The Learning Technologies (LT) arm of NASA was created to support education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (something they call "STEM") through innovative technologies. MMOs definitely fall into that "innovative technologies" category, and NASA know it. Not wanting to get left behind, LT is looking at developing an educational MMO that lets players accurately simulate science experiments, practice repairing high-end NASA equipment, experience microgravity... basically live the life of an astronaut. Most kids list "astronaut" as one of the things they want to be when they grow up, so being able to virtually live out that dream is nothing short of amazing.
While this may not appeal to every gamer, some of the comments made in the press release regarding MMOs might, primarily: "The power of games as educational tools is rapidly gaining recognition." About time someone recognizes that! What's more, they go on to say that MMOs (or "synthetic environments" as NASA calls them) are the perfect "hands-on" tools to teach complex subjects, and help develop strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, team-building and cooperation, and adaptation to rapid change. In short, they can edumacate people.
Perhaps the understanding that NASA (a federally funded entity mind you) has about MMOs will help change how the rest of our government views gaming. And maybe the space explorers will finally take us where no gamer has gone before... true legitimacy.