I've been seeing more YouTube videos about rovers, and so I decided to try out some of these ideas on an even more compact Fido... Fido Mini. I wanted to try out using ion engines for propelling the Fido, since RCS is not nearly as long-lasting as it was when I made my first Fidos. And I wanted to try out Stompthompson's method of refueling. Rather than a horizontal 'ground docking', which I was a bit leery of after tests on Kerbin (but which I think might not have troubles after all based on my recently docking of moonbase segments), he used a vertical arrangement where the rover drives under the docking port and then jumps up on its thrusters to dock. Below is the Fido Mini 1 lifting off. And if the program really cared about aerodynamic drag, I'd fold up the landing gear wheels for launch.
This picture gives a better look at the Fido Mini. Because it's more compact, I don'r fire the engines down through holes in its frame like the previous Fidos...I have the engines spaced wide out to the sides. Note the cube probe body hung on the side of the upper stage with struts. This is a right-side-up probe body that controls the flight until the Fido and carrier separate (since their probe bodies are upside-down and make things really hard to fly).
The upper stage pushes the Fido Carrier off to Minmus. It had a little fuel left (but not enough for braking into Minmus orbit), so after trans-Minmus-injection, I separated it from the carrier and shift its orbit a little for an impact on Minmus (since I'm sure the seismographs on the Minmus Moonbase appreciate the data gathered). I do have seismographs on the moonbase, right?
I put the carrier down over 2 km from the Minmus Moonbase so that it would not add to the lag problem there.
I dropped the Fido Mini onto the surface, and drove it on over to the moonbase area for the comparison picture of it next to the original Fido and Fido Pup. The lag at the base was terrible. OK, I'll have to do something about that soon.
The Fido Mini comes equipped with two ladders (that look like nice equipment covers on top) for kerbals to ride on. Here we see Cammon Kerman (from the Fido K crew) trying it out. If the kerbal slides down the ladder, he will come to a stop up against the high-intensity light. Kerbals must board the ladder using their rocket packs, which is easy on Minmus.
I sent Fido Mini up Near Cheek of The Big Butt to test its climbing ability. The ion engine was useless on this slope, and I had to push it with RCS thrusters. It was not easy going since I did not add as many forward/backward RCS thrusters because I was expecting the ion engine to do a lot of the work. But even with the dozen RTGs on the Fido Mini, I could only run the ion engine continuously at 80% thrust. I had tried using solar panels for power in my initial tests on Kerbin, but they kept mysteriously breaking off while I drove around, so I went with all-RTG power instead. But it did make this Fido rather heavy for its size. The Mini made the trip up and down with no problem. Also, while you can use the RCS thrusters to turn the Fido Mini rather quickly (Q and E roll keys), if the RCS is turned off the probe body has enough torque to very slowly turn the Fido. I don't know if I ever tried that with my previous Fidos, or if they were too heavy to respond.
After the trip down from Near Cheek, I wanted to see what the ion engines could do flat out (well, 80% flat out) on the flats. In the map picture below, you can see the moonbase area on the left, the Fido Mini Carrier landing site a little ways to the right, and the Fido Mini (hard to see, so I marked it with an arrow) after its run. With continuous push by the ion engine, it only made it up to 40 m/s after the run (which took maybe 15 minutes), and then the Fido was approaching some slight bumpiness in the terrain, so I had to stop it. Bakes worked fine, if applied in short bursts at high speeds. The Fido does tend to veer a little to the left under power or braking...probably because of the asymmetry in the way the landing gear has to be arranged on the two sides (sometimes facing forward, sometimes backward). So, again, I was not impressed with the ion engine. The RCS thrusters ran it up to 60 m/s in just a few minutes for the trip back (don't go over 60 m/s...unless yo have your F5 handy). I would not cruise more than 30 m/s, and keep it not much over 10 m/s on other terrain. And no sharp turns! But, like the previous Fidos, once you get it up to speed, it rolls with no noticeable friction on and on and on.
But now the unfortunate news: The vertical jump docking runs into Really Weird Physics issues. You can see in the picture below that there is a small gap between the docking ports on the Fido Mini and the Carrier. Drive under, and the magnetic effect can grab it up even without a jump sometimes. But after the docking, weirdness happens, and the Carrier starts to rotate up off its legs. (You did remember to F5 before trying this, right?) And this is not a normal rotation that you can fight with the RCS thrusters, which seem ineffective (even if you sit there firing downward before the docking). And trying to lift off and stabilize won't work, either.
I could temporarily freeze the weird action with the SAS (below you see it happily sitting at an untenable angle with the SAS holding it), but when you release SAS, it continues its weird twist -- even if it had only twisted a little before you froze it with SAS...it does not plop back down as it should when released...it keeps up its original weird twist. Anyway, I eventually learned to combat the Weird Physics by doing this (first do F5): Roll the Fido in slowly for docking and let the magnets grab it (or, if the just center it, do a RCS jump up). Then, the instant after the docking occurs, press Escape and go to Kerbal Space Center. This is the standard cure for stopping weird behavior of a ship. If you do this fast enough, you can come back via the Tracking Station, and the ship will settle down nicely. If you wait too long (and the ship gets airborne) you won't be able to switch to KSC. I also got weirdness sometimes when undocking the Fido Mini: the magnets will grab it and refuse to release, hold it at a weird angle with Weird Physics that can't be undone. F5 is your friend here. But you should thrust forward with RCS as soon as possible after undocking to minimize the chance of this happening.
Being somewhat unsatisfied with the Fido Mini 1, I made some quick changes (removed the ion engines, got rid of all but two of the RTGs, added more RCS thrusters and RCS tanks, and increased the distance of the gap between the docking ports when the Fido Mini is on the ground), and sent off Fido Mini 2 for testing on Minmus.
In the picture below you get a good view of the bottom of the Fido Mini 2. There are two more RCS tanks on top, for a total of six.
Below I'm setting it down in the Fido Mini parking area about 2.5 km from moonbase, and its landing lights spotlight the Fido Mini 1.
Below we see the Fido Mini 2 rolling out of the garage. I immediately sent it back in for some docking tests: Alas, there is still the possibility of Weird Physics. Be ready with the solutions mentioned above. Also, because the Fido Mini 2 lacks the ion engines and ten RTGs, it is quite a bit lighter than the Fido Mini 1, and the docking magnets can grab it and lift it up easier than the Fido Mini 1 Carrier could, despite the larger gap. I guess an even larger gap is called for.
But, I can make it work. Here is the Fido Mini 2 with ladders deployed, ready for service.
To combat the lagginess at the moonbase, I finally moved the three moonbase segment carriers out to a parking area about 4 km southwest of the moonbase.
I also noticed that Gergan Kerman and Cammon Kerman had been on Minmus for a loooooong time (while I was busy doing long explorations of the Joolian system). These guys need to go home (and that would also let me get their Retriever ship out of the moonbase camp). So I got Deke Kerman to assign a couple replacement crews to man the new moonbase and relieve Gergan and Cammon. So up came Bobgan Kerman, Ludger Kerman, and Aldner Kerman in a kerballed variation of the unkerballed Retriever 1. The kerbal Press was commenting that this may have been a backwater assignment by mission controllers to get Aldner out of the way, but this was denied.
Below we see the Moon Lander 1 braking into Minmus orbit. The Press also criticized KSC for using such a powerful lander for a Minmus mission, but KSC officials said it what they had on hand that was kerbal-rated (it's overpowered because it's meant for use of the Mün or Minmus...either moon). Besides, they said...it could be used to do exploration around Minmus and still have plenty of fuel to bring the crew home in the end.
Moon Lander 1 is set down in a new parking area over two kilometers south of moonbase to keep it out of the lag zones of moonbase, the Fido Mini parking area, and the Moonbase Carrier parking area.
And hot on the heels of Moon Lander 1 comes Moon Lander 2 carrying Thompbles Kerman, Corfrey Kerman, and Nelemy Kerman.
Here we see Moon Lander 2 in Minmus orbit, and you can see the locations of the various landing sites by the markers on the surface below (Minmus Moonbase site is the top-left one). Two of the side tanks on the Moon Lander are used to get the ship to Minmus and into Minmus orbit. They have some fuel left to start the descent burn, and then they will be jettisoned (which is why the Moon Lander parking area is positioned to be clear off to the east and west since that's where the tanks will fall.
Below we see Moon Lander 2 has arrived with its crew. And along comes the friendly Fido Mini 2 to offer a ride to the Moonbase. Sure, 2.5 km is no biggie for a kerbal to fly on Minmus with his rocket pack, but I thought this might be less tedious that flying six guys over individually.
So the boys pile on board and off they go! Kerbals may have no mass inside spacecraft, but they seem to have noticeable mass on these ladders (and affect the driving).
Anybody here order a load of kerbals? Most of the guys slid down a little during the ride, but one guy actually slid up and came off the top of the ladder and fell onto the top of the rover. We stopped to get him back on the ladder so he wouldn't be embarrassed rolling into camp that way, and we won't even mention who it was *cough*bobgan*cough*.
The boys pile off the bus and stop for a group photo.
Gergan and Cammon join the group for another picture in front of Minmus Moonbase. Then they had over the keys to the moonbase to Thompbles, the new Moonbase Commander, and the keys to the Fido K to Nelemy.
And then Gergan and Cammon hop in the Retriever 1 and blow this pop stand, heading home and reducing lag.
Because they haven't been able to fly in a long time, and because the Retriever has boatloads of fuel, they decided to be fancy pilots and did an aerobraking in Kerbin's atmosphere (to save fuel) and do a powered landing at KSC. This was an older model ship with no fancy-pants computer systems, and the guys were a bit out of practice, so they did end up landing short of their target.
We see them setting the ship down 26.4 km from the launch pad at KSC. They both look quite calm about the landing... but they could punch out the chutes at any time if needed. But they wanted to give an intact lander to the KSC boys for recycling and re-use.
Post-landing publicity photo. They look to be slouching a lot in the heavy gravity of Kerbin after such a long stint on Minmus.
MORE WEIRD PHYSICS: Just as I was getting Gergan and Cammon ready to lift off from Minmus for the trip home (and I just come back via the Tracking Station), the original Fido carrier ship, which as been happily sitting there on its landing gear for years and years, suddenly sprang into the sky. WTF?? It fell back down, slowly tumbling, and bounced a bit and settled on its side. Weird. Anyway, I had just done an F5 after loading up Gergan and Cammon in the ship, so I did a reset to put the Fido Carrier back.....and it hopped up again. Weird. I did this several times until I got tired of the weirdness (I don't like my Physics to be Weird). Then I did a reset, and when the Carrier jumped, I immediately Escaped and came back via the Tracking Station. The Carrier was still flying upward, but it was no longer rotating, so it settled back onto its legs with some small bounces. And it appears to have gone back to sleep. Weird.
It turned out that Aldner decided to take mission controllers at their word, so the next morning he zipped off to one of the Moon Landers to do a little exploring. He *did* get permission from Thompbles...and they both decided not to mention it to Ludger, who is always concerned about using fuel unnecessarily. But Aldner had heard rumors about a mysterious muon source that had been detected, apparently floating over a spot on Minmus's surface, so he was keen to check it out.
So he hops into Moon Lander 1 and blasts it off to the east-northeast toward the reported coordinates.
He set the ship down with some computer guidance on a nondescript hillside at coordinates 23.79N 60.06E .
But the mysterious muon source was reported to be several kilometers ABOVE the surface, so he got out of the ship, activated his rocket pack, and began ascending while looking all around.
At an altitude of about 12,000 meters, he saw a black object zip past off to the side. Ah...no wonder it couldn't be seen against the black of the sky. But now that he spotted the black speck against the white of Minmus's surface, he slowly allowed himself to drop and move toward it. He came level with it at about 11,500 meters (6,750 above the surface). It was one of those mysterious monoliths.
Aldner flew around it a few times to get a good look at it...and flew THROUGH it, since it apparently was not solid.
Black on black. Hard to see unless you can get at just the right angle for the light to reflect off of it nicely.
Aldner settled back down to the surface with 22% of his backpack fuel remaining. Here is the map view of his location.
I got another view of the monolith by looking straight down at Aldner's location on the surface and very slowly scrolling back for a wider and wider view. Eventually I saw the black monolith streak past, and then carefully scrolled down agin to get a view of it (picture below ...Aldner and his ship are too tiny to be visible right in the center of this picture).
Aldner hopped back into the lander and boosted it back to its original landing site. Then the bad-ass uploaded his photos to the wire services and took a nap.