The Right Stuff
Our valiant rocket roars up through the atmosphere, our carefully set staging is working perfectly, we've jettisoned our solid fuel boosters, the sky is darkening, we're in space above Kerbin.
A few burns of our upper-stage engine later and we're in a circular orbit. A quick check of our fuel supplies let us know that we "should" have enough to make it to the Mun and hopefully back again.
A long, carefully timed burn later and the Mun is starting to get pretty large through the cockpit windows.
A Space Odyssey
I've barely brushed the surface of the universe of possibilities which awaits you in KSP.
If you have any interest in space exploration then this is a must have game.
KSP is simply amazing.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth, well Kerbin actually, but more on that later.
Whether you actively seek out information on the inspiring missions carried out by the various space agencies around the globe or just catch the odd news report on the latest mars rover or comet flyby, you can't help but feel a certain sense of awe at the ingenuity and creativity that has led to these missions of exploration and discovery.
Now we all have the opportunity to experience the glorious highs and devastating lows of running our own space program through Squads Kerbal Space Program.
When you load KSP you'll be presented with a choice of three play modes. There's a full career mode where you'll have to design and launch your own missions, invest in research for new rocket parts and complete contracts for their financial rewards to help fund all of this.
There a Science only mode, where you can still enjoy the progression of the science tree without having to worry about balancing the books and then there's a sandbox mode, where you can let your creativity run wild without the restrictions of the other two options.
Several completed contracts and a few catastrophic failures later and our space agency is about to earn its stripes. We've managed to send various science packages to different biomes on Kerbin, (Kerbin is your home planet, it's an Earth like analogue and home to the Kerbals, little yellow aliens that look more than a little like the characters from the Simpsons).
Anyway, we've explored the deserts, grasslands, the oceans and mountain ranges of Kerbin, We've even managed a touch down at the arctic where we planted a flag and everything!
Now we are ready!
Jebediah, our brave astronaut, is strapped into our painstakingly over-engineered rocket, we've already achieved a stable orbit with this design and now our sites are firmly set on the Mun (Kerbins Moon).
Taking the plunge with the career mode, you'll first need to choose your fledgling space agencies name and flag logo.
You'll then find yourself looking down at your shiny new space agency campus. At present, you'll start with 3 wannabe astronauts, a very limited amount of rocket parts and an even more limited budget.
The first thing you'll probably want to do is take a look at the contracts available to you. These have specific requirements which when met will reward you both financially and often with a scientific reward which you can invest in the tech-tree.
As you progress through the game and your missions become more adventurous you will find a full, well balanced and very interesting tech tree to unlock, but for now, we only have a small amount of science to spend, so we'll pick a branch of the tech tree we can afford and see what goodies we get.
Ok, so now we've got some slightly more powerful engines, some fuel tanks that are a little less rusty and a mystery goo canister (a science experiment we can strap onto our rocket to generate our own science points so we're no longer dependent on contracts to generate our precious science).
You're also not tied to the contract system and are free to set your own goals and undertake whatever missions you can imagine. However each rocket part costs money and at the moment we still don't have very much, so it's back to look at the available contracts to see what else is available and achievable with our current tech.
The loss of Jebediah on the Mun was a devastating setback, but we've learnt a lot since then.
We now have new and improved technologies, we've returned safely from the Mun several times. We have a large orbital space station in high orbit above Kerbin and we're about to undertake our most ambitious mission yet.
A manned mission to the red planet Duna (It's Mars guys).
This is the wonderful thing about KSP, there is always a new frontier, another challenge to overcome, another horizon to explore.
As it stands at the moment, the Kerbol system consists of one star, seven planets and nine moons. You can also discover, track and intercept various asteroids that litter the system.
If this isn't enough for you, the modding community for KSP is one of the healthiest and most active I have seen. There are countless mods you can download and use in your game, from texture packs and rocket parts to whole new star systems to explore.
The landing was touch and go, we lost one of our four landing struts as we skimmed the surface but we are down and our Lander is stable.
The cratered surface of the Mun stretches out before us. We run the various science experiments on the Lander (the science generated will come in very handy the next time we visit the tech tree). We hit the key to extend the ladder, open the hatch and Jebediah bravely takes a small step for Kerbal-kind.
We plant our flag, we write a poignant plaque, we play with our jetpack and we scoop up a surface sample for the sake of science then we're back in our Lander.
We look towards Kerbin, small and blue, we're ready to go home, we hit the button to ignite the Lander engines and... nothing.
Pick your first contract, "Launch a craft from your launch pad and achieve an altitude of 5000m." It's then time to bolt a cockpit to rusty tank of rocket fuel, glue an engine to the bottom of the stack, light the touch paper and step back from the launch pad.
If everything goes to plan, your first rocket will fly straight and true (although not very high yet, you're going to need better engines and tanks before you can achieve anywhere near orbital height).
Of course if things didn't go to plan, you could be looking a pretty fireball and a smattering of debris raining down around your complex.
Let's assume things went perfectly, you're aspiring astronaut has earned his wings and returned safely back to the ground courtesy of the parachute you remembered to fit to the capsule. Not only this but your managed to achieve the required 5000 metres, completed your first contract and received the payment.
Now it's time to visit the tech tree and plan your next mission.