NASA Budgets $3m to Develop MMO and More

NASA to develop educational MMONASA, the U.S. space agency, is getting ready to launch its own exploration into virtual space. NASA’s Learning Technologies arm has issued an intramural call for proposal ideas [UPDATE: now postponed, oddly] for the development of a massively multiplayer online game that is intended to be “the front-end of a larger synthetic environment.” The program is funded to the tune of $1 million a year for fiscal years 2007, 2008 and 2009. [UPDATE: I’ve changed the headline from “earmarks” to “budgets” per Daniel Laughlin’s comment below.] While the call for proposals is internal only, “Each proposing team must include a partner with commercial-quality game development experience. It is expected that this requirement will necessitate partnering with external organizations and that the majority of funding will be used for game development.” [Emphasis added. And thanks to Troy McLuhan of the International Spaceflight Museum in Second Life for sending over the news.]

While the Web page doesn’t say so specifically, NASA is apparently compiling its own list of potential outside developers for the project, and Daniel Laughlin, the contact for the project, is also looking at Second Life as a possible platform. For more information, you can download a PDF of the 16-page CFP. It describes the MMO as an educational project “with the primary goal of engaging young people in NASA’s mission. It also mentions that several projects will be taken on in the first year, and then a single project will be chosen from among those to receive the balance of the funding. So whether you’re an SL developer, a Multiverse world-maker or some other kind of MMOist, strap on your oxygen tanks, and email your space credentials to Daniel.D.Laughlin [at] nasa [dot] gov. Zero-gravity virtual world here we come! What a fantastic project. I love when I get to use the “space” tag on 3pointD. Go, NASA!


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  2. Daniel Laughlin

    I want to be careful about the wording of the title. In NASA and the rest of the government, earmarking is when Congress directs funding. These funds are simply budgetted by NASA for this purpose.

  3. Tim Holt

    I gotta say (even as someone who will be submitting), this is a kick ass proposal. Why? Because it’s actually saying that people who succeed will know how to make good games, not just “create learning content based on realistic models of physics” (my own quotes).

    There are so many Serious Games out there that are just flat out boring or boring looking. Like you would never in a million years buy that game if it was on the shelf let alone read about it or download the demo. Not mind you that the solution lies in the hands of the game makers, but it definitely lies somewhere between the game makers and the “serious” side of things.

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  5. BSG

    Armstrong: That’s one small step for man, one giant leep
    John Glenn: God dammit Leeroy.
    Leeroy: At least I have chicken.

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  7. Kurt D Rehder

    Please check out our website for the first ever real time architectural design competition in SL being judged by Daniel Laughlin amongst others.

    I would love to write a post for your blog.


    Kurt D Rehder