NASA Brings Real Life Missions To Kerbal Space Program
Kerbal Space Program may feature little green men as astronauts, but the space flight simulator has grown to become one of the most complex sandbox games ever made. It's popularity has spread as wildly as it's credibility as a realistic space flight simulator has grown, with fans ranging from science professionals to children. But now, this immersive (and frustrating) world is about to get another injection of real life to complement its insanely detailed physics engine. NASA and KSP's small Mexico City-based team have announced that the world of Kerbal will become a testing ground for real-life NASA missions.
In 2025, NASA hopes to land humans on an asteroid and it is the Kerbals who, more than a decade before the real life mission, will lay the foundations for NASA's success.
"I think we do a great job," says Doug Ellison of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "But we probably fall short when it comes to engaging in a way that could be considered play. We share what we do, but its hard to let the public...ride along in our adventure."
"I knew KSP was something special when I watched a young kid - probably less than 8 years old - playing KSP using words like apogee, perigee, prograde, retrograde, delta-v; the lexicon of orbital mechanics. To the layperson, the world of orbital mechanics is a counter-intuitive world of energy, thrust, velocity, altitude that this kid - just by playing Kerbal- had managed to get his head around."
And it isn't just kids that are becoming immersed in this world of physics and comedic cartoon characters; KSP is also a big hit with with NASA professionals, a fact that actually helped this partnership come around.
Allowing users to build their own space programs from scratch, KSP features hundreds of unique parts with which to customize and build your space-faring vehicles. The aim? To explore the solar system, from The Mun to planets including Eve, Duna and Jool, users are responsible for the building of rockets and modules as well as the safety of their Kerbal astronauts. Speak to anyone who has played KSP and they will tell you of the many hours that they have piled into their missions only to find that one minor error in their calculations has led to failure. It is this level of attention to detail and a top notch physics engine that makes the KSP world and its users the perfect testing site for one of NASA's most ambitious missions in its illustrious history.
Squad, KSP's developers, are currently working on a downloadable mission pack for the asteroid landing and much like the real life mission of 2025, this will be one of the most dangerous missions a budding Kerbal astronaut can embark on.