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When I land on celestial body without atmosphere, I can't count on drag to nullify my horizontal velocity. So I need to use translation RCS for the final 3-5 m/s I can't nullify with manoeuvres. But I often get confused.

What can I do to make sure than when I press "translate left" key, my ship will really translate to the left of my screen? Is there any key shortcut to do position camera "the right way"? Or any MechJeb functionality?

2 Answers 2

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You could try using the Chase camera mode:

The chase camera view is relative to the craft itself and rotates along with it as its attitude changes; it may also be repositioned manually. "Up" for the chase cam is based on the orientation of the part the craft is currently being controlled from (usually the command module). This view can make docking much easier to perform without switching to docking controls.

Even with this, I think it would be better to learn to direct yourself using the navball, using the velocity indicators to see which direction you need to move to: find your retrograde marker and use RCS or thrust until it is pointing directly up. You can use RCS in the direction where the marker is in relation to the vertical: If retrograde is left of the vertical, use the left RCS (j), if it is below, use the down RCS (k)...

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  • I think you're wrong on the direction to thrust. Try and visualize what would happen (or even test it yourself) when using the thrusting pattern you suggest.
    – MBraedley
    Jan 22, 2014 at 13:36
  • Yeah, you're right, I mixed them up. I'll fix this right now
    – Jupotter
    Jan 22, 2014 at 17:31
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Eyes on the ball!

This is one of the most important aspects of any kind of flight. Don't pay attention to what your ship is doing, pay attention to what your nav-ball is doing. While you may be inclined to use RCS for stopping horizontal motion, I find that it's sub-optimal at best. The available acceleration is often too low for any amount of horizontal motion that would pose a danger during landing. If you do want to use RCS for landing, you can (and should) still use the nav-ball, remembering that the controls are basically reversed: you want to thrust towards the retrograde marker, not in the direction that you want the marker to move like you would for the prograde marker during docking.

Instead of using RCS, use your main engine(s) to push your retrograde marker onto the zenith point (straight up) when starting your final descent. This should typically be about 100m-500m above the surface, although very skilled players will do this lower. Once there, your only job is to keep it there while you reduce your vertical velocity in accordance with your current altitude. Make corrections by looking at the nav-ball, not at your ship. The only reason to look at your ship is to judge your actual altitude, not to judge its attitude.

As far as using MechJeb, yes there are tools to make landing easier. Obviously there is the auto-lander. This is more than a bit cheap, though. Another option is to use the Translatron. In the keep vertical speed mode, you can set it to kill your horizontal speed while also keeping a specified vertical speed (for instance, a hover or slow, 1m/s decent). Other options with MechJeb, as well as some other plugins like Kerbal Engineer, is to display the current surface horizontal and vertical velocity. When landing, pay attention to the horizontal velocity and make sure it doesn't become too large.

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  • Using main engines to kill 3m/s of horizontal motion? Too much play when my RCS can do it in fractions of second (pretty literally). Without RCS balancer just turning my ship sideways would translate me more! Autolander is not available in career mode for me yet, just restarted it to play with Interstellar. Translatron should be possible, thanks. Anyway, my question was not "how to land", that I can do already. It was about making game a bit more enjoyable with consistent display.
    – Mołot
    Jan 22, 2014 at 7:48
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    @Mołot: I don't use RCS at all when landing. I came to realize that it's not very effective very early on. That's why every lander I make has a gimballing engine. That, plus the torque from the command module allows me to rotate fast enough to correct my trajectory. I don't even fit RCS to ships I'm not planning on docking (unless they're huge). Also, you shouldn't worry about introducing translations while rotating. All the linear forces should cancel out, but as I say, I don't use RCS when landing.
    – MBraedley
    Jan 22, 2014 at 12:11
  • Most of my landers needs to go back to orbit and dock to the return rocket, Apollo style. So they have RCS anyway. I was able to dock on main engines only, without RCS, when I needed, but for corrections under 5m/s I find using main engine suboptimal. Probably it's only a matter of personal taste.
    – Mołot
    Jan 22, 2014 at 12:24
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    And it's fine to have to have RCS on your lander for that purpose, but let's take a look at real life. The Apollo lander could only reasonably perform translation after lifting off from the moon. The decent stage would cause the centre of mass to be far from the centre of thrust of the RCS thrusters. Now skilled pilots could manage this and apply rotational control to balance the forces, but that's wasteful, as it would require firing four thrusters instead of just 2. Instead, they used the procedure I mentioned to transition to a vertical trajectory at a couple hundred feet up.
    – MBraedley
    Jan 22, 2014 at 14:14

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