I’m gonna Animal Cracker your face Affleck

Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s personal crusade aside, NASA has a pretty steep mountain to climb in terms of returning its reputation back to the glory days of the Space Race. I love me some NASA, but I have to admit they’ve done a terrible job at selling themselves to a country that’s ever more distrustful of hard science (but addicted to pseudo-science CSI shows. Weird.). Now that the shuttle is just months away from full-retirement, there’s no better time for NASA to re-introduce itself to the American public as an institution that helps us embrace the wonders of science and exploration, not to mention inspires us to reach ever farther.

And guess what? Someone is apparently already on it, as NASA has just released the first of many free games in the Learning Technologies via the oh-so-excellent Steam platform. Moonbase Alpha puts you in the moonboots of an astronaut working to restore life-support systems to a lunar settlement after a pesky meteorite strike. Resource management! Co-op play! Not a single Aerosmith song to be found! In your face, upcoming StarCraft 2!

Check out the trailer (which, to be fair, isn’t exactly dripping with excitement):

But oh, hell yes it’s cool to have a NASA game catalog coming our way, and even my short run through of the game was entertaining.

Ars Technica has a great interview with the Learning Technologies project manager, Daniel Lauglin, that goes into detail about why NASA has finally embraced the gaming culture as a platform for building renewed interest in the struggling institution. Check it out (or better yet, just go download it through Steam).