Beyond the Cradle 2020: Envisioning a New Space Age


Space Exploration Initiative

Space Exploration Initiative

March 12, 2020

CANCELLED (in-person)

Context from MIT's President

Envisioning a New Space Age

March 12, 2020

The Moon awaits, with Mars soon to follow. As we reflect on the momentous significance of last year's Apollo 11 moon landing anniversary, the next 50 years of interplanetary civilization beckons. Join us in co-designing our space future, where we weave the tapestry of the space industry with 60 leading space visionaries—from the space scientists and astronauts at the vanguard of exploration, to the CEOs and founders building a burgeoning space ecosystem, to the artists and storytellers shaping our conception of the possible.

“The Earth is the Cradle of Humanity—but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.” 

—Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

2020 Theme:  Life in Space

  • Full event agenda here.  
  • Best-of highlight reel for Beyond the Cradle here!

This event is hosted annually by the

MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative.

In-person attendance at Beyond the Cradle is by invitation only; the event will be livestreamed and made freely available for public viewership. Check back on this webpage on March 12th for tune-in deta… View full description.

Speaker Bios


8:00am | Breakfast and registration

8:45am | Welcome and kickoff: Houston we are GO for launch

  • Ariel Ekblaw, Founder and Lead, Space Exploration Initiative

9:00am | Plenary keynote

  • Dr. Maria T. Zuber, MIT VP for Research

9:45am | Plenary panel: Our sci-fi space future

  • [Moderator] Lizbeth B. De La Torre, Space Enabled, MIT Media Lab 
  • Jeremy Lasky, Co-founder, Perception Studios
  • Dr. Tanya Harrison, Manager of Science Programs, Planet Labs
  • Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, writer, Marvel; Creative Director, Somos Arte

10:30am | Break

10:45am |  Session 1 | Please choose one track

(A) Space Research Talk

  • Sheperd Doeleman, Founding Director of the Event Horizon Telescope, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

(B) Democratizing "Open Space" Panel

  • [Moderator] Therese Jones, Senior Director of Policy, Satellite Industry Association
  • Emily Calandrelli, Host and Executive Producer, Xploration Outer Space
  • Prathima Muniyappa, Space Enabled, MIT Media Lab 
  • Jessy Kate Schingler, Director of Policy and Governance Research, Open Lunar Foundation
  • Matt Weinzierl, Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

11:30am | Session 2 | Please choose one track

(A) Space & Storytelling Talk

  • Nia Imara, John Harvard Distinguished Science Fellow, Harvard University and artist

(B) Frontiers for Space Exploration Panel

  • [Moderator] Farah Alibay, Flight System Systems Engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Hajime Yano, Space Exploration Scientist, Associate Professor, Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
  • Kimberly Slater, Space Innovations Lead, Program Manager, Space Systems Program Office, DRAPER Laboratory
  • Erika Wagner, Payload Sales Director, Blue Origin
  • Pete Klupar, Director of Engineering, Breakthrough Starshot

12:15pm | Lunch

1:15pm | Session 3 | Please choose one track

(A) Space Industry Talk

  • Dr. Zachary Pirtle, Lead Exploration and Operations Research Analyst at NASA Headquarters

(B) Space and the Arts Panel

  • [Moderator] Benjamin Bratton, artist
  • Lita Albuquerque, artist
  • Lisa Messeri, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Yale
  • Tavares Strachan, artist
  • Anton Vidokle, artist 

2:00pm | Session 4 | Please choose one track

(A) Space Industry Talk

  • Veronica Foreman, Payload Engineer, Virgin Orbit 

(B) Fireside Chat: Life in Space from Astrobiology to Planetary Science 

  • [Moderator] Sunanda Sharma, PhD Candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Tanja Bosak, Associate Professor and Chair of the Program in Geology, Geochemistry & Geobiology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Professor, Arizona State University

2:45pm | Workshops

Explore full workshop descriptions here!

  1. Design Your Sci Fi Space Future
  2. Native Space Farer, Part III
  3. Space Architecture
  4. Space Governance
  5. Space Health 

3:45pm | Break

4:00pm | Plenary keynote

  • Nicholas de Monchaux, Professor of Architecture and Urbanism, MIT

4:30pm | Event finale: Astronaut augury

  • [Moderator] Cady Coleman, ret. NASA astronaut
  • Samantha Cristoferretti, ESA astronaut
  • Oleg Kotov, Cosmonaut
  • Paolo Nespoli, ret. ESA Astronaut and Engineer

5:10pm | Event finale: Executive augury

  • [Moderator] Sarah Cruddas, Space Journalist, TV Host, Author and Director at Space for Humanity
  • Larry James, Deputy Director, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 
  • Brent Sherwood, Vice President of Engineering, Blue Origin 

5:45pm | Closing remarks

Ariel Ekblaw, Founder and Lead, Space Exploration Initiative

6:00pm | Cocktail reception

Accessibility Note: This event will have open captioning (English) at the event and on the webcast. Archival video will also include English-language closed captions.

Contact beyondthecradle@media.mit.edu with general questions.  
Contact events@media.mit.edu with accessibility questions.

View the archive of the 2019 event. Learn more about the Space Exploration Initiative.  


  1. Design Your Sci Fi Space Future
  2. Native Space Farer, Part III
  3. Space Architecture
  4. Space Governance
  5. Space Health & Interplanetary Cyborgs
  1. Design Your Sci Fi Space Future, Sands Fish, Space Exploration Initiative, MIT Media Lab. If we are to increasingly live in orbit(s), the way we design our everyday objects, interiors, and comforts will evolve. Weightlessness affords us entirely new constraints and freedoms to design within. Floors become walls that become ceilings, and objects take on an agency that they would not have when held down by gravity. These are some of the opportunities future designers will explore. This workshop will be a speculative design exercise, considering how we might design a space station from scratch in the next 100 years. We will review aspects of the current station and new design principles that will transform how we think about design in the microgravity environment.
  2. Native Space Farer, Part IIILaura Zittrain, Designer and teacher, Majestic Yoga StudioJennifer Shaw, MD, Obstetric Hospitalist, Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge and Atrius Health Can humans have children in space? Will we develop the same in microgravity as we do on Earth? So far, studies performed on astronauts that return from extended periods of time in space show alterations in their physiology from their muscle strength down to epigenetic changes in their DNA. In this workshop we will discuss how to test the feasibility of mammalian reproduction in space, and how microgravity might affect the development of different tissues, like bone and muscle, potentially limiting the future homes of native-born space-farers. Furthermore, human civilizations have developed only on one planet: Earth, though a vast array of cultures have developed in the different environments from the arctic to the tropics. Would native space-farers feel any connection to the cultures of Earth or other planetary bodies? If we can overcome these potential barriers to human development—could we create a new cradle of civilization beyond our planet?
  3. Space Architecture, Valentina Sumini, MIT Media Lab Postdoctoral Researcher and Space ArchitectJeffrey Montes, Space Architect, Principal, JETPORTAL Vera Mulyani, CEO, Mars City Design CompetitionGeorgi Petrov, Associate Director, Skidmore Owings & MerrillGui Trotti, Architect; President, Trotti & Associates, Inc. (TAI)The human desire to explore new planets and live on other celestial bodies enabled architects to think of a new design challenge: Space Architecture. From lunar colonies to Martian ones, the actual generation of architects is envisioning the future of human space exploration through computational design, extra-terrestrial native materials, additive manufacturing, and robotic construction. Join leading Space Architects to hear about their ongoing projects and imagine your movable, deployable habitat for your deep space exploration mission on the moon and Mars! The workshop will include an open conversation and design session with the audience.
  4. Space Governance, Mehak Sarang, Staff Researcher, MIT Media Lab/Harvard Business SchoolIbrahim Ghaznavi, Visiting Researcher, MIT Media LabKate McCall-Kiley, Director’s Fellow, MIT Media LabWith humanity on the brink of interplanetary life and the pace of the technological revolution challenging these systems’ viability, space offers a new way of viewing a challenging question of the future of governance in a boundless environment. We’re excited by questions like: What will governance of our interplanetary life actually look like? How will our current way of governing relate to and transition as a result of space-enabled humanity? And are there ways the space environment can help us prototype new governance realities here on Earth? This workshop seeks to play with ideas for simulating a set of governance futures in a way that enables us to visualize new paths forward. 
  5. Space Health & Interplanetary Cyborgs, Pat Pataranutaporn, Fluid Interfaces, MIT Media LabAbhinandan Jain, Fluid Interfaces, MIT Media LabMiguel Jimenez, Postdoctoral Associate, Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyPattie Maes, Professor in MIT's Program in Media Arts and SciencesTo become an interplanetary species, humans must develop novel solutions for optimal functioning in challenging environments. Apart from the physical adaptations necessary, cognitive augmentation will be crucial as well. With the advancement of novel brain and body sensors and stimulation techniques, future wearable technology will be able to closely monitor cognitive states and intervene to enhance cognitive functions. In this workshop, we will present some of the research of the Media Lab's Fluid Interfaces group on devices that enhance attention, memory, and wellbeing, and will brainstorm novel forms of human-machine symbiosis for future space explorers.


Each year, Beyond the Cradle hosts the work of artists, designers, storytellers, musicians and more for an exhibition featured in the central event space. From Afronaut suits to moon geese, from planetary orbs to music composed in microgravity, we delight in providing a platform for visual and creative pieces that tell the story of space exploration. Interested in participating or looking to nominate a gallery fellow? Email beyondthecradle@media.mit.edu.

Check back in March 2020 for our featured gallery fellows announcement. 


All press inquiries for Beyond the Cradle: 

beyondthecradle@media.mit.edu and web-press@media.mit.edu

Each year, we invite a select group of press to attend the event in-person. Please contact us if you are interested in participating. The event will be live-streamed publicly. 

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