In an effort to get more young people interested in space and science, NASA is funding an MMOG set in a not-too-far-off future where humanity is settling the Solar System - and you can earn school credit too, kids!
Someone at NASA must have looked at America's Army and reasoned, "If it works for those guys, why can't it work for us?" That's the only explanation I can think of for the fact that the space agency has at least two educational games in the pipeline: We learned about "Be A Martian" back in November, but it turns out that wasn't the only game with the NASA stamp on it.
Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond is a MMOG set in the not-too-distant future. In the year 2035, humanity has started to settle the Solar System, and it's the player's job to help out. After choosing from several character classes that include "several types of Engineer, Physicists, and Pilots," players will tackle problems in a game that includes "real science, technology, engineering, mathematics and physics content," whatever that means.
Interestingly enough, AMMB won't just be all play - according to the site, players "will be able to receive real
course accreditation from ages 13-24!" Since, you know, it's a government organization and it can actually do things like that. This may be a first, actually - I can't think of any other MMOGs off the top of my head that offer tangible real-world benefits; grinding in-game may be a legitimate alternative to doing schoolwork. Go figure.
AMMB is being developed with the Unreal engine, and early builds are expected to be playable in late 2010.