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Piloting the lander is similar to flying other types of ships (the default controls can be changed in keys.cfg):
- Use Left and Right to rotate the lander counterclockwise and clockwise respectively.
- Use Up to go forward. Unlike space-faring vehicles, the lander stops moving forward as soon as you let go of the thrust key.
- Use Right Shift to fire the blaster. Use this to shoot life forms, but make sure you don't shoot valuable mineral deposits.
- Use Escape to return to the ship if the lander's storage is full or you're in trouble.
Deciding whether to land or not
What's to gain
You might want to land on a planet if it has lots of good minerals or other interesting stuff on the surface. Run an Auto Scan (Mineral, Bio, and Energy Scans one after another) to check.
- Check the "Cargo" menu option to remind yourself which colors of mineral are most valuable. You get more Resource Units per part from mineral types near the bottom of the list, like Radioactives and Exotics.
- There's more to planets than just minerals. Life forms (revealed with a Bio Scan) often provide valuable data. Use the lander's blaster to stun the animal (it may take a few hits) and pick up any capsules it drops. Keep an eye on the blue "DAT" meter on the right, though -- like minerals, your lander can only hold so much information at once.
- Occasionally, you will find an energy signature on a planet. You should check it out.
There are a number of bad things that can happen to your lander and its crew when on a planet. When deciding to land or not, keep these factors in mind:
- Atmospheric rating: Higher numbers mean there are more lightning storms. Try for under 3.
- Seismic rating: Higher numbers mean there are more earthquakes. Try for under 6.
- Temperature: The brighter the star and the closer the planet is to the star, the hotter the planet will be. If the temperature is too high, there will be dangerous fire storms on the surface. It is never too cold to land safely, but the types of minerals won't be as good on colder planets. Try for under 300-400.
- Life forms: Some life forms will attack your lander.
- Fuel usage: It takes some fuel to land and lift off from a planet. The bigger the planet is, the higher the surface gravity, and the larger the fuel cost. How much exactly is shown when you select a place for your lander to set down. You can still abort at that time. The amount of fuel used is 2.0 times the surface gravity, though never more than 3.0 units. Make sure it's worth it and remember to keep enough reserve to return to Sol.
- Distance to Sol: Carrying back the gathered minerals to the Star Base costs fuel and time. Better make sure it's worth it. If you're far away from home, you should not spend your valuable cargo space on common minerals.
Tips for surviving semi-dangerous planets
- Keep a finger on the escape button. If you are running low on crew or get into trouble, return to the ship before your lander gets destroyed. All minerals and data you had on your lander will be destroyed along with it.
- It is wise to carry more than one lander at a time, in case one gets destroyed. This is especially important early in the game so you don't have to interrupt your scavenging session and use valuable fuel flying back to Sol to get a new lander.
- Don't risk landing on very dangerous planets. Getting rare minerals is useless if your lander gets destroyed before you make it back to the ship. A capable pilot can maneuvre around some obstacles, but an experienced pilot knows when it is best to give up and come back later. Make a note of the planet's hyperspace coordinates and the planet/moon number; you can come back when you're better prepared.
- If a dangerous planet has large pockets of exotics and a low gravity, it may be worth hopping down to pick up just one deposit, and taking off again immediately.
- If your lander's mineral storage (the red bar on the left) is nearly full, return to the ship and come back for another load instead of trying to cram in that last bit. If you try to pick up more minerals than you have room for, the extra minerals will be lost forever. The same is also true for data (the blue bar).
- Remember that while your ship can hold much more than a lander can (as long as your ship has at least one Storage Bay), it still has a limited capacity. If you are near or at the limit, your lander won't be able to pick up very much. Head back to Sol and talk to the Starbase Commander to unload them.