I've now done six or seven trips to the Mun in variations of my standard lander from my last post. I'm pretty much running out of places to explore, though I'm finding the wiki slightly incorrect in all the biomes that it claims (for instance, I put a lander in the Twin Craters but the game indicated I was in the Midlands). Sooner or later, I'll go for some of the more esoteric, harder-to-land-on locations like the polar regions and the two canyons but I haven't done that yet.
I also entertained myself with a couple of really ridiculous lander-rovers...
...and those had some brief entertainment value, but even on Minmus, I found that you can't really drive from one biome to the next biome over in any kind of reasonable amount of time. That makes rovers in general entertaining for a few minutes but with no long-term playability that I've been able to find to date. KSP doesn't exactly have a button for "OK, Kerbals, you have six good wheels, plenty of sunshine, and good batteries. Drive until sundown. Call me when you get bored." ;-) So overall, I have to consider the Science I spent on the rover parts kind of wasted, unfortunately.
But from a sandboxy kind of aspect, I'm still having a ton of fun with KSP (as the goofy rover no doubt shows).
So with the local neighborhood more or less thoroughly scouted, I've now turned my attention to Eve (hee!) and Duna. To that end, I rebuilt my Mun mission lifter into something that could launch some long-range probes which I called the Pathfinder series. And I've had pretty good success with them! I successfully soft-landed three probes on Eve, including some rather spectacular aerobraking manuevers to bleed velocity and get into the orbits I wanted...
The first Pathfinder splashed down in an Eve ocean, the second landed on a flat at near sea level, and I was able to pretty precisely put the third on one of Eve's mountains. Still, not anything that I think I'm going to challenge myself with trying to put Kerbals on quite yet. Despite three successful hits, those transfer orbits to Eve are a freakin' nightmare. I again got that absurd sense of accomplishment from successfully doing something nasty-hard in this game. ;-)
Pathfinder 4 went to Duna...
...and I had a fun time designing my landing strategy there. After exhausting my final boost stage in getting a good Duna orbit, I then used my final upper probe stage engine to start a deorbit and descent to Duna. At that point, I treated the Duna landing as if I were landing on a planet with no atmosphere at all, using the final engine to bleed off horizontal surface speed as the probe descended. I ended up at a little under 3000m high and 100m/s of vertical velocity left at which point I cut the final engine loose, put out landing legs, and deployed three parachutes. The Duna atmosphere was just enough to let them put the probe down for a soft landing. It's definitely a strategy I can see working for a small lander at some point and I didn't have nearly the trouble with the Duna transfer orbit that I did with the Eve one.
Finally, my plan for "Kerbaled" planetary exploration centers on launching the missions from an orbital station, so I've started building one:
That's most of my main spinal structures, from bottom to top:
- a service module with lots of batteries, monoprop tanks, and two 200-series liquid fuel tanks;
- a science module with two large solar arrays;
- a "Unity" six-way docking module which I festooned with lights for fun;
- a "hitchhiker" crew cabin; and,
- my more or less standard delivery vehicle which had just delivered that last piece.
I begin to understand why some rocket scientist somewhere forgot to convert feet to meters... ;-)
All in all, I guess you'll gather I'm having a good time with this... Still two thumbs way up from me!