NASA Partners With Microsoft to Bring Space Missions to Minecraft

By | March 14, 2023

A new partnership between NASA and Microsoft will allow Minecraft players to launch their own Moon rockets and experience life as an astronaut aboard an Orion spacecraft.

NASA has set its sights on returning humanity to the Moon for the first time since the 1970s as part of its Artemis program. For this ambitious multi-decade mission to be a success, humanity will need to develop complex technologies, construct leviathan Moon rockets, and inspire a whole new generation of astronauts, engineers, and scientists to carry on the good work.

To this end NASA has teamed up with Microsoft to create a series of interactive lessons set in Minecraft’s block-centric universe. The goal is to inspire children to picture themselves as future astronauts while introducing them to the goals and key technologies that will power the Artemis program.

Along the way, students will learn about the basics of rocketry and the challenges involved with guiding missions and surviving in the hostile environment of space. The newly created Minecraft worlds, including Artemis: Rocket Build, and Artemis: Return to the Moon, are available to download for free through the Minecraft Education platform.

“NASA strives to reach the broadest audience and inspire the Artemis Generation to prepare them for the missions of tomorrow,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a NASA release. “Through our partnership with Microsoft, this new frontier in Minecraft reflects NASA’s priority of pushing the boundaries of exploration on the Moon, Mars, and beyond!”

NASA’s Maiden Launch of the Space Launch System Moon Rocket

Artemis: Rocket Build will see players learn about NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which successfully completed its maiden flight in November last year. Students will then be asked to juggle fuel and budget constraints as they create and customise their own rockets capable of launching satellites and crew into space.

Artemis: Return to the Moon, meanwhile, will encourage students to use block-based or Python coding to control a digital version of NASA’s Orion capsule as they “complete mini-missions and solve challenges in space” as part of an Orion astronaut crew.

The block-based aerospace crossover is far from the only time that NASA has teamed up with video game developers. NASA had previously partnered with Squad to bring an asteroid redirect mission to Kerbal Space Program, and has also released a number of its own education-orientated games and experiences.

Back in 2022, the agency even partnered with Kojima Productions and watchmaker Anicorn to create a very unexpected timepiece, and reached out to developers to create assets in Unreal Engine 5 that could help prepare its astronauts for life on Mars.

Anthony is a freelance contributor covering science and video gaming news for IGN. He has over eight years experience of covering breaking developments in multiple scientific fields and absolutely no time for your shenanigans. Follow him on Twitter @BeardConGamer