Experience The Apollo Missions With This Free Flight Simulator

Screenshot: Virtual AGC Open Source, Orbiter simulator

Windows: If you're a bit of a NASA nut, it’s easy to try out beautiful simulations of different Apollo missions on your PC for free. All you need is the open-source application Orbiter and the Project Apollo add-on, which is a heck of a lot easier to manage than going to Space Camp.

Though Orbiter can be a pretty hardcore flight simulator, it (thankfully) comes with varying levels of realism and difficulty for more casual players. In other words, if you just want to zoom to the moon and back, you won’t break a sweat trying to figure out the ins and outs of your 1960s-era computer.

Installing Orbiter and the Apollo mission modules

Orbiter and the Apollo missions currently only run on Windows systems (sorry Mac and Linux users). The good news is that Orbiter has relatively low system requirements, and most PCs and laptops should be able to run it.

We recommend grabbing some of the official high-resolution texture packs and/or third-party graphics packs, so your trip to space looks as good as possible. Once you have the app up and working, make sure you grab the Project Apollo add-on as well. That’s your key to the moon.

Also, space is pretty quiet—as in, Orbiter doesn’t come with built-in sounds, so you’ll need to also install those if you want a bit more ambience for your trip.

Once everything is installed, launch the Orbiter_ng.exe file from the Orbiter installation folder. There are plenty of settings you can configure, but it’s recommended that you turn on “Complex flight model,” “Limited fuel,” “Gravity-gradient torque” and “Nonspherical gravity sources” under the Parameters tab.

When you’re ready to play, click the Scenarios tab and select one of Orbiter’s built-in scenarios or one of the Apollo add-on modules, then click “Launch” to initiate the mission. If you find that it’s way, way too over your head, there are some tutorials available. Otherwise, spend some time with Go Play In Space, a super-useful website that’s designed to get you up to speed on Orbiter without overwhelming your non-astronaut mind. (The Orbiter Forum is also an excellent resource.)


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