NASA Wants Virtual World Designers for MMO

The U.S. space agency has placed a request for information (RFI) on its Web site for software developers interested in creating a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game for space enthusiasts. BBC News is reporting that the goal of the game they want to create is to reach young people interested in space exploration.

The MMO game the agency is seeking would "simulate real NASA engineering and science missions," according to the RFI. "A high quality synthetic gaming environment is a vital element of NASA's educational cyberstructure," it goes on to add.

"The MMO will foster career exploration opportunities in a much deeper way than reading alone would permit and at a fraction of the time and cost of an internship program."

The BBC article points out that NASA already is a player in the virtual worlds phenomenon, with its own base of operations in the highly popular game Second Life. The outpost, known as CoLab and operated by the Ames Research Center in California, is dedicated to fostering collaboration between the agency and those attracted to the space program.

"We at NASA are working hard to create opportunities for what I might call participatory exploration," the director of the project, Simon Worden, told delegates at the National Space Society's conference last year, according to the BBC report. "We are looking at how this island can be a portal for all to fly along on space missions."

"When the next people step onto the surface of the Moon in a little over a decade, your avatar could be with them," he added.

The RFI is an invitation to game specialists to become involved in a dedicated new MMO environment to be developed under the auspices of the NASA Learning Technologies Project Office. The deadline for submitting requests for participation is 15 February.

It states: "A NASA-based MMO could provide opportunities for students to investigate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics career paths while participating in engaging game play."

Now, all you advanced game developers out there have a really significant real-world challenge to rise to, one worthy of your amazing skills. Take 'em on. You could help explore really other worlds.

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