The Kerbal Space Program isn't so much a game as it is a space-themed sandbox physics engines with adorable Kerbals to sacrifice to your scientific curiosity. NASA is a fan of these expressive explorers, and paired up with the game to make an asteroid exploration extension.
Kerbonaut Jebediah Kerman accidentally testing the limits of reaching escape velocity during an exploratory mission. Screenshot from Kerbal Space Program provided by Joseph Henderson McCance.
Last year, NASA made an open invitation for the Kerbal Space Program to join in the Asteroid Redirect Mission:
— NASA (@NASA) April 30, 2013
Of course the answer was a resounding YES! For the past year, the Kerbal Space Program has been developing a game module to mimic the real-life NASA mission. The mission names and objectives are the same for both groups: identify, redirect, and research asteroids. The NASA mission is still under development of exactly what the objectives are and how to make it happen, but the Kerbal mission is all laid out:
- Identify: Detect, target, distinguish and select the asteroids that you want to move
- Redirect: Build a rocket ship and set course to intercept the moving asteroid, then position your ship to redirect the asteroid's trajectory
- Research: Send your Kerbals on EVA (extravehicular activity) around the asteroids to conduct experiments on the object and gather valuable scientific data as it (and you) hurtle through deep space
Screenshot from the Asteroid Redirect Mission courtesy of the Kerbal Space Program development team.
The module is still under development, with an expected release date "soon." It will be a full-fledged update for everyone who owns the game, not separate downloadable content. If you want to try the game, you can get a full demo here, but note that the demo hasn't been updated to match the newest purchasable release. Check out the mission FAQ here.
As for the risk asteroids pose to the Kerbal homeworld Kerbin? Well, they're a bit luckier than us:
Asteroids can most certainly crash into Kerbin, but even the largest objects aren't large enough to cause any significant damage. In fact, the Kerbals and that space program of theirs have probably caused more damage to the planet than the asteroids ever could.