. That probe icon further out is one of the Ocean Probes.

Another hop maneuver is shown below. The navball is your friend while doing these (note that the navball shows we are upside down because the cupola is upside down...but you can choose to "control from" the top docking port if this bothers you. First, liftoff and tilting to the right to pick up horizontal speed; then tilt opposite direction to kill the horizontal speed (watch the prograde or retrograde marker on the navball); by the time the horizontal speed was killed and the jet engines spooled down, the altitude had risen to about 3,000 meters where the parachutes were deployed when the vertical speed hit zero. Then descent was as before with jet engine slowing before chute full deployment and landing.

This hop put the ShoreLab down about 8.6 kilometers out from shore.

The view from the cupola here looked completely dark to me, so this was the distance at which I halted the exercise. But later Photoshop enhancement showed that there were indeed terrain details to be seen. The spacing of the ripples (and darkness of the image) shows that the seafloor is even deeper here, of course, and there are lots of the lighter areas that indicate the seafloor is continuing to drop away quickly.

The next hop was back toward shore to a location about 7.8 kilometers from the coast. I was trying to see if I could find an intermediate location where I could still see the bottom (since I was seeing nothing in the un-enhanced view at 8.6 kilometers).

Below is Emilynn's view of the ocean surface as the ship descended under parachutes. Also, note that the fuel levels have not decreased much during this mission. Hooray for the efficiency of jet engines.

The un-enhanced subsurface view from the cupola at 7.8 kilometers showed some visible detail, but not much. Below is the Photoshop enhanced view.

The final sea landing was made at a shallow depth about 1.5 kilometers from shore.

At this shallow depth, the illuminators completely wash out the view of the bottom with their brightness. For this reason, each of the six illuminators can be toggled on/off separately via action group keys to reduce the illumination. Also, the illuminators were mounted at various angles to spread out the beams. In the image below, only three of the illuminators (ones without much overlap of their beams) are on to prevent from blinding us.

Emilynn: "OK, Chickadee. One more hop back to land. I'll use the jets to slow us down, but it might be a bigger bump."
Hellou: "Roger. I'll keep my teeth together. Everything is stowed, and I'm strapped in. Let's fly!"

Emilynn: "Annnnd...landed. That wasn't bad at all. And look at all the fuel left over."
Hellou: "If the follow-on crews have an oceanographer, I'm sure they'll appreciate that we left them lots of gas."
Emilynn: "ShoreLab to Laythe Base. Our seaside vacation is over. We'll be heading home now."
Kurt: "Roger, Hawk. Good flying there. We look forward to seeing you for supper."

Emilynn drove the Fido over via remote control, and then our heroines carried over their samples and data packs for the ride home.

The drive back was another 21 kilometers. I suppose some might consider a 42 kilometer rover trip to be a big exercise, but for me it's just a small part of another day's work on Laythe.

Below, Emilynn and Hellou stopped off at their Base 1 home for a little freshening up before they headed over to Base 2 to join the boys for supper.

Next time: Maybe we'll see what the boys at KSC have put together for exploring Bop and Pol.