Kerbal Space Program has recently taught me two things:
- Getting to Minmus is tough.
- Even with MechJeb to help me out, I still need to know what I’m doing.
Having successfully used MechJeb to set an un-Kerballed lander on the surface of Mun, I proceeded to send a lander to Minmus.
After establishing a circular orbit around Kerbin, I set Minmus as the target, and told MechJeb to rendezvous with the target. It set up a maneuver, sending my ship out to Minmus orbit, but there was no encounter.
I remembered that Minmus orbits Kerbin at an incline. So, I told MechJeb to match planes with the target. That did it. I had an encounter.
I got within visual range of Minmus. I told MechJeb to set up a circular orbit. Nothing happened. The ship had plenty of fuel, but no maneuverability.
I had forgotten to open the solar panels. The batteries were dead. The ship was adrift, about to zoom past Minmus and out into space.
I terminated the flight and started from the beginning, with the same ship design.
The first three attempts to maneuver with Minmus resulted in unfavorable encounters with Mun. I waited in Kerbin orbit, until it seemed like Mun should be out of the way.
I don’t know what happened next. I just could not get a maneuver to encounter Minmus. I tried inclining the orbit before going out to Minums, and I tried it afterwards. I tried maneuvers at all sorts of places along the journey. I lost count of how many times I failed to reach Minmus. Even with MechJeb, it seemed that my goal remained out of reach. (This is, of course, ignoring the fact that I’d done it once before.)
Then I had an idea. Would it be easier to reach Minmus from Mun? It’s a shorter distance, after all.
I set my lander in a circular orbit around Mun. MechJeb told me it couldn’t rendezvous with Minmus because the maneuver had to be within the same sphere of influence. Rather than terminating the flight, I had MechJeb land the second lander on Mun, in the middle of some large craters.
I started again, with a different design. I just felt like building a new ship. In addition to the extendable solar panels, I added permanent solar panels all around the sides of the lander – just in case I forget to extend the panels again.
MechJeb continued to fail to reach Minmus.
This morning, I tried one more time. Mechjeb executed a maneuver which would sent the ship out to Minmus orbit, but much too low. I was wondered where I should try the next MechJeb maneuver when the thought came to me, “I know how to do this. I don’t need MechJeb.”
I set a maneuver node manually, a little before the periapsis. I had the encounter with Minmus. I fired the engines manually, at the right time.
When the time came, I manually set an orbit around Minmus.
Man and machine, working together, got my ship to Minmus.
I had MechJeb circularize the orbit. Then I had it reduce the orbit to 100 kilometers, then 60 km, then 20 km. I did a quicksave before each orbital change, just in case something went wrong.
With the lander orbiting at 20 kilometers, I considered attempting a manual landing. Everyone says a Minmus landing is a lot easier than a Mun landing. But I’d come so far, and put so much work into it, that I let MechJeb do the landing.
What’s next? Perhaps landing a Kerbal on Mun, and bringing him back safely.