A while back I was arguing for Cryptic to get in touch with NASA (or just about anyone relevant) to work on scientifically relevant content. Not necessarily gameplay but text and graphics for missions that might have a little more specificity and meat on the bones. I believe this could still happen. It would a great promotion for scientific groups with access to the right kind of technical expertise (creative writers, graphic designers, a love of Star Trek) who want a higher profile with the general public. Exploration definitely needs a ton of new stuff and better varied content in particular.
Well, now it seems NASA may have it's own thing going on.
"The NASA Learning Technologies (LT) project supports the development of projects that deliver NASA content through innovative applications of technologies to enhance education in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Research and development are at the core of the LT mission. LT seeks to enhance formal and informal education in STEM fields with the goal of increasing the number of students in those fields of study and is currently investigating the development of a NASA-based massively multiplayer online educational game (MMO).
Persistent immersive synthetic environments in the form of massive multiplayer online gaming and social virtual world, initially popularized as gaming and social settings, are now finding growing interest as education and training venues. There is increasing recognition that these synthetic environments can serve as powerful “hands-on” tools for teaching a range of complex subjects. Virtual worlds with scientifically accurate simulations could permit learners to tinker with chemical reactions in living cells, practice operating and repairing expensive equipment, and experience microgravity, making it easier to grasp complex concepts and transfer this understanding quickly to practical problems. MMOs help players develop and exercise a skill set closely matching the thinking, planning, learning, and technical skills increasingly in demand by employers. These skills include strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, team-building and cooperation, and adaptation to rapid change.
The power of games as educational tools is rapidly gaining recognition. NASA is in a position to develop an online game that functions as a persistent, synthetic environment supporting education as a laboratory, a massive visualization tools and collaborative workspace while simultaneously drawing users into a challenging, game-play immersion."
Whether or not Moonbase actually happens this kind of content, if presented in a fun way with a Star Trek flair to it, could be great for Exploration. Scientifically accurate simulations might be harder to pull off but quest text, graphics and possibly simple (or not so simple) mini-games that abstractly illustrate concepts like these could well work in STO. NASA is definitely aware of the potential in MMOs and has a long history of partnership with the Star Trek franchise.
I'm working on something at the moment. It's an idea on conducting planetary surveys, such as bio, geo, archeo, etc. Some of the non-combat ground missions allow for the leisurely stroll, so I'm taking advantage of those particular missions. I take down a science crew consisting of science officers and engineers. My chief engineer has a background in archeology, and my chief science officer has one in exobiology. So what I do is, I stake my boffs at strategic locations while I run around collecting screenshots of various objects, plants, rock formations, etc.
I kind of had this feeling that Cryptic wanted us to explore their maps, especially since the anomaly nodes sometimes takes one to the edges of the maps. But to overcome my sense of boredom in snaking my way in the center of the map to scan five objects, I played around with turning these particular missions into actual scientific expeditions. To lock the map so I can return to it at later times, I scan the first object and then stop, so that the first phase of the mission is finished and the second phase remains incomplete. Then I can beam out and return at will.
Of course, this only works for the non-combat ground missions, as the combat would reset each time you visited (or maybe that's a good thing for folks who like combat). Even so, the end result is for me to delve into some creative writing and write up the reports of each of my boffs resulting from their various assignments.