Do you have what it takes to put together a space mission and race through the solar system to explore a celestial object?
Xtronaut: The Game of Solar System Exploration was designed by Dante Lauretta, Professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona. Dante is a Asteroid Day 100x signatory and speaker at Asteroid Day LIVE 2020.
He based the game design on his experience leading NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission. Launched in 2016, the mission reached asteroid Bennu in 2018 and has been studying it ever since. On 20 October, OSIRIS-REx will attempt to collect samples from the asteroid’s surface for return to Earth so they can be studied in the lab.
OSIRIS-REx specifically targeted asteroid Bennu because the asteroid is rich in organic compounds. As Dante explained to us, these are molecules based around carbon, and could conceivably have been the chemical ‘seeds of life’ on the early Earth.
The game captures the challenges and fun of planning a space mission and combines real rocket science with mission planning, strategy, politics, and interactive play.
To start the game each player selects a Mission Card from the deck. This card determines the player’s mission, including the destination; type of spacecraft needed; the amount of energy needed; and the points earned for completing the mission – the more complicated the mission, the higher the return.
When it comes to the energy requirements, players will determine how much can come from the rocket’s main engines, solid rocket boosters, and whether they can pick up a boost by flying past certain planets en route. The game includes many solar system destinations, including the asteroids Bennu, Vesta, and Ceres.
To win the game you must identify your target and put together the right combination of rocket parts and spacecraft to achieve mission success. The game is highly interactive. You must watch out for other players as they confound your attempts to launch your mission by forcing you to wait out a government shutdown, swipe your hardware due to higher national priority, or cancel your mission for their own benefit.
On the more helpful side, you can receive surplus funds, use extra parts, maybe even forge a mutually beneficial collaboration with another player.
These twists and turns are decided by drawing action cards at each round of the game. To complete a mission, you must populate your game board with the right combination of cards for mission success. The first player to ten points wins the game.
Can you navigate both the politics on Earth and the reaches of outer space to complete your mission?
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