Kerbal. Space. Program.
Is there any greater joy than the act of pure creation, only to immediately confront your own fallibility in a fiery explosion of solid rocket booster?
I have built many competent rockets. I have landed on the surface of different planets and moons, and I have even returned successfully and intact from… some of them. These are all incredibly satisfying moments, there is no doubt about that, but they pale in comparison to my wild speculation with building. With only a rudimentary understanding of how physics and aerodynamics work, I slap together rocket parts like highly explosive lego, then strap my poor hapless victims in for the ride.
Have you ever built a rocket designed to reach the outer planets only to forget the support struts? Once ignition starts and all of your boosters start flailing wildly like fronds in the wind, you know deep down in your heart that this rocket is a one way trip across the river Styx, but you still try and fly that baby all the same. Maybe it holds together for longer than it should, and you get that glimmer of hope. Soon you’ll be out of the atmosphere and it won’t be as punishing, there won’t be as much stress and you might just pull this off. Right until you overcorrect and suddenly you’re flipping over and rocketing straight at the ground and then the structure mercifully gives and the entire thing ignites.
My favorite times in that game are all the results of failure. My favorite DIY solution that, somehow, worked was a return trip from the moon. I had been too generous/sloppy with my fuel getting off the surface, so I could only manage to get my kerbal into a steady, and achingly close earth orbit. A few hundred more km and I’d be scraping the outer atmosphere, which would very very slowly decrease my speed and return me home. I had no more oomph, and no faith in my ability to recreate the orbit, so he was doomed… or was he? The one thing at my disposal were the thrusters on the EVA suit. I timed my orbit, space walked out of my craft, and used my EVA jets to push against the side of my craft. Sure enough, I managed to just barely get in touch with the atmosphere, and after close to 100 orbits around the planet, I was finally slowed down enough to re-enter and make a safe landing.
That’s a really terrible way of bringing an astronaut home, and I clearly should have planned my flight and fuel better, but it was certainly the most memorable excursion into the stars.