Kerbal Space Program: Gems of the Steam Summer Sale

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By Kevin Casper

This Steam Summer Sale comes to an end after just one more weekend, but the sky’s the limit in what you can get from it! Or, wait, no it’s not, because today, I’m talking about Kerbal Space Program!

Kerbal Space Program is all about getting into space! In this game, you manage a space program for the humanoid Kerbal race on planet Kerbin. The space program designs rockets and spacecraft, builds them, and sends them on missions into space. As the player, you’re taking care of just about all of it. Are you any good at rocket science? In order to really succeed at spacefaring objectives, you’ll need to be. No, I mean it. You have to learn rocket science.

The physics in Kerbal Space Program are analogous to the physics we experience in real life, but aren’t a perfect replication. Despite that, the game has the attention of organizations like NASA and SpaceX for how well it represents the concepts around rocketry and orbital mechanics. Atmosphere has drag, the spacecraft are not invulnerable, and just about everything, including the Kerbals themselves, have Newtonian physics applied to them. Some of the physics differences are usually matters of scaling for gameplay reasons, such as the distance, size, and density of different planets to prevent a ridiculous amount of time being wasted in transit between celestial bodies.

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Despite not being a pure replication, Kerbal Space Program has found a lot of popularity as an educational tool. Where Minecraft offers a new platform for creativity for many people, Kerbal Space Program offers a similar platform for science and the scientific method. You don’t have to be an astrophysicist to get a grasp of the game. Instead, you can play the game’s sandbox mode to blindly attempt trial and error to figure out how to get a spacecraft off the ground, out of the atmosphere, into orbit, and maybe even land safely back home. It provides an opportunity to learn rocket science by doing, which is something few people outside of Elon Musk are able to do. Kerbal Space Program has found its way into schools for this reason. Some people more easily learn by doing instead of through theory and textbooks.

Let’s not forget that Kerbal Space Program is a game, though. While there is plenty to learn from the science of it all, the game can still be rather goofy and ridiculous. The Kerbals themselves have a sort of adorable charm to them, making me think of the aliens from Toy Story or the Minions. While playing the game, you can build absolutely ridiculous spacecraft. Ever wonder what a sphere covered in rocket thrusters would do? Go for it. Would an F15 Fighter Jet make for a good Space Shuttle design? Let’s find out. What’s the lightest possible manned spacecraft I can put into orbit around the moon? And the heaviest? You have the tools are there for you!

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There is more than just a space program sandbox, though. There is a Science Mode that offers a progression path to exploring your universe. You start out with a limited selection of components and capability, but you expand your selection as you head into space and find science to collect and unlock additional tiers of content. If you’re looking to get even more involved, you can try out the Career Mode which has you managing a budget, administration, reputation, and various contracts. Be your own NASA director who also happens to build the ships directly by magical cursor hand.

There is modding support as well. You know, just in case figuring out space travel wasn’t involved enough for you.

Kerbal Space Program is currently $23.99 USD on Steam until July 4th. The game offers educational freedom and resources like no other. I’d especially recommend it if you have any kids growing into budding scientists. Rocket science may not be easy, but it can be learned. Houston out.

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