Rocket Science, how hard can it be? Well as BBC’s Top Gear found out, quite hard.
Kerbal Space Program is a game currently in development by Squad and, as is all the rage these days, you can play an early build right now. 0.13 is freely available to everyone and anyone who pre-orders the game gets to keep up with the latest version (0.14.1 at the time of writing).
What you get is a sandbox containing one planet (with characteristics not dissimilar to our own), one moon (smaller and closer than our own) and one star. Your sandbox also contains rocket parts to help you leave… Sounds quite simple, but what we have here is a detailed simulation. There is still a bit to add, re-entry friction does not cause heating of your craft as yet and the amount of parts is limited, but there is already a lot to do with the content available. Should that not be enough for you there are a large number of mods available greatly expanding the game.
You don’t need to know rocket theory to play this game (but it will save a lot of trial and error, not to mention fuel, if you do have a grasp of transfer orbits), it is quite easy to grasp where you went wrong and if you have trouble flying your creations there are already some mods that add autopilot modules that are far in advance of the stock one (which is a stabiliser rather than full autopilot). Whatever happens I am sure you will crash, a lot. Gravity is a harsh mistress.
For now you have to set your own missions but the features planed for the finished game include more planets, missions and a Tycoon element where you must manage your space program researching parts and completing missions on a budget.
I set myself the challenge of getting a craft to land on the Mun . My first attempts did not go well, it took 3 goes before I could constantly get into Munar orbit (having a read of the forums helps here).
This craft came the closest yet to a Munar landing, shown here in orbit around Kerbin, it’s main stage and boosters already separated, waiting for the perfect time for Trans Munar Injection
The Trans Munar Injection was fine, and I was well on my way. My descent was going well, I was flying by instruments for the most part.
Sadly flying by instruments did not tell me just how much lateral motion I had, and my small and lightweight landing craft was not stable enough to be able to correct this easily. The Kerman family were notified
I would learn from my mistakes however, I would make a craft that was far more stable, sure the thing will be heavier and would therefore need bigger rockets and more fuel to get it there, but I am confident my next craft will safely touch down.
Take off went well, I got into orbit and did the Trans Munar Injection on the main stage leaving me a lander full of fuel to make the descent to the Munar surface.
One small step for */csk/* Kerb, one giant leap for Kerbkind. I did break part of my landing gear during the impact, but I think that went quite well, this day and the names Bobsey, Richmy and Thomprick will go down in history.
Kerbal Space Program can be bought right now for the sum of $15 and that will net you all the updates to come, if you are not sure if it is your thing download v0.13 demo now and give it a go.
 Some explanation is required here, the planet is called Kerbin it’s single natural satellite is called Mun and the star they orbit is called Kerbol. So now if you hear talk of Munar landers you know it isn’t a typo.