SpaceEngine is a free space simulation program that allows you to travel through intergalactic space in three dimensions. Starting from Earth, you can journey out into the cosmos and visit all known areas of the Universe. And as for those places where no one has gone before, the computer can simulate that experience for you, too.

Writing in PCWorld, Cassandra Khaw describes the software and how it works:

New simulation is as close to traveling through space as it getsS

The list of available functions is rather impressive. According to the description on the SpaceEngine website, SpaceEngine has every type of celestial object known to modern astronomy. It also lets you exercise time control in order to observe the rotation of planets and their orbital movement, view orbital paths, take in the splendors of 3D planetary landscapes and volumetric space models, import your own user add-ons and, most importantly, pilot spaceships. Depending on how much you've wanted to work for NASA, this may be the niftiest component of SpaceEngine.

Not only can you zip through this virtual universe like the Silver Surfer with Free mode, but you can choose between Spacecraft mode and Aircraft mode, both of which utilize inertia to simulate a rigid body in zero gravity. The only thing that SpaceEngine is missing is a contingent of little green men.

As you might have guessed already, the system requirements for SpaceEngine are somewhat hefty. At bare minimum, you'll need a computer that has a 2GHz processor, 2GB of memory, a 512MB video card, and Windows XP.

Read the rest of Khaw's article. And be sure to visit SpaceEngine to learn more, and to download the app.

Image via PCWorld.