Space Exploration Initiative

NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI)


Space will be hackable. Space will be playful.

With humanity at the cusp of interplanetary civilization, we are actively building the technologies, tools, and human experiences of our Sci-Fi Space Future. In doing so, we build on the spirit of the Media Lab, uniting artists, scientists, engineers, and designers to build a real-life Starfleet Academy (inspired by the iconic institution from Star Trek). We are grounded in the academic excellence of MIT, while leveraging the provocative, creative, and futuristic technology expertise at the Media Lab. The Space Exploration Initiative supports 25+ research projects, regular parabolic flights, suborbital and orbital launch research deployments, and a team of 50+ students, staff, and faculty. 

We are creating and deploying space technologies that envision a bold and culturally rich “new space age,” from astro-bacteria wearables, to open-access and shareable cubesat constellations, to musical instruments for our space voyages, to floating space habitats, to advanced zero-gravity 3D printing. The philosophy of “democratizing access to space exploration”—bringing moonshots and starshots into the purview of hackers and makers—courses through our work, and guides both our research platform and our extensive STEAM outreach efforts. 

Founding Mission

The public grand opening of Space draws near. Much as biology has witnessed an explosion of DIY bio-hacking in recent years, the dropping costs of space launches and cubesats enable a new mode of engagement in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and beyond. What was once an exclusive, expensive and narrowly serious pursuit is now evolving to include a vast array of possibilities. New ventures in space will impact everyday life on Earth, unifying us independent of boundaries, cultures, and economies; these new ventures are opportunities to look beyond near-term interests to global and interplanetary opportunities as we enter the New Space Age. 

We will make Space accessible and engaging for millions—and someday billions—of people through the reach of DIY instruments, experiments, sensors, satellites, and ultimately through a new age of space exploration. While many organizations already tackle, quite effectively, certain engineering and scientific challenges in this area, the Media Lab is distinct in its freedom to imagine, to build and deploy bold visions that venture beyond the rational constraints of most academic grants. We push forward on the risky, futuristic, next-generation ideas to prototype our sci-fi future. 

Our goal is to invent, create, and deploy ideas that seem exotic and impossible today, but could be commonplace in ten years. Just as the Media Lab pioneered the seamless coupling of the worlds of bits and atoms, digital interactivity, and fields such as affective computing and synthetic neurobiology, we will create a new wave of creativity for the New Space Age, pioneering the technologies and tools of engagement that democratize the future of space exploration. We will diversify and open the space industry landscape, bringing “moonshots” and “starshots” into the purview of hackers and makers.

We’ll prototype provocative space architectures and astro-bacteria wearables. We’ll open-source our payload designs, make satellite constellations available for common use and deploy! We aim to drive innovation at the frontiers of space exploration, from the holy grail of “life in space” to widespread societal involvement in “open space.” Humanity stands on the cusp of interplanetary civilization and space is our next, grand frontier. This opportunity to design our interplanetary lives beckons to us—our collective creativity strives to bring science fiction to life.

–Ariel Ekblaw, Founder and Lead, MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative


Ariel Ekblaw / Lori LeJeune