Skip

NASA and Kerbals, sitting in a tree...
May 23, 2014 11:17 AM   Subscribe


 
Now if we could only get the real Earth, Moon, and solar system put into KSP, and some multiplayer fun.
posted by crapmatic at 11:27 AM on May 23


If you're out of date on your Kerbal Space Program knowledge (or just don't want to play the game yourself), catch up with Scott Manley's Interstellar Quest, a 63-part and counting series starting from the beginning of the new career mode, through warp drive technology (aided by many, many mods).
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:32 AM on May 23 [6 favorites]


“Frankly the next generation of space simulation is within games.”
If you need me, I'll be down at the arcade. I heard they got one of those Starfighter machines. Supposed to be very realistic.
posted by rouftop at 11:34 AM on May 23 [4 favorites]


I kind of prefer to not associate the strange glee of Jeb Kerman in a freefalling rocket with actual aerospace programs.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:39 AM on May 23 [5 favorites]


What I'm saying is, patch in the Moonbase Alpha astronauts.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:40 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Kerbal Space Program: Over 1 Million ways NOT to build a rocket ship.
posted by Hasteur at 11:42 AM on May 23 [4 favorites]


KSP simply rocks. It's not perfect -- patched conics means that lots of modern orbital tricks simply don't work -- but patched conics is the basic way NASA figured out how to get Mün the Moon so it's a heck of an approximation.

And it's amazing to see all the non-space things people have done with the engine.

But still -- nothing quite like building your Towering Monument to ΔV and sending it up -- even when you've built something that is Not Going To Space Today.

Remember: Pointy end up, fiery end down.
posted by eriko at 11:48 AM on May 23 [12 favorites]




One of these days I'll figure out orbital rendezvous and get Jebediah and Bill off of that space station I launched them up in. And I suppose I should also make a Mun lander with enough propellant for descent AND ascent to get Bob home.
posted by ckape at 12:00 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


It's not perfect -- patched conics means that lots of modern orbital tricks simply don't work -- but patched conics is the basic way NASA figured out how to get Mün the Moon so it's a heck of an approximation.

How does NASA/JPL do it now? Just throw a lot of horespower at an n-body problem where you exclude the smallest bodies and only include the solar system?
posted by smackfu at 12:19 PM on May 23


Yes. Lots of horsepower and constant measurement when the actual position drifts from predicted.
posted by eriko at 12:29 PM on May 23


KSP has done tons to inform my understanding of space travel in all its glory and boring tedium. It's reshaped my views of both manned and unmmaned spaceflight, while giving a thorough and wide-eyed education in just how amazing it all is. To consider how utterly difficult Apollo was, but that it was done with the primitive computer power and knowledge of the time fills me with awe. We really shouldn't have done that, it was incredibly dangerous. But humanity did it anyway and pulled it off. The only failed mission, Apollo 13, was due to subcontracter not changing some wiring firve years earlier. The actual science and engineering worked otherwise and did so repeatedly.

It's interesting to see that NASA partnered with Squad to include this mission patch. It's a brilliant PR move for an agency that's forbidden to do any actual advertising. But it also highlights how boring the relive Asteriod Redirect Mission is to the general public. Now building a Moonbase, that would be a helluva challenge.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:45 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Now if we could only get the real Earth, Moon, and solar system put into KSP, and some multiplayer fun.

The Real Solar System Mod does exactly that! There's an entire group of modders dedicated to creating a more realistic experience.

No really functional multiplayer yet though.
posted by mayonnaises at 12:47 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


I've been playing .23.5 for about a month now, and was hoping that this post was about an official NASA mission patch. That's what KSP needs-- mission patches!

> Now if we could only get the real Earth, Moon, and solar system put into KSP, and some multiplayer fun.

Real Solar System Mod and the experimental KMP: Kerbal Multiplayer Mod

Be warned, the Real Solar System is a lot harder than the Kerbolar System. Low Kerbin Orbital velocity is a puny 2300m/s compared to Earth's 7600 m/s.

(dagnabbit, mayonnaises, ya beat me)
posted by Sunburnt at 12:48 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


How does NASA/JPL do it now? Just throw a lot of horespower at an n-body problem where you exclude the smallest bodies and only include the solar system?

Well, there was a little more than this going on during Apollo, but yes, basically. Your model will ideally have a very accurate ephemeris (where the various bodies are) and solar radiation/solar wind forces. I'm not aware of anything that takes into account extrasolar forces, though the main thing we would want to know is what the heliopause looks (feels?) like, and we still don't know a whole lot about that yet.

When you get to designing an entire mission, you throw in a whole bunch of constraints, like multiple gravity assists, radiation/heat constraints, communication constraints, science objectives, launch windows, etc. So you might use a low-fidelity search to figure out the general parameters of your mission, what planets to fly by etc. and then use a high-fidelity search to optimize the details.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:51 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


[Obligatory XKCD].

Some of my favorite Yogscast episodes was watching Duncan doing a KSP playthrough. I watched every launch hands over face, through fingers.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:04 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


It sounds like you need at least a BSc in Physics to even understand what to do? Whoa.
posted by Iosephus at 2:50 PM on May 23


No physics degree needed, though obviously it helps. I just did trial and error until I gained a grasp of what the parts would do.

Not having to keep the engines running for the entire launch was a huge WHOA moment. Coasting to apogee for the orbital burn is nicely efficient.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:59 PM on May 23


Judging by the younger people in /r/kerbalspaceprogram on reddit, one does not need a degree, but as the game is sorely lacking instructions (and I do not envy the group that will need to document and create tutorials to teach/explain some of this stuff), some considerable trial-and-error, or watching other people play, or reading the KSP forums and/or subreddit.

The good thing is that the player community is mature enough that any obstacle one has encountered has almost certainly been encountered by others, and one or more of those others has created a guide online. Kerbal-Proof is one monument to such people.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:49 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Yeah, trial and error works. For example; make sure you do not attach the rockets upside down and get to watch all that force drive your expensive spaceship into the launch platform while stunned Kerbals watch in horror.
posted by Justinian at 4:30 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


That actually sounds like something I would try first of all. Yes, I'm the nightmare of every sandbox game designer. ;D
posted by Iosephus at 4:51 PM on May 23


but as the game is sorely lacking instructions

It does come tutorials, which were recently updated.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:59 PM on May 23


KSP is great for taking a lot of theoretical concepts of rocket propulsion and orbital mechanics and developing a more intuitive understanding of them. A little bit of reading up on various maneuvers, followed by some trial and error, works wonderfully. It's one thing to read about it, quite another to watch the orbit display changing as you fire the rocket engines, so you can see exactly what the effect is on your orbit.
posted by FishBike at 5:03 PM on May 23


One of my favorite things about KSP is the game is made by a small team in Mexico. As a side project for Squad, a marketing company. Completely unusual success story, and good for them! It's not quite as approachable as Minecraft, but it's every bit as inspiring an indie game.

That asteroid capture mission is brilliant. I'm kind of scared to try it though. What if Jebediah gets lost in space?
posted by Nelson at 6:25 PM on May 23


I downloaded this patch as soon as it came out - unfortunately it introduced a bug where it would close your research development building for all time, so I lost all my science research and points (in career mode). It was patched soon after, but it was too late for me so I have to start over.

Also, I screwed up and deployed a parachute while in orbit, so now one of my rockets and spacekerbals are floating aimlessly in space. :(

Damn, I need to play again for the next 5 hours.
posted by littlesq at 8:05 PM on May 23


One of the things Squad got right from the very beginning was the little portrait of the astronauts. Jeb grinning with pure joy while his crewmates are screaming in utter terror made an otherwise somewhat difficult game completely accessible. Though you knew you had screwed up immensely when you could make even Jeb look concerned.

But, to do basic things, it really isn't very difficult. Orbiting Kerbal is dead simple. Build a rocket. get it to around 10-15km, point it at the horizon, reach a certain speed at a certain altitude (around 2245 m/s at 100k, varies based on your distance from the surface -- see chart at the bottom) and it's done. De-orbit by rotating the ship, look at the navigational ball for the "X" marking your retrograde and then burn the engines for a while. Don't forget your parachute!

And thats one of the things I love about the game. It rewards technical knowledge, but it's possible to just fly by the seat of your pants. Like, one day Jeb comes by your house with a case of beer and some strange parts in the back of his rusty pickup. The two of you throw together a rocket and manage to get Munar orbit, navigating purely by where the Mun appears in the sky, and get back home in time for your boyfriend to serve both of you fried chicken and even more beer.

(The basic Munar orbital tutorial is really that simple, though minus the beer and chicken.)
posted by honestcoyote at 8:21 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I started an asteroid capture mission this afternoon, and it got me thinking about how flying retrograde to the astroid's Kerbin encounter doesn't mean I'll hit the asteroid at twice the asteroid's orbital velocity but really it's just vectors - I was orbiting Kerbol counter clockwise at (say) 1000m/s and by flying retrograde at 200m/s I'm still orbiting counter clockwise, just at 800m/s now, but with a 200m/s closing speed with the asteroid. Sort of a lightbulb moment going on.

It's sort of a shame that there's apparently not a hell of a lot to do with the asteroid once you're docked to it. Maybe I'll put it in orbit with my space station just for giggles.
posted by Kyol at 9:33 PM on May 23


I wrote a little programmer's utility for KSP some years ago and dumped it unceremoniously online. Only one person sent any feedback about it and he happened to be from NASA. Made me wonder what they're doing over there.
posted by vanar sena at 5:40 AM on May 24


It's sort of a shame that there's apparently not a hell of a lot to do with the asteroid once you're docked to it. Maybe I'll put it in orbit with my space station just for giggles.

You can build a station on it, link multiple asteroids together, park in Mun, Kerbin or Minimus orbit or try to safely land it on the surface of any of those locations.

Oh, you meant practical use? Well yeah, ok.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:04 AM on May 24


Ideas for upcoming content for the asteroid:

Kerbal Space Program: Extractive Mining. Land mining equipment on the asteroid to extract precious Unobtanium. Then fly back all that mass to Kerbin. Points awarded for how fuel efficient the process is. Top scorer for the year earns an internship at Planetary resources.

Kerbal Space Program: Mass Driver. Kerbin is under assault! Design and build ion drives to boost asteroids beyond Kerbol's gravity well to fling them to Klendathu. Would you like to know more?

Kerbal Space Program: Bruce Kerbis. The asteroid is on a dangerous collision course with Kerbin! Only you and a rag-tag band of misfits have the right stuff to fly a nuclear bomb to the asteroid to divert it from its deadly course. Screenplay by JJ Abrams, directed by Michael Bay, with a special appearance by Steve Buscemi as Jebidiah.
posted by Nelson at 7:04 AM on May 24 [2 favorites]


> One of the things Squad got right from the very beginning was the little portrait of the astronauts. Jeb grinning with pure joy while his crewmates are screaming in utter terror made an otherwise somewhat difficult game completely accessible.

This is the artwork, and it was actually fan-art from a KSP player that Squad obtained to add into the game. It's called "Kerbal Space Odyssey."

> Though you knew you had screwed up immensely when you could make even Jeb look concerned.

He's as green and cool as a cucumber alright, but a 5000 m/s re-entry does the job quite nicely. This game's going to be a lot harder when atmospheric friction/compression (currently modeled by the aptly named Deadly Reentry Mod) becomes part of the stock game.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:09 AM on May 24


I picked this up on a Humble sale earlier this week. On about my 15th launch attempt (ever) I ended up doing a flyby of the Mun. Too bad it freaked out and said I crashed into the pad when I was still thousands of km above Kerbin on the return leg. That's a completely stock install, BTW. Nasty bug.
posted by NortonDC at 11:28 AM on May 24


Yeah, the extremely high crash rate is what keeps me from loving KSP as much as I want to. Career mode with every fifth flight ending in a game crash is especially frustrating.
posted by COBRA! at 11:59 AM on May 24


Weird. The only time that's happened to me is when I'm running too many mods at once.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:34 PM on May 24


If you need me, I'll be down at the arcade. I heard they got one of those Starfighter machines. Supposed to be very realistic.

Just wait until you defeat the Kodan Armada...
posted by ambivalentic at 1:55 PM on May 24


Yea, the stock game is very stable since 0.20 (currently 0.23.5) or so, I cannot remember the last time I crashed it without being directly related to mods. Even then, some basic mods (see here) are very stable and add core functionality to the game, maybe give it another go.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:42 PM on May 24


T.D Strange and Brandon Blatcher, the pad crash happened on two different runs in the same game session. It was actually the very first session ever, literally the first time I ran the game after downloading it. Both were long running scenarios on the wall clock, because I didn't even know how to speed up play. I have screenshots of the pad crash messages with the planet hanging out in the distance.
posted by NortonDC at 9:41 AM on May 25


Oh yeah, I've seen the occasional weird glitch that resulted in a crash. It's just not typical in my experience, using a five year Mac laptop, a one year Mac laptop and 2 year year PC desktop. The biggest problem seems to the game can usually 4gigs, and a stock install eats up about a gig and a half.

Technically, the game is still is Alpha status, so bugs are expected, but I've still found it pretty stable.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:49 AM on May 25




« Older Anthropology, Archaeology and SETI   |   Have you heard about the new corduroy pillows? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post