Kerbal Space Program — KSP for short — is an incredibly addictive game about… Space exploration! In the game, you are in charge of the space program on planet Kerbin. Kerbin is located in a solar system quite similar to our own solar system, with a few differences. I’ve been playing this game for a few months, and finally decided to write a blog post about my experiences and thoughts.
Note that KSP is still being developed with regular updates. Consider it alpha software — feature set is incomplete, and there may be bugs along the way. Regardless, KSP has fostered a very strong community of fans, players, and even modders. I haven’t developed a mod / plugin for KSP myself, but it is architected to be easily extensible. My favorites are MechJeb – autopilot and maneuver assistant and Kethane – in-situ resource utilization, but there are many more to choose from.
As of version 0.23.5, there are two modes of play – “Sandbox” and “Career”. Career mode is relatively new to the game (since 0.22), and is still being heavily developed. The point of the game in Career mode is to build rockets, use those rockets to send Kerbals to space, and gather science! In return for these science points, you can unlock additional parts to make bigger and faster rockets.
When I was a kid, I often enjoyed constructing and flying model rockets with my father and brothers. I never understood the phrase “it’s not rocket science” — I thought building rockets were relatively easy. Make an aerodynamic body, attach the motor, and light the fuse!
I was wrong. I can’t begin to start on how many ways I was wrong. KSP taught me not only where I was wrong, but how wrong I was.
New words, words I have never heard before, words like “periapsis” and “apoapsis”, became not only familiar, but required knowledge. I realized that rocket science is not only about building rockets, but also about controlling them.
Periapsis. Apoapsis. Hohmann transfer. Plane-change maneuver. Gravity assist. The Tsiolkovsky rocket equation. Specific impulse. ΔV.
These words all mean something in KSP. You can play the game without really knowing about them, but if you want to get good, you probably should.
I wish I had this game when I was a child, not only because it would’ve been great fun, but also because it would have taught me the importance of physics and mathematics from an early age. In elementary school, our teachers would always tell us that math was very important! But they didn’t have any concrete examples. KSP changes all of that. NASA has already seen the potential in this game — the latest version was actually a collaboration between the KSP developers and NASA. While entry into the classroom may be difficult, I believe that this game has incredible value for children. How many times have you heard “<insert product here> makes math fun!”? KSP is one of the few games that actually makes math fun.
And now, here are some photos of me “researching” and “preparing” for this blog post 🙂