Space Exploration Initiative

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

MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative 

In academic year 2016-2017, we launched the Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative. The Initiative has since grown from grass roots student interest to a team of over 50 students, faculty, and staff actively prototyping our open-access, space-hacking future. The Initiative supports 20+ research projects (from satellite constellation algorithms to astrobiology) via R&D funding, launch and deployment contracts, monthly project-review roundtables, conference funding, and mentorship from our expanding network of space exploration advisors. We recently deployed 15 research projects on a November 2017 microgravity parabolic flight and are launching suborbital and ISS payloads in the coming 18 months.

Founding Vision

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 possibi… View full description

MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative 

In academic year 2016-2017, we launched the Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative. The Initiative has since grown from grass roots student interest to a team of over 50 students, faculty, and staff actively prototyping our open-access, space-hacking future. The Initiative supports 20+ research projects (from satellite constellation algorithms to astrobiology) via R&D funding, launch and deployment contracts, monthly project-review roundtables, conference funding, and mentorship from our expanding network of space exploration advisors. We recently deployed 15 research projects on a November 2017 microgravity parabolic flight and are launching suborbital and ISS payloads in the coming 18 months.

Founding Vision

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. 

Space will be hackable. Space will be playful.

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, 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.