• To The Mun and Back: A Tale of KSP, NASA and Asteroids


    Polygon writer, Charlie Hall spent a week with us seeing the sights, experiencing KerbalKon as it happened and getting to know the story of Kerbal Space Program. You may find out some things you never knew about the game's history, where we are today and the seemingly bright future, which includes NASA-partnered content. Here's a quick taste:

    "Since the day it was released, less than three years ago, KSP has grown to be so much more. Beneath its childish surface lies a a complex physics system churning through mathematical calculations so expertly, real rocket scientists would blush to see it. KSP has even earned the respect of NASA — many of its employees play it regularly.

    These past few months the team at KSP and the team at NASA have developed a professional, although distant, relationship. And this year they will begin to work together.

    Soon the Kerbals will embark on the next phase of space exploration, more than a decade before their real-life human analogues. NASA hopes to land humans on an asteroid by 2025. It's their most daring mission in a half century, and they've asked the small team of eight developers headquartered in Mexico City to help promote that mission through their game."


    The article is a lengthy, well thought piece that everyone on the team highly suggests you go read.
    Comments 23 Comments
    1. XIRA's Avatar
      XIRA -
      sounds great! the astroid mission thing sounds really cool. really nice article actually (never knew that squad also makes movies!) Also, Before i played KSP i wasn't really interested in spaceflight (it was cool and all, but yeah) now i'm working really hard to become an aerospace engineer. KSP seriously changed my life
    1. mythbusters844's Avatar
      mythbusters844 -
      That is one awesome article that I learned a ton from . And yes, KSP (positively) changed my life.
    1. aeTIos's Avatar
      aeTIos -
      aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-
      A Mission Pack O.O
    1. Lord_Zord's Avatar
      Lord_Zord -
      Very interesting article! A great read.
    1. acc's Avatar
      acc -
      maybe 2014 is the year with the first kerbal on ISS/in real space? i bet...
      if i'm wrong, i'll paint me green, build/wear a selfmade space suit and post a picture.
      who holds the bet?
    1. iamaphazael's Avatar
      iamaphazael -
      This article just showed up on my facebook feed... from NASA's page! How awesome is that?
    1. Jenteb07's Avatar
      Jenteb07 -
      Yeah, saw it on the homepage of NASA, on the twitterfeed.
      This sounds like really good news, for the reader to decide for who ^^

      Let's see if it will be mentioned on the next "TW@N" but I doubt it.
    1. Javster's Avatar
      Javster -
      If they can be encountered randomly/with telescopes/probes, and aren't on "rails", then I'm very happy.
    1. drinniol's Avatar
      drinniol -
      Quote Originally Posted by Javster View Post
      If they can be encountered randomly/with telescopes/probes, and aren't on "rails", then I'm very happy.
      Er, orbital mechanics mean they are always 'on rails' ;)
    1. Steven Mading's Avatar
      Steven Mading -
      Its a great writeup. And I look forward to an asteroid mission. But that sidebar attempting to explain to the layman what floating point numbers are and their relation to the space kraken was painfully wrong. And the sad thing is that it wasn't for the sake of making it more accessible to the layman because the false explanation given was actually more verbose and confusing than just saying it correctly.
    1. Steven Mading's Avatar
      Steven Mading -
      Quote Originally Posted by drinniol View Post
      Er, orbital mechanics mean they are always 'on rails' ;)
      Well the thing is, you can't push an object that's on rails.

      Which means if it was on rails it would defeat one of the most cool kinds of asteroid missions NASA could implement - saving the world from a dino-killer.
    1. iamaphazael's Avatar
      iamaphazael -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steven Mading View Post
      Its a great writeup. And I look forward to an asteroid mission. But that sidebar attempting to explain to the layman what floating point numbers are and their relation to the space kraken was painfully wrong. And the sad thing is that it wasn't for the sake of making it more accessible to the layman because the false explanation given was actually more verbose and confusing than just saying it correctly.
      Yeah, I noticed that too. There has been similar confusion on the forums at various times. I think people that don't know any better think that "floating point" and "floating origin" mean the same thing
    1. SkyHook's Avatar
      SkyHook -
      Asteroids confirmed! Get excited!
    1. deadshot462's Avatar
      deadshot462 -
      Interesting. Will the asteroid be part of a large collection of possible targets, or will it be a single asteroid in the solar system for now?
    1. Andon's Avatar
      Andon -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steven Mading View Post
      Well the thing is, you can't push an object that's on rails.

      Which means if it was on rails it would defeat one of the most cool kinds of asteroid missions NASA could implement - saving the world from a dino-killer.
      I think what he meant is that everything outside the 2.5km load limit is "on rails" as far as KSP is concerned. And the way the mission has been described, it CAN'T be on perma-rails like planets and moons are.
    1. Steven Mading's Avatar
      Steven Mading -
      Quote Originally Posted by iamaphazael View Post
      Yeah, I noticed that too. There has been similar confusion on the forums at various times. I think people that don't know any better think that "floating point" and "floating origin" mean the same thing
      Yeah I know it's incredibly easy to explain the problem without describing manitssas and exponents and giving details about IEEE standard formats and any of that. And in fewer paragraphs space than the sidebar did. The quicker, and more accurate explanation is to just draw analogies to scientific notation, using an example like 1.2345678 * 10^3 vs 1.2345678 * 10^20. After using that example for a paragraph or two and showing the difference in their absolute errors despite them have the same number of sig. digits, then just mention that floating point numbers on computers are just like that - with a fixed number of significant digits so that difference in accuracy between big and small numbers happens the same way. The only difference is that they're using binary digits instead of decimal digits but the system is the same.
    1. Crown's Avatar
      Crown -
      "We have people saying that KSP inspired them to change their majors to aerospace or some other related field," Falanghe says. "It's happened more than once, and it's just incredible. And I think that for us we're just experiencing a very small version of what NASA does on a much larger scale for humanity as a whole."
      Plus one here. I didn't change my major but I made my decision where I want to go.

      I think you are doing a very big thing for humanity. Just as NASA does.
      Through this game you reach many people in a way nothing else could. We might not all be aerospace engineers or pilots, but it gives us the privilege only 500 people had before us. To see a planet from above. Without borders, a blue marble, so fragile and so tiny in a vast solar system. I have seen many pictures of earth from space, but nothing made me feel smaller than covering the planet Kerbin with my thumb and vanishing a whole planet, with perhaps millions of lives.
      This game teaches us all to look up and raise our hands towards the sky. To see ourselves. Because we all want the same thing. A better world.
    1. lazarus1024's Avatar
      lazarus1024 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Andon View Post
      I think what he meant is that everything outside the 2.5km load limit is "on rails" as far as KSP is concerned. And the way the mission has been described, it CAN'T be on perma-rails like planets and moons are.
      It could be a really large object with simplified physics loaded like a ship is.

      Not sure how that'd work, but knowning SQUAD, they'll figure it out.

      Since the object seems to be to get it in to orbit around Kerbal (or drop it on the KSC ), I assume it'll be small enough that you could push it around with a moderately large ship. So I don't think we are talking a 1km^3 object. I am guessing we are talking more on the order of 100m^3 to 1000m^3 object. Something a jumbo rockomax tank or three and some NERVAs or a boat load of xenon, a lot of time and a crap load of solar panels and some ion engine could manage. Probably gravity-less.

      It does make me wonder if something like a harpoon or similar will be added, or if you'll need to construct a "catch cage" for the thing.

      I am very interested in this. I know I am going to be yelled at, but I kind of hope this'll be paid for DLC. I say that because I feel bad that I got in early and only gave SQUAD something like $14-16 for KSP 18 or whatever months ago. I feel like I've gotten an unfair amount of enjoyment out of the game.
    1. Albert VDS's Avatar
      Albert VDS -
      Very nice read.
    1. The Jedi Master's Avatar
      The Jedi Master -
      I'll download that mission pack!