Orbital Mechanics for Dummies
April 5, 2016 8:37 PM   Subscribe

Where can I learn about the physics of spaceflight if I don't know calculus? What books, movies, video games, websites, etc., would you recommend?

I'm writing a fictional piece that's basically Master and Commander... IN SPACE and I don't want to resort to the usual hand-wave of hyperdrive engines that defy all physics. I also don't want to take a course in differential calculus for the sake of a single short story.

Ideally, I could learn all this stuff by reading/watching other works of fiction! Neal Stephenson's Seveneves is a good example of the sort of thing I'm looking for.

I don't object to non-fiction! I just need something that's watered down enough for someone who wouldn't know a calculus from the bottom of his foot.
posted by contemporarySlob to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Kerbal Space Program!!! By a country mile. I don't think any other resource will even come close in terms of making it all just click.
posted by un petit cadeau at 8:42 PM on April 5, 2016 [13 favorites]

Relevant XKCD comic
posted by poxandplague at 8:47 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Came here hoping Kerbal would be first answer, was not disappointed.

Elon Musk loves Kerbal. That's kinda all you need to know.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:48 PM on April 5, 2016

If you want to learn orbital mechanics through Kerbal and not actually play it yourself, I highly recommend Scott Manley's youtube channel. His schtick is to talk about real-world space/science in the context of KSP.
posted by Alterscape at 9:10 PM on April 5, 2016

Nthing Kerbal Space Program, ideally through playing it... controlling trajectories and orbits yourself will definitely lead to several lightbulb moments.

You may also find some useful info on Atomic Rockets, the homepage is a bit off-putting, make sure you "Click to Show Topics" at the top, things get a bit visually calmer futher down the site.
posted by protorp at 10:43 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

to rise from earth
posted by sexyrobot at 12:02 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Atomic Rockets is a site specifically for SF authors covering all aspects of spaceflight.
posted by PenDevil at 5:00 AM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

re:Kerbal Space Program - The Kerbal Space Program Wiki has Tutorials that are very helpful for getting your feet off the ground.
posted by ElGuapo at 6:57 AM on April 6, 2016

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