"The space agency announced last month that it will join forces with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to help make sense of that part of the Internet commonly referred to as the Deep or Dark Web. Most Internet users first heard about it, if they’ve heard about it at all, in the context of Silk Road, the now-defunct online drug marketplace that was hosted on a hidden Web service. Silk Road was only accessible using the anonymity-enhancing browser The Onion Router, or TOR."
For anyone who had been around the Internet long enough, the deep web was like the old abandoned house on the corner only the really brave (or foolish) kids broke into. The arrest, trial, and conviction of Silk Road's Ross Ulbricht shed a new light on that house for laypeople. Now everyone wants to know what's inside. That's where NASA comes in with its missions to "access and catalog this mysterious online world."
The effort isn't merely a pet project. Deep search technology is important to NASA's long-term goals.
"Some sites aren’t linked to by Google because they’re private — behind paywalls, for example, or simply not worth Google’s efforts to index, like scientific data. That’s the kind of information in which NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is interested, because that’s where the information its spacecraft send back to earth winds up."
So it's legitimately a scientific effort, though the fun/scary byproduct is going to be an advanced new way for the public to explore the 96 percent of the web beyond Google's grasp.