Long-term Laythe Mission - Part 4

Continuing with our long-term Laythe mission... today it's rover fun time! Aldner will be testing out the roving abilities of the BirdDog, while Kurt and Nelemy will put the Folding Fido through its paces.

Rover Reconnaissance

It has been suggested that the terrain on Laythe is too hilly for the BirdDog rover/plane to be of any use on the ground. Mission planners had already considered this, and before they would allow Aldner to try to explore one of the other islands, he would first have to test the roving capabilities of the BirdDog on Dansen Island so that one of the other kerbals could come rescue him using the Folding Fido if he ended up wreaking the plane. (Landing and roving on the polar ice cap was not considered a risk, even during early mission planning, because it is so flat.)

Aldner got up early and prepared for the drive by first packing the storage compartments of the BirdDog with lots of rations and survival equipment that could sustain him for many months in case he gets stranded. Not that this is expected to be needed on this mission, but standard mission rules for the BirdDog require this preparation. If he ever DOES get stranded on another island, the only way to rescue him at the moment is to use the SSTO rocket, boosting to orbit...refueling...then going down to get Aldner and coming back up. This would probably mean cutting the whole mission short for some or all of the crew. Since nobody wants this to happen, precautions are being taken...including this workout of the BirdDog on Dansen Island. Below we see Aldner driving east out of the base area.

The first thing he comes across is a girder segment. Left behind by aliens!! Well, yes, but Aldner is one of those aliens. This must be a piece that survived the crash of the heat shield that was dropped by the incoming Base/Rover stack.

As he climbs the slope of the ridge line to the east, Aldner comes upon a rock. There is no ground scatter in the lowlands by the Base, so this is the first rock found by the crew. Aldner gets out and chips off a sample and hugs it and calls it George. One of the things mission rules allow is that the kerbalnauts are allowed to name features of the landscape, and Aldner is letting everyone know he was awake when that rule was explained.

Aldner continues up the slope of the ridge line. One of the things I tried to do with the original Fido Pup rover probe on Laythe was get up over this ridge so that the Fido Pup could visit on of the inland lakes...but all I managed to do was waste half of its RCS fuel and never made it to the top (and this was back in the versions when RCS was powerful stuff). In order to make it up this slope with the BirdDog, Aldner had to switchback a couple times, taking the slope at an angle (not straight on). But the BirdDog was able to top the rise (at an elevation over 1,150 meters), and made it into the valley on the other side of the ridge.

When heading down the other side of the ridge into the valley, Aldner had to apply brakes to keep the BirdDog at around 20 m/s (although a couple time it got as fast as 30 m/s, but that was the absolute maximum speed allowed by mission rules). There were several fields of rocks on this side of the ridge, but one caught Aldner's attention: One of the mysterious rumored "floating rocks." It was too high to get a sample, but Aldner got out for some photos, and named the rock Feather.

There were a couple patches of rough ground on the way down to the lake in the bottom of the valley, but for the most part the drive was not difficult. There was a nice flat area by the lakeshore, and Aldner got out to collect samples and do a little wading in the water.

Aldner: "Yo, Cap'n Thomples! Are you monitoring the channel?"
Thomples: "Like a hawk. What do you need, Aldner?"
Aldner: "Please be so kind as to log that I have named this beautiful body of water Lake Joysina."
Thombles: "Joysina? You mean that cute kerbalette from the Satellite Pub in KSCtown?"
Aldner: "Oh yeah."
Thompbles: "Well...OK. I'll radio it in."
Aldner: "Thank you. Homecoming is going to be a sweet rendezvous."
Thompbles: "Ah huh. Laythe Base out."

Below is a view (from SPAAAACE) looking southeast along the valley containing Lake Joysina. Laythe Base if out of this view in the lower-right. Aldner's objective, assuming all goes well, is to try to navigate across this terrain to the bay visible in the distance. That bay is located at 4-degrees South latitude, which puts it fifty-something km away from Laythe Base, as the crow flies...Assuming kerbals know about crows. Aldner climbs back aboard and herds the BirdDog around the West side of the lake.

Aldner points the BirdDog slightly upslope so that he's gaining about 1 meter of altitude every few seconds. As long as he's not sliding down the slope, he's happy. (This is a situation where you can't use time warp, or the rover is likely to just go sliding downhill.)

Thomples: "Laythe Base to BirdDog. Aldner, you copy?"
Aldner: "Yes, Governor Thompbles, Sir! What Can I do for you?"
Thombles: "The mission controllers point out that they were really thinking in terms of famous kerbals when it came to naming things...scientists, kerbalnauts, politicians who support the space program, that sort of thing. They ask if you'd like to reconsider the name of the lake."
Aldner: "No can do, Fearless Leader. That which is named stays named. Fact of nature. I read the rules...the only names excluded were obscene words and commercial products, much to the sadness of the Koca Kola people who talked to me, I can tell you that."
Thompbles: "Hmm. OK, Aldner. But be aware that Mission Control has changed the rules. From now on, only famous kerbals."
Aldner: "Roger, Commander. Mission already accomplished. No problems."
Thompbles: "Yes. Laythe Base out."

Rather than drive down into the next little valley containing a tiny lake, Aldner stuck to the high ground. But he did take the rover close enough to the edge so that he could look down the steep slope and get a look at the little lake.

Aldner: "You awake, Laythe Base?"
Thomples: "Yes, Aldner. What's up?"
Aldner: "Please log that I have named this little lake Wernher von Puddle."
Thombles: "Um. After the head mission controller?"
Aldner: "Aye. Very famous scientist, him."
Thompbles: "A little bored today are we, Aldner?"

After a while, Aldner noticed that the BirdDog was handling a bit funny, and had a tendency to turn that wasn't there before. At first he thought it was the slope he was on, but it continued later after the ground leveled out. He climbed out and checked the wheels... sure enough, one of them was blown. He hadn't even noticed when it happened...perhaps a ways back when he had come down a slope a bit too fast and hit some sharp terrain changes. But fixing the wheel was easy. "This is why we need to send kerbals and not probes into space!"

Thomples: "Laythe Base to BirdDog. Aldner?"
Aldner: "I read you loud and clear, CAPCOM."
Thombles: "Mission Control points out that you do not actually get to name that last lake because you only saw it from a distance and did not actually go there. Mission Control also points out that you should stop being a smart ass."
Aldner: "Roger, understood. Say, do you remember that poll of school children the PR department did a few months ago asking them who the most famous kerbalnauts were?"
Thompbles: "Umm. Vaguely. What about it?"
Aldner: "Could you get on the horn and find out what the results of that poll were? Ooops, gotta go... bumps ahead. BirdDog out."

Aldner brings the BirdDog down out of the hills into the bay area. The narrow strip of land between the bay and a lake on the side appeals to Aldner, so he drives the BirdDog along that sand ridge to the South shore of the bay.

He passes over a strange terrain feature and goes back to check it out. Mysterious, but as long as it causes no damage to the wheels, he's fine with it.

Aldner parks the plane/rover and wades into the chilly water of the bay for some samples.

Thomples: "Laythe Base to BirdDog. Alder, you copy?"
Aldner: "Always at your service, O Captain, my Captain!"
Thombles: "The PR department says they sent the results of that poll to us over a month ago."
Aldner: "Oh, I'm sure they did. But who can read all their email on a boring interplanetary cruise?"
Thompbles: "Hm. Yes. And they point out the fact that this poll was taken during a period when our current mission was being hyped heavily in the news...so it's not a surprise that our own crew featured high on the list."
Aldner: "I can see that. And the winner was?"
Thomples: "That would be you, Aldner."
Aldner: "Well bless those little kiddies' hearts. Please log the name of this body of water I'm standing in as Aldner Bay."

Below is an overview of the Aldner Bay area. It looks like a pretty good area to set up a base. But not as good as the Laythe Base area, methinks.

Aldner spent the rest of the day driving around the bay area, scouting out good landing sites, taking soil samples, and eyeing areas for possible commercial development. Near the end of the day he drove out onto the long peninsula that juts out into the bay. He'll spend the night camping there, and then use it as an airstrip the next day for his quick return to Laythe Base by air. The BirdDog has probably proven its worth as a rover on Laythe.

While Aldner was off exploring the the Southeast, Kurt and Nelemy were taking the Folding Fido on a more rigorous trial toward the North and West. The rover has two single-kerbal capsules facing opposite directions, so either kerbal can drive the rover while the other sees where they've been. Not that you can see out of those capsules very well...they probably have video screens to see outside. Yeah...that would work.

But before their main event, the boys take the Folding Fido a kilometer south to visit the old Fido Pup rover probe parked near the shore. It looks to be in surprisingly good condition considering it's been sitting there for almost 15 years. Below, comparison views of the old and new rover technology.

Then they took a 5.5 km detour south to see the remains of the Carrier vehicle that set the Fido Pup down onto the surface of Laythe, then was boosted off the Fido Pup with a short engine burn that hopped it up and over where it crashed back down.

Nelemy: "Dude, get a load of that ancient technology! LV-T45 engines! FL-T200 tanks! A STEADLER Engineering ASAS unit!"
Kurt: "We still use all that same stuff."
Nelemy: "Yeah... Weird, isn't it?"

But enough dillydallying around. The got a later start, and they've been messing around near the base... let's get to the serious testing! So the boys bring the Fido back through the base area (and wave to Thompbles as they go by), and head for the hills. The hills to the North, that is. Bigger that the stuff Aldner went over.

The grade is steep enough that even with eight powered rover wheels, the Fido needs to head along the steeper parts of the slope at an angle to make headway. But it handles very well...except that the hinges make this rover considerably weaker than its non-folding cousins (like I used on Eve and Duna). And high physical time warp is right out, because the mysterious extra time warp weight would smash the rover to the ground. Not that you would want to be doing time warp on a slope like this in any case...your rover would just slide down hill.

On the top of the mountain at 2359 meters. Not the tallest mountain on the island, but a good size peak to test out the Fido.

Kurt: "Fido to Base. Come in Base."
Thompbles: "Base here, Fido. Are you guys on the top of the mountain?"
Nelemy: "Yeah! Hey, Thompbles!...I can see your house from here!"

The trip down the backside of the mountain was...scary. After one of the game saves, the structure of the Folding Fido rover was ragged. The hinges were a bit off kilter and not connected at quite the right angles. The sides of the rovers had a small angle to them that made the rover somewhat "duck footed" (or pigeon-toed, if it's going the other way), and the hinges seemed looser and sloppier than before. Or maybe it just seemed that way because of the difficult driving conditions of the steep descent. But right away I ran into problems where the sides of the rover would skew out suddenly and try to make the rover turn sharply and dig its wheels in and start to tip. Thank Jool for the stabilizing force of the ASAS unit, or these boys would have been tumbling down the hill is a cloud of debris. So I had to drive very slowly, and I had to be vigilant about correcting the sudden turns before they got large. It turned out to be easier to drive it in the "pigeon toed" direction than the "duck footed" direction. And things got easier once the slope leveled off more.

But I think the moral of the story is that while a folding rover is cool, it would be much safer for your kerbals if you send them off to work in a rigid rover. I guess I'll put that on the wish list of stuff for the KSC to send out to Jool in the next shipment. In the meantime, Kurt and Nelemy are just going to have to poke along at a slow but safer speed. Of course, if the game allowed the kerbals to add struts to ships during EVAs, the rover's frame could be strengthened after deployment.

Below, Nelemy and Kurt stop at a more impressive-sized rock than the one Aldner sampled. They had also heard about the floating rock he found, so they were on the lookout for some...but they didn't spot any.

The boys made it safely down into "The Valley of the Three Lakes" as Aldner called it while flying over it before.

Nelemy: "Hey, Kurt. Did you hear on the radio? Aldner named a bay after himself!"
Kurt: "Well, everybody should have something nice."
Nelemy: "I'm claiming this one! Yo, Thompbles! I'm naming this Lake Nelemy. Make it official."
Thompbles: "Roger, Fido. I copy the name: Lake Nelemy."
Kurt: "Congratulations."
Nelemy: "Oh, hey! Don't wory...you can have the next one."
Kurt: "Well good, because it's the biggest one of the bunch."
Nelemy: "Whoa...it is?"
Kurt: "Did you even LOOK at the maps?"

The ridge separating Lake Nelemy from Kurt Lake (Kurt preferred "Kurt Lake" to "Lake Kurt") was a fairly high strip of land with steep sides, but they were able to drive along the top easily enough.

A while after crossing the land bridge, the Fido suddenly ground to a halt with no battery charge left. Huh? A look overhead showed that Kerbol was being eclipsed by Tylo, blocking the light. I still get excited when I see an eclipse in KSP, but I assume these guys who grew up on a planet with a zero inclination orbit and a moon with a zero inclination orbit find these things to be ho-hum. Kurt suggested they get out and gather some samples while waiting for the batteries to recharge. Below: after the eclipse.

The third lake had some nice flat beach-front property around it, so the boys decided to knock off early and set up camp on a little peninsula in the southeast corner of the lake.

Nelemy: "Fido to Base. Yo, Thompbles, are you still awake?"
Thompbles: "I'm here, Nelemy. What's up? Are you guys turning in now?"
Nelemy: "We have a present for you, Dude. Check your email inbox."
Thompbles: "OK, I get to that in a bit."
Nelemy: "Cool, no problem. Be sure to log the name. Night, Thompbles. Fido out."

The next morning, Kurt and Nelemy continue west and find that the area west of Lake Thompbles would be a pretty good area to set up a base. Larger than the Fido Bay site, but not as flat. Further west they came to another lake, and Nelemy insisted it was Kurt's turn to name one, so he chose Likeaglove Lake, which slightly puzzled Mission Control, but they did not object. Further west they reached the coast at the location of a nice little bay that Nelemy named Gusden Bay after the first kerbal to land on the Mün. Mission control happily approved.

Kurt and Nelemy will be continuing this journey, probably heading north and driving all the way around the island on an initial geological survey, but I think we can leave them to it at this point.

Meanwhile, down south, Aldner has ended his rover validation journey and lowers the nose gear to turn the BirdDog back into a plane. He fires up the jet engine and heads down the peninsula, quickly taking to the air.

He flys out of the Aldner Bay area, and in just a few minutes he's on final approach to the Fido Bay site, and sets the BirdDog down on the sand. "Man, flying sure beats the hell out of driving!"

Aldner used 12 liters of fuel flying back to base, so he makes a quick stop at the GasSation to top off the BirdDog's tanks. Happily, the plane still fits under the refueling boom.

And that's it for this report. Have a nice reference map: