WASHINGTON - Nasa has abandoned plans to return to the moon but videogamers can explore the lunar landscape with a free new online game released by the US space agency.
Moonbase Alpha allows players to join an exploration team in a futuristic 3D settlement on the south pole of the Moon.
"In Moonbase Alpha, you assume the exciting role of an astronaut working to further human expansion and research," Nasa said in an explanation of the game.
"Returning from a research expedition, you witness a meteorite impact that cripples the life support capability of the settlement.
"With precious minutes ticking away, you and your team must repair and replace equipment in order to restore the oxygen production to the settlement," Nasa said
To accomplish their mission, players of the "first-person explorer" game use an interactive command centre, lunar rover and mobile robotic repair units.
"Proper use and optimal allocation of their available resources are key to the team's overall success," Nasa said.
Nasa said the game is designed to "engage and educate students about agency technologies, job opportunities and the future of space exploration."
Moonbase Alpha can be played by one or up to six players. Nasa said it is a precursor to a planned Nasa-based "multiplayer online game project."
The game is available via MoonbaseAlphaGame.com.