diyspaceweek 1 jbr2 short Kerbal Space Program: Now with More Asteroid!

ARM in KSP

Pushing an asteroid in Kerbal Space Program.

Kerbal Space Program (KSP) is a space program simulator game that’s the closest most of us are going to get to running our own space agency. For those of you who haven’t heard of KSP, it’s awesome, addictive and actually pretty accurate — at least the orbital dynamics and other physics, if not the engineering. And it just got better with a new Asteroid Redirect Mission, created in collaboration with NASA.

Introducing the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) in Kerbal Space Program

It’s not just amateur space geeks playing KSP. Reports are that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is obsessed with the game,

“…half of JPL is playing that game right now,” Douglas Ellison, NASA JPL

There’s no better — or more interesting — space simulator out there, and now NASA has stepped in and is actually teaming with the game’s makers to improve it. Announced at the beginning of March at SXSW, the collaboration between NASA and the game’s producers was released last week.

A play-through of the new Asteroid Redirect Mission.

Part of the publicity surrounding NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge program, the new update to the game offers players a chance to embark on a virtual version of the real-world NASA mission of the same name.

While it might not directly help NASA to “find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them,” there’s a lot to be gained from playing Kerbal Space Program, because there’s real science behind the actions of the bumbling, cartoonish Kerbals. This is a game that can be taken as seriously as you want to take it. Now with added asteroids, it should not only encourage makers to contribute better ways to hunt for asteroids, but also help to engage the maker movement in NASA’s grand challenge to figure out what to do about any space rocks that threaten Earth.

Alasdair Allan

Alasdair Allan is a scientist, author, hacker and tinkerer, who is spending a lot of his time thinking about the Internet of Things. In the past he has mesh networked the Moscone Center, caused a U.S. Senate hearing, and contributed to the detection of what was—at the time—the most distant object yet discovered.


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