During my brief love affair with DIY rocket sim Kerbal Space Program, I visited the London Science Museum and came out having learnt genuinely useful lessons about when to use my second stage rocket boosters. I could have looked that up online (and yeah, I did that too), but isn't that fantastic? I can't say for sure that I wouldn't have wound up in the museum anyway, but Kerbal had to have been on my mind when I was deciding whether to visit. Nice one, video games.
I'd sort of forgotten Kerbal existed since then, but today's launch of its first expansion has blasted it back onto my radar. Making History is free for anyone who bought the game before April 2013, and adds a new mission builder that lets you devise fiendish tasks for yourself and other players. That's the Making part: the History part lets you reenact landmark moments "from spacewalking to crash landing on the Mun".
Some people might be happy to splash around in Kerbal's sandbox mode, but I doubt I'd have gotten into the game without the Science and Career modes giving me some direction. The mission builder sounds like it'll provide excellent alternatives to the looser goals laid out in those modes, and I'm sure the community will come up with some ludicrously challenging adventures. Custom scenarios can feature "launches, landings, rescues, malfunctions, explosions, repairs, and other events".
If the missions designed by other players seem too daunting, then the ones included in the "History Pack" might offer some respite - though I doubt they'll be a spacewalk in the park. They all have you recreating moments from mankind's real world space exploits. I can only hope they skip the parts where we sent all those animals to their deaths. The history pack also includes some "new parts and astronaut suits inspired by the Space Race".
Kerbal Space Program: Making History is free if you bought the base game before April 2013, as will be any other future expansions. Otherwise, it's £13/€15/$15 from Steam, GOG, the Humble Store, and the devs.