One Small Step for Kerbal

Kerbal Space Program is mind numbingly addictive. I’ve been taking small steps in my progress so far, first finding a way to get off the launchpad in one piece. Then I mastered the art of going up a few thousand metres before landing safely in the sea. Once that goal was out of the way, I got to space and back again. All of these objectives were fairly simple matters of lift, weight, and equipment. The biggest hurdle I have faced was achieving a stable, intentional, circular orbit. This took me a few days but I managed it with the help of a tutorial explain the map screen.

Once I could get ships easily into and out of orbit, I set my sights on the Mun. The Mun seems impossible at first. My early attempts at it had involved aiming my rocket and hoping for the best. Usually I overshot it, forgetting that the Mun moves while I’m moving. Once I managed to hit it, with a re-entry capsule that would have had no way of slowing down (took me too long to realise parachutes don’t work without atmospheres) and no way of return.

Eventually I studied up on the Moon landing and realised how important it was to go from orbiting Earth, to orbiting the Mun. This lets you choose a landing site (roughly), and have a little more control over your speed, without fear of overshooting the whole Mun.

The first time I reached orbit around the Mun, I was pretty much out of fuel. Any descent attempts met with disaster as I had no way to slow my craft down enough, even if I had managed to land, I would have left a poor Kerbal there to slowly suffocate as his oxygen ran out. Instead I hit the drawing board again and managed to take an extra fuel tank for the lunar lander.

This time I was in a prime position, I controlled my descent carefully, and then this happened.

First of all, I was on the dark side of the Mun, so the picture wasn’t great. Secondly, as you may have noticed, the craft fell over. I bravely tried to get off the rock, but it ended in a fiery death for that brave Kerbal.

I set off again and everything went just as smoothly, and even better, this happened.

Still on the dark side (I can’t seem to judge descents very well) but I managed to land in one piece, upright. I went for a tiny wander, and then jumped back in the ship and got my little Kerbal home.

I can’t remember feeling this sense of accomplishment in video games before. I had to improve my skills, I learnt real things from the real world and I had to do a hell of a lot of planning, but I got there. Kerbal Space Program really is something special.

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