You Don't Have to Be an Astrophysicist to Play Kerbal Space Program, But It Would Probably Help
by Derek Paulus
I am a huge fan of simulation games, almost to the point where I find myself having a difficult time playing anything except the simulation genre. One of my favorite simulation games, and favorite games of all time, is Kerbal Space Program, especially when it's being played by a real life astronaut.
One of my favorite YouTubers, Scott Manley, posted a video roughly a year ago in which he guided former NASA astronaut Ed Lu through a session of Kerbal Space Program.
In all honesty, most people will find nothing special about this video. There are no hilarious crashes, no stunningly engineered rockets, and certainly no epic mission where Lu, with all his expertise, manages to land on the outermost planet and travel back all in his first experience with the game.
Instead, what fascinates me about this video, and all of Manley's videos, is watching an expert in the field of astronomy and astrophysics play their video game counterpart. For example, it would be the same as watching FIFA played by a professional soccer (football for most of the world) player, Arma played by a military veteran, or Minecraft played by a... miner, I guess.
While Lu is no Kerbal Space Program expert by any means, I can't help but find it fascinating how naturally he falls into the game, talking about stages, rocket boosters, and bipropellant engines. It is this type of expertise that can be found in all of Manley's videos.
Manley is not an astronaut but he does have experience in astronomy. In a Reddit AMA Manley informed his fans that he spent 10 years studying astrophysics in college. Further digging reveals that Manley received educational experience at the University of Glasgow and Armagh Observatory.
Kerbal Space Program is heavily featured on Manley's channel, with some other games and random science lessons/discussions thrown in. With nearly 100 hours of gameplay, I still struggle with orbital rendezvous and have not yet successfully landed on any body apart from Kerbin's moons. Without Manley's tutorials, however, I think I would still be stuck on the launchpad.
Kerbal Space Program can be a tough game to master, and while an astrophysics background is not required, it is a unique and helpful experience to watch someone who has that background play your favorite game.Originally Published Jun. 5th 2014