The career mode, available since version 0.22 is the next mode after the sandbox mode in the start game menu and is still in development. Currently it makes heavy use of the new Research and Development (R&D) center which features the technology tree.
In Career Mode, the player builds vessels in the Vehicle Assembly Building or the Spaceplane Hangar with only the parts they've unlocked thus far in the technology tree; you start off with the Start node unlocked already.
Unlike in Sandbox, the Research and Development Center is open and Science activities can be performed, giving results with descriptive "flavor text". Activities also yielding Science points to "research" and unlock currently locked nodes of the tech tree.
To quickly advance beyond the Start node in the tech tree, a purely ground-based mission can be done by "launching" a capsule without an engine from the Launch pad. This is similar to the earliest Apollo missions, though one was the infamous Apollo 1 fire.
Three science activities can be done at this tech level:
Crew Reports and EVA Reports earn Science only the first time performed in a given situation and biome. Surface Samples can be repeated for fewer points each time, reaching 0.0 after at six times.
The highest netting engine-less first mission involves stacking six (five gives nearly the same payout) Command Pod Mk1s in the Vehicle Assembly Building, turning the stack sideways with the A or D key, and rolling north off the LaunchPad across the Kerbal Space Center grounds to the Runway.
Start by taking and storing one Crew Report from the LaunchPad. Exit the pod to take the "EVA Report from LaunchPad", then take a Surface Sample, right click on a Command Pod to store data, then repeat with just the Surface Sample for each of the other pods. You'll repeat this procedure after rolling off the LaunchPad onto KSC and rolling up onto the Runway. It's possible to get a "Crew Report while flying over Kerbin's Shores" while in mid-air just after rolling off the north side of the LaunchPad.
Hanging on to a Command Pod for an EVA Report counts as "flying over Kerbin's Shores". However, in certain rare, poorly understood glitches (possibly related to split second timing while jumping on top of a ship), it is possible to get "flying over Kerbin's" EVA Reports for the LaunchPad, KSC, and the Runway.
Once on the KSC grounds, if your kerbonaut manages to be in ragdoll mode (not standing up) while on the ground, you can take an EVA Report and Surface Samples from the Shores biome. Repeat the Surface Samples four more times.
Rocket Surgery to Minmus
Alternatively, one can use a more elaborate form of explosive decoupling that KSP YouTuber Scott Manley dubs "rocket surgery" with solid rocket boosters to do a mission all the way to Minmus, as seen in his video "Kerbal Space Program - 0.22! Lets Do Science! Lots Of Science". The mission depicted netted 351.5 Science.
It's possible this tech could also reach Duna.
Possible future features
Money and Stock
- The Career mode will add limited money, with parts costing the amount shown.
- There will be a limited amount of parts in stock. It has been said that if the parts land safely, they can be reused.
- It is planned that if a part of KSC is damaged, repairing it will cost money.
During a development chat, one of the devs said that things have to be "discovered" with a telescope or probe to find out information about it. For example, if a craft were going to Jool, and looked in Map View, it would look like a giant green sphere unless a probe had already been send there with cameras and scientific instruments. Cameras will be added to the game in a further update.