Space Exploration Initiative

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

2022

Translational Research Institute for Space Health ("TRISH")

SPACE HEALTH: SURVIVING IN THE FINAL FRONTIER

The ongoing challenge to keep astronauts healthy in the extreme space environment drives innovations that benefit humans in space and on Earth. Supported by the NASA Human Research Program (HRP), TRISH is an applied space health research catalyst that funds disruptive, high-impact scientific studies and technologies to address existing health challenges, and equip astronauts for deep space exploration.

Showcasing frank discussions with scientists, flight surgeons, astronauts, and scientific leaders, and with NASA archival videos and images, this documentary informs viewers about the solutions that will enable humans to survive and thrive in the final frontier.

NASA Kennedy Space Center

A BUSY SPRING FOR THIS MULTI-USER SPACEPORT

April 2022 brought two crewed launches to Kennedy Space Center. Axiom Space’s Axiom Mission 1 launched April 8, 2022. The mission sent the first-ever all-private crew to the International Space Station. There, the crew conducted scientific research and investigations aboard the ISS. Experiments touched topics like human cancer stem cell studies for early detection; an air purification device called the Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation (JAMSS); and self-assembly for different in-space construction called TESSERAE (Tessellated Electromagnetic Space Structures for the Exploration of Reconfigurable, Adaptive Environments). The crew splashed down safety after their mission on April 25, 2022.

PR Newswire

Axiom-1 Mission to the International Space Station Successfully Completed - Marks Major Step Toward Commercialization of Low Earth Orbit

During their mission on the space station, the Ax-1 astronauts conducted dozens of research experiments, including more than 25 investigations sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory, such as demonstrations of TESSERAE's self-assembling space architecture, which could be used to build structures in orbit. Ax-1 astronauts studied TESSERAE's orbiting modules to assess the feasibility of in-orbit construction of satellites and future space habitats, including space hotels, to support the coming waves of space tourists.

CNET

The SpaceX Ax-1 Mission Has Futuristic Self-Assembling Tech to Try Out

Paying visitors to the ISS will be performing an experiment with robotic swarms that might someday build future space stations.

Axiom Space

Ax-1 crew returns safely to Earth, successfully completing first all-private astronaut mission to ISS

The crew completed more than 25 research investigations, including Axiom Space-managed experiments like the TESSERAE prototype, a self-assembling space habitat, and the JAMSS air purification demonstration. 

Axiom Space

TESSERAE, IN COLLABORATION WITH MIT MEDIA LAB SPACE EXPLORATION INITIATIVE AND AURELIA INSTITUTE 

TESSERAE (Tessellated Electromagnetic Space Structures for the Exploration of Reconfigurable, Adaptive Environments) is a multi-year research program exploring self-assembly methods for in-space construction.

NASA

Commercial Research Expands Aboard the International Space Station

Axiom Space’s first private astronaut mission to the space station, Axiom Mission 1 or Ax-1, is targeted to launch Friday, April 8, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  During their eight days aboard the orbiting laboratory, the crew will conduct many Ax-1-specific experiments, including TESSERAE Ax-1.

"Where's My Jetpack?" Podcast Series

Episode 10: "Where's My... New Planetary Home?"

Sarah and Luke return for the final episode of the series, as we search for a home beyond Earth.
Life on other planets has been a staple of science fiction lore for decades, but overcoming the astronomical barriers involved might prevent it ever becoming science fact. So, what does the future of our species look like? 

Lex Fridman Podcast

Episode 271: Space Colonization and Exploration

Ariel Ekblaw joins host and MIT AI researcher Lex Fridman in a deep discussion of space habitats and cities, music, sports, and robots in space, and the future of space exploration, among other topics.

Yahoo! News

Space tourism: the arguments in favor

To its many detractors, space tourism amounts to nothing more than joy-rides for the global super rich that will worsen the planet's climate crisis. But the nascent sector also has supporters, who, while not rejecting the criticism outright, argue the industry can bring humanity benefits too.

NBC News

To cheaply go: How falling launch costs fueled a thriving economy in orbit

Companies that once had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to put a satellite into orbit can now do the same for a fraction of that price.

Space.com

SpaceX private Ax-1 mission's science includes self-assembling robots and light-powered air filters

Axiom Space's first mission plans a hefty science agenda during eight days on the International Space Station.

MIT News

Robotic cubes shapeshift in outer space

Self-reconfiguring ElectroVoxels use embedded electromagnets to test applications for space exploration.

Hackaday

Axiom's Private ISS Mission Was No Space Vacation

In an era where anyone with deep enough pockets can hitch a ride to the edge of space and back, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Axiom’s Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station was little more than a pleasure cruise for the four crew members.

CNET

The SpaceX Ax-1 Mission Has Futuristic Self-Assembling Tech to Try Out

Paying visitors to the ISS will be performing an experiment with robotic swarms that might someday build future space stations.

SciTechDaily

MIT TESSERAE Project: Building Beautiful Architecture in Space

The TESSERAE project, a design for self-assembling space structures and habitats, has sent prototypes to the International Space Station.

2021

The Chautauquan Daily

‘Living’ Space as the Newest Frontier

MIT’s Ariel Ekblaw to focus on self-assembling space architecture and habitats in CLS.

WIRED

2021 Was the Year Space Tourism Opened Up. But for Whom?

SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic finally made commercial spaceflight possible. Now there are questions about the purpose of these exclusive trips.

How To Academy

Inventing Humanity’s Interplanetary Future

As the Founder and Director of MIT’s Space Exploration Initiative, Ariel Ekblaw is transforming our sci-fi dreams into the real future of humanity. Her community of grad students, faculty, and staff have a pioneering mission: to prototype and deploy the artefacts of our interplanetary future while democratising access to space. Star Trek promised us that the galaxy would be filled with extraordinary wonders – Ariel joins How To Academy to tell us how she is taking us there.

The Planetary Society's Planetary Radio Podcast

Into the Anthropocosmos with Ariel Ekblaw

Ariel Ekblaw and her Space Exploration Initiative colleagues believe we are at the cusp of interplanetary civilization. They are building the tools, environments and knowledge that will speed the transition and solve problems on Earth. Ariel has published Into the Anthropocosmos, a beautiful celebration of SEI’s fifth anniversary that presents many of its innovative projects.

The New York Times

A Future for People With Disabilities in Outer Space Takes Flight

People with different types of disabilities tested their skills and technologies on a zero-gravity research flight with the goal of proving that they can safely go to space.

MIT News

Life in space: Preparing for an increasingly tangible reality

The Space Exploration Initiative supports research across and beyond MIT in two microgravity flights this spring.

Boston 7 News

MIT researchers involved with Blue Origin launch celebrate milestone

Ariel Ekblaw, founder and director of MIT’s Space Exploration Initiative, discusses the future of commercial spaceflight: “As the economy grows around space exploration,” she says, “it will become more accessible and prices will drop, and that will become a huge success for everyone involved.”

Yahoo Finance

Space industry will need artists, designers, lawyers: MIT Space Exploration Initiative director

“For all the richness of human life on earth, we will want the same diversity of roles. We’ll want the rich tapestry of what makes life so special on Earth to also be designed for in space.” 

Autodesk: The New Possible Podcast

MIT Space Exploration Initiative Designs Everyday Life in Space

What will our homes look like? What types of instruments can we play? How will we maintain an emotional connection to Earth? Listen to SEI Director, Ariel Ekblaw, and SEI designer and engineering extraordinaire, Che-Wei Wang, in dialog with the Autodesk team on designing, fabricating, and launching objects for life in space. Special feature on the Zenolith project. 

WONDROS Podcast

A New Space Age: the Future of the AnthropoCosmos | Ariel Ekblaw | Wondros Podcast Ep 68

Jesse Dylan and and Priscilla Cohen talk with @ariel_ekblaw, Founder and Director of @ExploreSpace_ML, about how to make a better, democratic future human civilization in space. 

Logistics Innovation 

Video Conference with MIT and Fraunhofer-IML Researchers

Weightlessness opens up new possibilities for self-controlling systems and in-space structures.  Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Fraunhofer IML at TU Dortmund have collaborated on a technology platform that is opening up new potential - and has successfully completed initial tests on the ISS. Special feature on the TESSERAE project. 

The Tech

What’s it like to design a meal that floats?

Taking a taste of the sensory research of Space Exploration Initiative’s Maggie Coblentz, who believes that by designing novel space food rituals, astronauts will not just be able to survive in space, but thrive there as well. 

De Zeen

Neri Oxman's Synthetic Apiary II shows how beehive construction "is a responsive and dynamic process"

Through studying the bees and their honeycomb structure creations, researchers are able to gather insights into how designed environments might be used in human architecture and design.

Bloomberg: Baystate Business

Baystate Business: Space Travel (Radio)

Dr. Ariel Ekblaw, founder and director of the MIT Space Exploration Initiative, on the significance of the flight.

El Paso Inc.

El Paso Bees Fly to Space for Science

2020

MIT News

Five MIT Payloads Deployed on the International Space Station

A cohort of transdisciplinary researchers will study the effects of sustained microgravity.

The Wall Street Journal

How to Build a Home on the Moon

A small-scale replica of a lunar habitat is taking shape at Purdue University. The goal is to prepare for life in a hostile environment—including our own.

Ars Electronica 

Sojourner 2020 Artist Conversation 

Sojourner2020, the first international art open call that took a trip to International Space Station this March. 

WIRED (cover story)

Algae Caviar, Anyone? What We'll Eat on the Journey to Mars 
Humans are headed for the cosmos, and we’re taking our appetites with us. What will fill the void when we leave Earth behind? Featuring SEI's Maggie Coblentz on her work in space food and interplanetary gastronomy. 

BBC The Real Story

The Privatization of Space Travel
On the cusp of SpaceX's historic 2020 launch, bringing crewed launches back to the U.S., how is corporate capital changing our journey into the cosmos? SEI Director, Ariel Ekblaw, joins Charles Bolden, Dr. Jill Stuart, and John Logsdon to discuss the next decade of human spaceflight. 

WBUR On Point

How Private Companies Are Changing The Future Of Space Exploration 
SEI Director, Ariel Ekblaw, joins Charles Bolden, former NASA Administrator, to consider the future of human space exploration. 

Chemical Kitchen

GastroGeeks: Interplanetary gastronomy

GastroGeeks discusses questions about space food, gastronomy and science with SEI's researcher Maggie Coblentz. 

2019

Boston HubWeek 

What we learned at HubWeek: Space tourism might be closer than you think

MIT scientists are working on technology that could serve as the foundation for tourist hotels — in outer space.

CBC

Space pianos and upside-down shoes: innovations for life in space

Hairstyles, musical instruments and gardening all change in zero gravity, Sands Fish says. 

CNN

Beyond Earth series
SEI Director, Ariel Ekblaw, discusses habitats for Earth, Moon, and Mars alongside Bjarke Ingels, Lucianne Walkowicz, and Lisa Messeri. 

WIRED

Space Exploration and the Age of the Anthropocosmos
The new generation of space architects can learn from our successes and failures in protecting the internet commons and build a better paradigm for space, writes Media Lab Director, Joi Ito.

WIRED UK

The design secrets Nasa's using to keep astronauts happy in space
Big windows, fresh fruit and regular phone calls home help manage the mental health of astronauts on the International Space Station. But missions to Mars on beyond will require a whole new approach to how spaceships are designed. The Space Exploration Initiative's Maggie Coblentz weighs in on the future of space food. 

The Wall Street Journal

Space Is Poised for Explosive Growth. Let’s Get It Right.

Before low-earth orbit is clogged with hotels, satellite traffic and debris, we should plan for the extra-planetary community we want, writes Ariel Ekblaw, founder of the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative.

How a Robotic Tail Could Help Future Space Travelers & The Zero-Gravity Orchestra

Researchers, Valentina Sumini and Manuel Muccillo, at the MIT Media Lab are developing technology for a day when amateur astronauts travel into orbit.

Nicole L’Huillier and Sands Fish are building a zero-gravity orchestra—a series of instruments that are designed to be performed exclusively in the absence of gravity.

The BBC

The architect designing self-assembling habitats for space

Tomorrow’s space explorers won’t be able to pack traditional, heavy building materials for their missions. One young designer, Space Exploration Initiative Director Ariel Ekblaw,  is already working on habitats that will build themselves.

SPACE.com

The Future's Coming: Why we need to prepare for Sci Fi Tomorrows Today

Coverage of Beyond the Cradle 2019.

National Geographic

Beyond the Cradle featured nationwide through National Geographic online feature.

MIT News

Designing humanity’s future in space
The Space Exploration Initiative’s latest parabolic research flight explores work and play in microgravity.

Six suborbital research payloads from MIT fly to space and back

Space Exploration Initiative research aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard experiment capsule crossed the Karman line for three minutes of sustained microgravity.

MIT, Blue Origin to cooperate on sending research experiment to the moon

MIT community input [including Space Exploration Initiative payload designs] will help determine the focus of the study to be carried aboard Blue Moon lander.

2018

Motherboard Vice

The ‘Telemetron’ Is a Post-Earth Musical Instrument Designed for Zero Gravity

The Telemetron generates musical compositions using gyroscopic “chimes.”

MIT’s ‘Orbit Weaver’ Turns Astronauts into Spiders

Moving around in microgravity is tough, but a new MIT Media Lab device takes a page from Spiderman to help astronauts navigate while weightless.

Discovery Channel Daily Planet

Spatial Flux: Body and architecture in space

This prototype explores surfaces utilizing materials that would normally fail on Earth, yet flourish in zero gravity.

Ars Technica

“Life, uh, finds a way”—Applying lessons from evolution to go to Mars

Biomimicry looks to living organisms to create the future of sustainable engineering, as Ariel Ekblaw discusses her bio-inspired TESSERAE space habitat.

MIT News

Prototypes for the new space age

The Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative shares results and next steps from its first zero gravity research mission.

2017

PLACES Journal 

Surface to Unlimited

A visit to Spaceport America, where the coming of the Second Space Age is already history, and the announcement of the MIT Media Lab's Space Exploration Initiative. 

MIT News

Media Lab sets sights on space

MIT Media Lab event, Beyond the Cradle, launches a new initiative to explore the final frontier.