OK, I’m actually just playing video games. Kerbal Space Program, to be exact. It’s a remarkable game — essentially a space program simulator. You build rockets from standard-ish parts, put astronauts in them (astronauts have two stats: courage and stupidity) and fly them into orbit, to the Mün, or around the sun. It’s got a gentle self-mocking sense of humor, the little Kerbal astronauts always look like they’re delighted just to be there, and the graphics are occasionally just gorgeous. It is a LOT of fun.
And yet, I’m not just playing video games. One of my back-burner projects (which I just picked up after a few months in the drawer to get some distance) is a novel where microgravity maneuvers play an important role. The action takes place on a space station and a starship, and as such these sorts of things play a big role. One of the things I’m finding in playing KSP is that I’m developing much more of an intuition for how these things work. Intellectually I knew a lot of this (though by no means all) from college physics and from reading up on the subject for my novel, but I didn’t know it until I tried to put it into practice.
So, my hat’s off to the KSP folks. I expect this to be a much better story for the time I’ve spent playing their game. Now I need to go see if my Kerbals who I accidentally put in orbit around the Mün are stuck there or not. (Don’t look at me like that. They seem so happy!)