Orbital Simulator (MIT Mystery Hunt 2020)

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Orbital Simulator
MIT Mystery Hunt 2020
The puzzle's icon, a tall spinning ride with rocket ships as seats.
Author(s)Justin Graham
AnswerClick to revealPRESENT DAY
No. solves47
No. total guesses216

Orbital Simulator is a Music ID puzzle (among other things) from the Spaceopolis round of the 2020 MIT Mystery Hunt. It's presented as a interactive map with certain cities marked with a number and a rocket ship.

Puzzle Elements[edit | edit source]

Interactive Media (Map) - The puzzle is presented as a Google map with several points marked on it, allowing for zooming and scrolling (which is necessary to identify the cities at those points). Clicking on the markers links solvers to...

Identification (Music, Popular) - ...audio clips of various songs (mostly 20 seconds long).


Hint in Flavortext - The flavortext hints towards the connection between the songs and the numbers. The mention of NASA and "first thing in the morning" should lead to...

Knowledge Required (Astronomy) - ...NASA Wakeup Calls. Each song was sent by NASA to a Space Shuttle mission to wake up the astronauts onboard, which matches the number provided on that song's label.

Hint in Flavortext - The flavortext also hints at the next step, with the mention of NOAA and the reuse of the "first thing in the morning" clue. This leads to...

Identification (Geography) - ...Sunrise Times. Using the date of each of the wake-up calls for each of the missions, solvers can find out what time the "official" sunrise was in that city (via the NOAA site of course).

Reordering (Chronological) - Once solvers have the times, they need to order them from earliest to latest, and then...

Alphanumeric Substitution Cipher - ...take the minutes of the time (For example, STS 104/Berlin's time is 5:14, so take 14) and convert it to a letter via A1Z26.

Final Clue Phrase - NOW OR XMAS is a clue for the final answer: Final AnswerPRESENT DAY (meaning both "Today" and "A day with presents". Both are enumerated.