NASA, 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!