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NASA-sponsored MMO should arrive next year

We want to believe that the pitch for Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond went something like this: “It’s sort of like World of Warcraft, except instead of waging battle against elves and dragons, you’re studying engineering and planning a flight to Mars!”

Sure, we know that’s probably not how discussion of the upcoming NASA-sponsored MMO began, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is an officially sanctioned, multiplayer, online space-exploration game on the way.

Made possible due to a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $25,000 in less than 20 days, Astronaut is being developed by a trio of companies chosen from a large pool of applicants.

While details of the game are scarce at this point, the basic premise will involve players’ characters beginning their adventure at the Arthur C. Clarke Astronaut Academy Station, where they’ll learn about space exploration and settlement. Like other MMOs, players will be able to choose from several character classes, including engineers, physicists, and pilots, and subsequently engage in space travel, exploration, planet settlement, and other adventures.

The synopsis that accompanied a new teaser trailer for the game (embedded below) offers a bit more insight regarding the general narrative of Moon, Mars, and Beyond:

Play as an aspiring astronaut in Astronaut:Moon, Mars and Beyond™, the official NASA MMO game. Set in the year 2035, you will embark on an adventure into space, Mars, the asteroid belt, and the outer planets.You will uncover secrets about a threat to civilization as we know it, and build you and your team a high-tech inventory of space gear including a home base, somewhere out there.

Described as “Hogwarts in space” by one of the three companies working on the game, Astronaut is part of NASA’s Learning Technologies initiative, and will receive a government tax credit matching any donated funding it receives (up to $700,000).

A playable beta for the game is expected to debut in December 2012, with plans for the PC and iOS initially, then a possible expansion to consoles at later point.