Beyond the Cradle


Space Exploration Initiative

Space Exploration Initiative

Beyond the Cradle 2022

Beyond the Cradle: Life in Space 
Thursday, April 28, 2022 
Virtual and In-Person 

This year at Beyond the Cradle, we will focus on Life in Space, and the very real possibility of near-term interplanetary life. 

Beyond the Cradle 2022

Beyond the Cradle: Life in Space 
Thursday, April 28, 2022 
Virtual and In-Person 

This year at Beyond the Cradle, we will focus on Life in Space, and the very real possibility of near-term interplanetary life. 

On April 28, we will bring together the very best of the space industry—from space scientists and astronauts at the vanguard of exploration, CEOs and founders building a burgeoning space ecosystem, and artists and sci-fi storytellers who are shaping our conception of the possible.

Please join us in-person starting at 1:00pm for an afternoon of exciting discussion, workshops, and presentations that examine the possibilities surrounding near-term interplanetary life. There will also be an opportunity to participate remotely, for those who can’t travel to Cambridge. Please check this space soon for updates on our program schedule, registration, and Covid-19 safety protocols.

This is an invitation-only event. If you have questions, please reach out to The captioned livestream will be free and open to the public on Thursday, April 28, 2022 starting 1pm ET.  

Beyond the Cradle: Life in Space will adhere to MIT policies for Covid-19 safety. We will provide an update on our event protocols as we get closer to April 28.



#1. Space Architecture

This is a hybrid workshop. Please register in advance if you are participating online, so we can send you the link to join on April 28. 

Add the workshop to your calendar with this link:

Space architecture is an interdisciplinary field that involves many branches of knowledge, such as space science, engineering, architecture, industrial design, medicine, psychology, and art. It covers all aspects of and needs for human space exploration in low earth orbit (LEO) and other celestial bodies, including the Moon and Mars.

In this Space Architecture Workshop, participants will complete a cross-pollinating design thinking activity with several experts in the field, envisioning possible future scenarios of space architecture in order to design a safe and livable ecosystem for sustaining human life in space.

The research questions will address many aspects of design around the future of crewed missions to the Moon and Mars, including habitation systems and habitability requirements, in situ resources utilization, human factor design, micrometeoroid, solar flares and GCR shielding technologies, human-machine interaction, and ethics and sustainability of space exploration.

Workshop Format:
15 min: Quick roundtable intro by facilitators (1 min max/facilitator)
30 min: Subdivision into groups, both online and in person, for the design thinking activity.
Each group will brainstorm about one of these specific topics:
1. AI and construction autonomy
2. VR, AR, and wearable technology applications during operations and
living on long term missions
3. Bringing lessons learned from space architecture back to Earth
15 min: Wrap-up by each group

Organizers and main facilitators: Valentina Sumini (Politecnico di Milano, MIT Media Lab), Guillermo Trotti (Trotti Studio)

External Facilitators: Olga Bannova (University of Houston – SICSA), Cosimo Razeto (Politecnico di Milano, New York Institute of Technology), Rus Gant (Harvard), Georgi Petrov (SOM), Ramandeep Shergill (Bartlett School of Architecture)

#2. Human-Computer Interaction for Space Exploration

Space travel and becoming an interplanetary species have always been part of humanity’s greatest imaginings. Research in space exploration helps us advance our knowledge in the fundamental sciences and challenges us to design new technologies and to create new industries for space, all while prompting us to answer the most essential questions about our place in the Universe. However, keeping a human healthy, happy and productive in space is one of the most challenging aspects of current space programs. Our biological body, which evolved in the Earth’s specific environment, is not designed to survive by itself in extreme conditions such as high radiation or low gravity (among other threats). Therefore, researchers have been developing different types of human-computer interfacing systems (HCI), which support a human body’s physical and mental performance in space. This workshop will explore novel HCI  ideas for human spaceflight, the future of the "cyberbiome," and engage participants in MIT SEI projects currently funded by the NASA Translational Institute for Space Health. 

#3. Play + Space

This workshop requires signing up in advance! 20 person limit. 

In this hands-on workshop, we will explore and imagine how the weightless environment of space craft — traditionally rigorous, structured settings where attention to detail and safety are paramount — could be safely enhanced to support play and experimentation.

As the NASA document "Psychology of Space Exploration'' (Vakoch, 2011) states, "Astronauts live and work in highly unusual and challenging environments where they must withstand multiple stressors. Their abilities to maintain positive psychological outlooks and good interpersonal relations are crucial for personal well-being and mission success." 

Unstructured play offers humans the freedom to experiment, tinker, explore, and express themselves, and research consistently shows that the psychological and social benefits of engaging in these activities are numerous. Especially in stressful and challenging environments, play helps us to destress and reconnect with joy. 

Drawing from the Space Exploration Initiative’s Astronaut Ethnography research that revealed ways in which astronauts already play in space, and the learning theories of the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten research group, Sands Fish  and Alexis Hope will introduce historic examples of astronauts at play, discuss  unanticipated implications of zero-G, and lead a group brainstorm about what types of play could emerge in the weightless context. 

Facilitator bios:

Sands Fish is a designer, creative technologist, design researcher, and educator based at the MIT Space Exploration Initiative and Parsons School of Design at the New School. He builds musical instruments for performance in microgravity and teaches design methodologies, playful prototyping, and creative uses of technology.

Alexis Hope is an artist, designer, and researcher based at the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group. She serves as the Design Director for the “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck” project, as well as the Creative Director of TEN FWD, a design studio focused on creating playful, experimental objects and experiences. 

Check out our 2021 event here.

Past years Beyond the Cradle archive here.

Follow @ExploreSpace_ML, @ariel_ekblaw and @medialab on Twitter for photos and quotes from the day! #BeyondTheCradle #SpaceExploration