It should be noted that kerbonaut is a fan-made term and not used by Squad. However, the commonality of its use by fans mirrors the real-world prevalence of nation-specific terms for space travelers (discussed below), hence prefixing naut with kerbo in place of astro.
Kerbonauts are the only controllable characters in-game in Kerbal Space Program. They wear an Intra-Vehicular Activity suit and helmet inside of crafts, and an Extra-Vehicular Activity suit and helmet outside them. The EVA suit includes forward-facing floodlights on their helmets and a RCS jetpack.
Kerbonauts on EVA can walk, turn around, run, jump, fall over (frequently), get up, “go ragdoll” and, if in water, swim around and float. They can switch their lights on and off, activate their jetpacks (which also changes their movements to translation mode), fire thrusters to move along three axes, and deactivate their jetpacks. For science, they can record EVA Reports, take Surface Samples, plant flags, and remove science reports from command pods to carry with them.
Kerbonauts also enjoy sitting in command seats and pretending to know how all the buttons and levers work, but mostly just show enthusiasm and occasional bouts of existential terror.
Experience and Skill
- → Main article: Experience
Since the 0.90.0 update, Kerbonauts each have one of three specializations and a skill level in it. New skills can be unlocked when experience points are gained from missions. The 3 main type of skills are:
- Pilots, which are able to provide SAS stability to a craft, or point the craft at a certain direction.
- Scientists, which increase the yield from science collection, data transfer and processing information in a lab.
- Engineers, which are able to repair certain parts of a spacecraft, or repack parachutes.
The Astronaut Complex provides centralized status listing of all hired crew and the hiring of new kerbonauts. The surname of every kerbonaut, and of every known Kerbal, is "Kerman". Aside from the original three, each kerbonaut has a random first name. Each kerbonaut also has randomized personality traits.
In addition to a random first name, each kerbonaut has random values of two personality attributes – Courage and Stupidity – which are displayed in-game. There's a small chance they may also have the hidden "BadS" (Pronounced "Bad Ess" which is presumed a play on "Badass") flag. In the game file "persistent.sfs" Courage is a scalar value with the key brave. Stupidity has the key dumb.
There is a bug regarding Courage (but not Stupidity) in version 0.23.5, where courage values in the info screen in both the Tracking Station and Orbital Map are inverted from those displayed in the Astronaut Complex.
Personality traits determine how a kerbonaut behaves in variously lethal flight conditions. These reactions are displayed by facial expressions and gestures typically seen in IVA portraits and range from neutral to happy to inconsolable horror. They have no effect on flight performance or Science results[outdated].
Experiments in version 0.23 using non-badass kerbonauts modified to the four possible combinations of extreme Courage and Stupidity ([1, 1], [1, 0], [0, 0], [0, 1]) revealed that Courage does not control fearful behavior. Both of the Stupid kerbonauts were blissfully ignorant in the face of danger. Meanwhile, the non-Stupid ones both displayed equal fear of accelerating in any rocket built by KSC engineers, and displayed this at exactly the same time despite having opposite levels of Courage from each other. Subsequent tests with 0.75/0.25 combinations showed an uptick in fear in the more Stupid subjects, indicating that the natural outcome of awareness is dread.
The badS flag, however, negates all fear regardless of Courage or Stupidity, pushing the kerbonaut toward a happy state which only the most blatantly impending catastrophe can dim.
The Original Three
Every new game, whether Sandbox, Science or Career mode, begins with three kerbonauts already on the roster. While all other kerbonauts have randomly generated names and stats, these three are always the same. Their names are Jebediah Kerman, Bill Kerman, and Bob Kerman.
These are the only “veteran” kerbonauts in Kerbal Space Program, designated by orange IVA suits and icons in crew interfaces; everything else is visually identical to all kerbonauts. In some of the game's loading screens, three orange suited kerbonauts (presumably Jeb, Bill, and Bob) have helmets with orange stripes though no such helmet is seen in-game – IVA helmets have grey stripes and EVA have red.
Their presence at the top of the list of kerbonauts in every game means they each have much greater likelihood of being aboard any given vessel than does any random kerbonaut, with Jeb being far and away the most likely to pilot any craft any time he's available. This, and their presence in every player's games, makes them the most famous faces of KSP.
The term kerbonaut is an invention of KSP fans. The in-game building for hiring crew is named the Astronaut Complex and, as the developers at Squad are the authors of the Kerbal universe, their terms are official.
However, fans persist in “adding K to every word” as evidenced by mods like the Kerbonaut Creator, use in KSP fan fiction, forum posts requesting kerbonaut veteran suit colors, etc. Additionally, there are about 12x more views of a Kerbonaut Minecraft skin than a Kerbal astronaut Minecraft skin hosted on the same site.
In reality, “astronaut” refers principally to NASA's space travellers. The term “cosmonaut” (Russian: космонавт) has been used during and after Soviet times for Russians in space. Until recently, only the US and Russia have launched manned space flights. Space travellers from other nations have partnered with one or the other, and then adopted the American or Russian terms outright or invented other terms based on them respectively. More recently, mainland Chinese sources, when addressing English or Russian-speaking audiences, adopt their terms; but they natively refer to all non-Chinese space travellers as ”yǔ háng yuán” (Chinese: 宇航员) and reserve the term ”háng tiān yuán” (Chinese: 航天员) for those from the PRC. Both terms translate as “space navigating personnel”. Meanwhile, western media invented the term ”taikonaut” for China's space travellers.
If there is any universal trend, it seems that terms for ”people who go to space” get colored by nationalism. And although KSC and characters like Wernher von Kerman and Gene Kerman closely resemble the American space program of the 1960s, in the end this wiki just goes with ”kerbonaut”.