Beyond the Cradle 2023 Speakers


Space Exploration Initiative

Space Exploration Initiative

by Sarah Beckmann

Jan. 24, 2024

2023 Speakers

Welcome and kickoff—“We are go for launch”



Dr. Ariel Ekblaw directs the MIT Space Exploration Initiative, a team of 50+ students, faculty and staff building and flying advanced technology for space exploration; Ariel is also the founding CEO of Aurelia Institute, a hybrid space architecture research institute and venture incubation studio. Through this connected ecosystem, she strives to bring humanity’s space exploration future to life.
Ariel graduated with a B.S. in Physics, Mathematics and Philosophy from Yale University and designed a novel space architecture habitat for her MIT PhD in autonomously self-assembling space structures. Her research work and the labs she leads build towards future habitats and space stations in orbit around the Earth, Moon, and Mars. Ariel is the author/editor of Into the Anthropocosmos: A Whole Space Catalog from the MIT Space Exploration Initiative (MIT Press 2021). She serves on the NASA Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium (LSIC) Executive Committee, guiding and shaping the coming decade of burgeoning activity on the moon. Ariel has had the rare honor and pleasure of working directly on space hardware that now operates on the surface of Mars and is leading MIT's return to the moon. Ariel’s work has been featured in WIRED (March 2020 cover story), MIT Technology Review, Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, CNN, NPR, PRI’s Science Friday, IEEE and AIAA proceedings, and more.

Dr. Dava Newman is the Director of the MIT Media Lab. She’s also the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Harvard–MIT Health, Sciences, and Technology faculty member. She served as NASA Deputy Administrator (2015-17), the first female engineer in this role, and was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. Her research and teaching expertise include aerospace biomedical engineering, human performance, advanced space suit design, AI/ML for climate, design, leadership development, innovation, and technology and policy. Newman has been principal investigator (PI) on four spaceflight missions flown aboard the Space Shuttle, Russian Mir Space Station and the International Space Station, and is best known for her revolutionary BioSuit™ planetary spacesuit. Recently, she co-founded EarthDNA with partner Guillermo Trotti to accelerate solutions for spaceship Earth’s Ocean, Land and Air subsystems by curating satellite data to make the world work for 100% of humanity.

Plenary Keynote


John Mather

Dr. John C. Mather is a Civil Servant and Senior Astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory located at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. He is also the Senior Project Scientist on the James Webb Space Telescope, extending the scientific discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope to look farther out in space and farther back in time.
He grew up in rural New Jersey living on a scientific research facility where his father studied dairy cows. He attended public schools, learned calculus from a book, received a bachelor's degree in physics from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, and wanted to be like Richard Feynman. But his doctorate in physics from the University of California, Berkeley led him into observations of the Big Bang, with an unsuccessful thesis project that nevertheless inspired the COBE satellite and a Nobel Prize.
As a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York City, he led the proposal efforts for the Cosmic Background Explorer mission (1974-76), and moved to Goddard Space Flight Center to be the lead scientist for the mission. Mather and the COBE team showed that the cosmic microwave background radiation has a blackbody spectrum within 50 parts per million (ppm), confirming the expanding universe concept (Big Bang theory) to extraordinary accuracy. The team also measured hot and cold spots in the heat radiation; Steven Hawking said it was the greatest scientific discovery of the century, if not of all time.
As Senior Project Scientist (1995-present) for the Webb telescope, Mather leads the science team, and represents scientific interests within the project management. As winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics, chosen by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Mather shares the prize with George F. Smoot of the University of California for their work using the COBE satellite to measure the heat radiation from the Big Bang. Mather put the prize money into the John and Jane Mather Foundation for Science and the Arts. Mather also sponsors summer interns to work on science policy on Capitol Hill, through the Society of Physics Students.

Plenary Panel |  Our Sci-Fi Space Future


Akiva Goldsman

Raised in Brooklyn Heights, New York, Akiva Goldsman received his bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University and attended the graduate fiction writing program at NYU. His feature writing credits include The Client, Batman ForeverA Time to KillPractical MagicCinderella ManI Am LegendThe Da Vinci CodeAngels & DemonsInsurgent, and I, Robot. He also wrote A Beautiful Mind, for which he won an Oscar, Golden Globe, and WGA Award. Upcoming features include BrillianceMajor Matt Mason, and the sequels to I Am Legend and Constantine.
He has worked in television as a producer, writer, and director for the TV show Fringe, for which he garnered a Saturn Award and a Hugo Award nomination; as well as Underground, which was nominated for multiple NAACP Image Awards.  Current television includes the live-action series TitansStar Trek: Picard, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Goldsman is now in post-production on The Crowded Room and will also EP the upcoming series The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
Under his Weed Road Pictures banner, Goldsman has produced Deep Blue SeaConstantineMr. & Mrs. SmithHancock, Without RemorseThe Map of Tiny Perfect ThingsBack to the Outback, Firestarter, and Meet Cute.

Panel | Democratizing Access to Space



Dr. Danielle DeLatte (she/her) is Aurelia Institute’s Chief Operations Officer and Chief Technology Officer, where she is focused on enabling technologies and diversity & access to space. She is an aerospace engineer with passions for human-computer interaction, robotics, human-centered design, space systems, and space & science outreach. 
Danielle spent several years as a space systems engineer at Draper, and her favorite project was leading Draper's Displays & Controls subsystem team for one of the entrants to the NASA Artemis Human Landing System competition. She has also worked as an aerospace engineer at NASA Goddard on robotic satellite servicing. In grad school, she founded Space Cafe Tokyo, a monthly interdisciplinary space speaker series, and Students for the Exploration and Development of Space at the University of Tokyo, the first chapter in Japan. In her spare time, she volunteers with Letters to a Pre-Scientist and Skype a Scientist, rock climbs, and sings. 
Danielle has a bachelors in Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology from MIT, a Masters in Space Studies with Human Space Flight from the International Space University, and a PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Tokyo, where she researched space applications of machine learning.

Jay Kim is the CEO of Boryung, a pharmaceutical and healthcare investment company. He joined Boryung as a Business Strategy Director in 2014 and has served as the CEO of Boryung Holdings and Boryung since 2020 and 2022, respectively. Jay recognized that the time spent in Space has been increasing and pondered how to utilize the healthcare business in Space. Hence, Jay launched the Care In Space (CIS) project after being appointed as the CEO of Boryung last year. As the first CIS activity in 2022, the CIS Challenge, fostering promising space healthcare companies, has established a CIS ecosystem of R&D, investment, commercialization, collaboration, and so on. We will continue to support human liberal activities in Space in the mid-to-long term through apposite investment and acceleration under the grand scheme of CIS.

Dr. Eliah Overbey is a NASA postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Christopher Mason at Weill Cornell Medicine. She completed her PhD in Genome Sciences at the University of Washington. She created and currently manages the Space Omics and Medical Atlas (SOMA) to characterize multi-omic changes that occur in astronauts during spaceflight. SOMA currently includes data from SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission and will be expanded to include samples from Polaris Dawn and Axiom-2. Additionally, she is establishing the Cornell Aerospace Medicine Biobank to preserve astronaut biospecimen samples and make them accessible to the scientific community. Twitter: @EliahOverbey

Dr. Erika Wagner serves as Sr. Director of Emerging Markets for Blue Origin, where she works to improve access to space for science, technology, arts, education, and entrepreneurship. Dr. Wagner’s interdisciplinary background includes degrees in Biomedical and Aerospace Engineering (MIT Aero/Astro SM ’02, HST PhD ’07), with research spanning both human and mammalian adaptation to microgravity, partial gravity, and centrifugation; as well as organizational innovation and prize theory. Passionate about expanding opportunities in space and STEM, she is a mentor for the Brooke Owens Fellowship, a trustee of the Museum of Flight in Seattle, and a member of the National Academies Space Studies Board.

Denna Lambert is the first Inclusive Innovation Lead for NASA’s Early Stage Innovations & Partnerships portfolio within the Agency Space Technology Mission Directorate located at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. With Denna's leadership, her newly established team is to advance research opportunities, investment, and capability for diverse innovators and their respective ecosystems that includes small business, academia, and the general public. As a member of ESIP's leadership team, Denna supports the advancement of 700+ projects funded by $350m positioned at the widest aperture of NASA's Space Technology pipeline. Denna was recently selected as an Astro Access Ambassador flying on her first research flight with Zero-G on December 15, 2022.
Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Denna resides in Greenbelt, Maryland with her three year old son Kaleb and her retired guide dog Angie. She is a graduate of George Washington University with a Master's in Public Administration and her undergrad from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. Outside of work, Denna serves on the Board of Directors for the Greenbelt Homes Inc., a nationally recognized cooperative established by President Roosevelt's New Deal Initiative, and is an active member of Mocha Moms & Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority, Inc. 

Seminar | Lunar Outpost


Forrest Meyen

​Dr. Forrest Meyen is a Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of the space robotics company, Lunar Outpost. Lunar Outpost is the dominant provider of commercial planetary surface mobility. Forrest directs company commercialization strategy as well as technical leadership on key flight programs. He is currently leading Lunar Outpost’s team developing the MAPP Rover for their 2023 lunar exploration mission to Shackleton connecting ridge. This mission will be the first rover in history to explore at the lunar south pole region. Before Lunar Outpost, Dr. Meyen worked at Draper leading the avionics systems engineering of multiple lunar landers. He also was a program manager of Draper’s Sembler office dedicated to startup collaborations and commercialization. Dr. Meyen earned his doctoral degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Aeronautics and Astronautics for his contributions to the design of the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE). He continues MOXIE operations as a member of the NASA Perseverance Rover science team. Dr. Meyen’s vision is to create an economically impactful lunar society by leveraging commercial robotics and the utilization of space resources.​

Panel |  Space Stations Near and Far



Sana Sharma (she/her) is Co-Founder and Chief Design Officer at Aurelia Institute, a non-profit space architecture R&D lab. She is also a designer and research affiliate at the MIT Space Exploration Initiative. With a background in physics, architecture, and human-centered design, Sana aims to highlight the human element in science and technology across disciplines and throughout her work.
At Aurelia, Sana leads brand, design strategy, and architecture for the Institute. She serves as lead for Aurelia’s first foray into human-scale space architecture through the development of a TESSERAE space habitat mockup — a life-size, modular architectural pavilion that engages designers, engineers, and the general public with what life in space may look like in the future.
At SEI, Sana leads the Astronaut Ethnography Project, which captures and distills the lived experiences of astronauts and cosmonauts in order to share them broadly with the next generation of space designers, engineers, and policy makers. Motivated by a desire to merge high-tech, sensory, and tactile experiences, her design work also includes Fluid Expressions, a novel art and craft system designed exclusively for use in microgravity. Sana earned her BA in Architecture at Yale University, and an MDes, Technology Concentration from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Matthew Kuta is the President, Chief Operating Officer, and Co-Founder of Voyager Space. He was also the founding Executive Director for Space for Humanity, a non-profit organization that has sent diverse civilian passengers from around the world into space on commercial space vehicles. Prior to founding Voyager Space, Matthew was a key member of the private equity investment team at Goldman Sachs in New York City. Matthew started his private sector career focusing on middle market private equity at Plexus Capital in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Matthew is also an accomplished leader with global experience. As a former military officer, he has led large multinational teams in very high-stakes initiatives as an F-15E fighter pilot. He has been recognized for multiple professional accolades to include the Jabara Award, awarded to the top U.S. Air Force Academy alumni for contributions to aviation. He is also a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the highest medal solely for aviation in the U.S. military that can be awarded in combat.
Matthew holds a Bachelor of Science from the United States Air Force Academy and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. He is on the Board of Directors of Voyager Space, XO Markets, the United States Air Force Academy Foundation, Space for Humanity, and the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA). He is also a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Matthew resides in Denver with his wife and two daughters.

David Zuniga has over 23 years of experience in engineering, and market development for human spaceflight and the department of defense. Mr. Zuniga has developed system architectures and technology for deep space via NASA constellation, Orion, and Gateway programs. He’s also helped to evolve strategy around growth for low Earth orbit (LEO) commercialization through the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space where he led a portfolio of aerospace technology development projects on the International Space Station National Laboratory. As the former general manager for the Danish Aerospace Company’s North American division, Mr. Zuniga was charged standing up international businesses in the U.S and developing commercial markets around human spaceflight and technology that translates to commercial, terrestrially based businesses.
Mr. Zuniga earned Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University and holds a graduate certification in Space Resources from Colorado School of Mines where he studied space policy, economics, and space resource utilization.  Mr. Zuniga is Senior Director for In-Space Solutions at Axiom Space and helps to develop strategy and growth around Axiom’s LEO economy.  Mr. Zuniga also plays a critical role in integrating business and developing technical solutions supported by Axiom Station’s architecture.

Daniel Inocente is an Architect and Space Architect, working as a Senior Space Architect at Blue Origin. He has an extensive background in designing and developing various types of Space Architecture, as well as projects across multiple sectors, including commercial, transportation, aviation, government, culture, science, education, and residential.
Daniel’s portfolio includes high-profile projects such as the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Tour Charenton, NEOM Bay Airport, Jiuzhou Bay Zhuhai Tower, Guiyang World Trade Center, and Moon Village. His experience working with leading architecture firms such as SOM, Gehry Partners, HKS, and Gehry Technologies has given him a broad range of expertise in the field.
He is also an adjunct Professor of Architecture at Arizona State University, where he teaches Master Studios. He has also established and managed space architecture partnerships with teams across government, industry, and academia, including organizations such as ESA, Lockheed Martin, and MIT. His unique skill set in both architecture and space architecture enables him to bring together diverse teams and foster cross-sector collaboration.

Eleanor Morgan currently serves as a Program Manager and Habitation Architecture Lead for Lockheed Martin’s space habitation development programs. In this role, she oversees the technical development and mission architecture for various orbital, surface, and transport spacecraft for low earth orbit and future expeditions to the Moon and Mars. Previously, she also led Lockheed’s joint partnership project with General Motors for the development of the next-generation lunar rover. Her previous industry experience has included leading systems engineering and crew systems development for the B330 inflatable space habitat at Bigelow Aerospace, and conducting human spaceflight research at NASA’s Johnson Space Center as part of their Human Exploration & Research Analog (HERA) program.
Prior to her space career, she was an active-duty combat aviator in the Air Force for 12 years and continues to serve today as a Major in the Air Force Reserve. Eleanor is also a recipient of two national awards for her contributions to military aviation, human space exploration, and her extensive youth and female STEM outreach and mentorship activities. She holds a bachelors in systems engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a masters in space studies from American Military University, and is currently an Executive MBA candidate at MIT's Sloan School of Management. She also serves as a member and technical session chair for the International Astronautical Federation's Human Spaceflight committee.

Student Lightning Talks, Part I



Maya Nasr is an Aerospace Engineering PhD candidate at MIT, working on the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) for NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Her passion for increasing global representation and access in the space sector led her to co-found Humanity United with MIT Art and Nanotechnology in Space (HUMANS), an ISS project that creates a symbolic avenue for space access worldwide. Maya has worked on several high-profile projects, including NASA's Cassini mission activity on Titan and the OneWeb satellite network.
Maya's research interests are interdisciplinary and range from spacecraft operations and engineering systems to technology strategy and international space law, policy, and ethics. She is an advocate for nationality-based discrimination in career opportunities for foreign nationals and is a TEDx talk-featured speaker on this topic. As the Policy Lead for the SGAC Taskforce on US Space Policy and research coordinator of the Space Law & Policy Project Group, Maya is deeply involved in promoting policy and ethical considerations in the space sector.
Maya's academic achievements include numerous awards, such as the AIAA Best Paper Award and the Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship. She is also an organizer of MIT's Global Startup Workshop and Global Startup Labs and has completed the Group of Researchers for Interdisciplinary Politics of Space, Space Law, Policy and Ethics Graduate Workshop (GRIPS-SLPE) as part of the Space Consortium at Harvard and MIT. Maya enjoys traveling, painting, and writing Arabic poetry in her free time.

Somayajulu Dhulipala is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Mechanical Engineering Department of MIT currently working with Prof. Carlos Portela on developing scalable lightweight high-strength materials for automobile and aerospace applications. He is actively involved with the MIT Space Exploration Initiative (SEI) in developing controlled environment agriculture systems and has flown experiments on two zero-G flights and also tested out his systems on the martian analog mission in Svalbard in the fall of 2022. He is also the lead of manufacturing and testing for the SEI-backed HUMANS project and heads the microgravity payload team for MIT SEDS. Having grown up in India, he received his B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras in 2018. 

Fangzheng Liu is a second-year Ph.D. student in Media Arts and Sciences and Research Assistant in the Responsive Environments group at the MIT Media Lab. Before joining the MIT Media Lab in 2019, Fangzheng worked at CERN as an engineer for a year in the AMS-02, a particle physics experiment module that is mounted on the International Space Station. Currently, Fangzheng’s research is about miniature robotic and wireless sensor networks for space explorations. As planned, in the year 2023-2024, one of his designed miniature robots, AstroAnt, will be sent to the lunar South Pole. The robot will be working on the top panel of the MAPP-1 rover design by the LunarOutpost and collecting thermal data to help with monitoring the performance of the rover. Another project Fangzheng is working on is building a wireless sensor network on the lunar surface by using wireless sensor nodes that can be ballistically deployed from a rover or lander, or even dropped by a low-fly satellite.

Dan Erkel is a British-Hungarian space systems engineer and doctoral candidate at the Engineering Systems Lab at MIT’s AeroAstro. Dan’s research focuses on small satellites, commercial space stations, and successful space strategies in emerging space nations. He previously worked for nearly half a decade as a spacecraft engineer at Airbus Defence and Space UK and was the lead technical author of an emerging space nation’s space strategy as well as the technical author of a space-focused venture capital fund’s investment strategy. As part of his efforts to enable better access to space for emerging nations—and in general for organisations around the world constrained in their resources—Dan developed a new approach to agile aerospace engineering. The method, termed DACRE, was successfully employed launching a satellite-refuelling microgravity experiment with the Space Exploration Initiative’s support, aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard launcher in August 2021. Through the use of DACRE, the experiment was developed in a mere 5 weeks by a team of MIT engineers led by Dan. In 2022—after spending the year going through the ESA’s Astronaut selection, making it to the final 40—Dan completed his SM thesis, writing about the DACRE and successful space strategies in emerging nations.

Cody Alison Paige is a Ph.D. Candidate at MIT in the Aeronautics and Astronautics program studying the use of virtual reality for Lunar and planetary surface exploration.  She is concurrently completing a Ph.D. at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada in the Earth Sciences program with a focus on novel methods using in-situ Carbon-14 for Quaternary geochronology.  She completed her Master of Applied Science in aeronautical engineering at the University of Toronto, Canada, and holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in engineering physics from Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada.

Panel | Earth + Space: Connecting Worlds



Cody Alison Paige is a Ph.D. Candidate at MIT in the Aeronautics and Astronautics program studying the use of virtual reality for Lunar and planetary surface exploration.  She is concurrently completing a Ph.D. at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada in the Earth Sciences program with a focus on novel methods using in-situ Carbon-14 for Quaternary geochronology.  She completed her Master of Applied Science in aeronautical engineering at the University of Toronto, Canada, and holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in engineering physics from Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada.

Dr. Minoo Rathnasabapathy is a Research Engineer at the MIT Media Lab, and Project Fellow, Future of Space at the World Economic Forum. Her work is centred at the intersection of space technology, policy, and action-driven partnerships to tackle pressing socio-economic and environmental challenges. Dr. Rathnasabapathy’s focus and research interests include space sustainability and governance, climate, and broader cross-industry collaborations. Her work has featured on CNN Business, BBC World News, and ABC News Australia.
Prior to joining MIT, Dr. Rathnasabapathy served as the Executive Director of the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), a global non-governmental organisation which acts in support of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, based in Vienna, Austria. Dr. Rathnasabapathy was responsible for leading the operations, business development, strategy, and policy output for SGAC, a network that represents over 15,000 individual members across 150 countries.

Jennifer Heldmann is a Research Scientist and Principal Investigator at NASA Ames Research Center in the Division of Space Science & Astrobiology, Planetary Systems Branch.  Heldmann’s scientific research interests focus on water ice and volatiles on the Moon and Mars for both scientific exploration and as in situ resources to enable a sustained human presence beyond Earth. Her Mars research focuses on studies of recent water on the Red Planet through spacecraft data analysis, numerical modeling, and fieldwork in Mars-analog environments such as the Outback of Australia, the Canadian High Arctic, the Atacama Desert, Spitsbergen, the Mojave Desert, and Antarctica, among other locales. Her lunar work includes flight mission activities coupled with scientific research and assessments for in situ resource utilization. She served on the Science Team, Payload Team, and as the Observation Campaign Coordinator for NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission to study the permanently shadowed regions of the lunar poles. Heldmann is currently a member of the Science Team for NASA’s VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) mission to map and characterize ice near the south pole of the Moon. She leads NASA’s RESOURCE team to study lunar resources and ISRU applications and has served on a multitude of NASA committees for Mars and Moon exploration. She recently was a member of the National Academies Decadal Survey on Planetary Science and Astrobiology, co-led the Decadal’s HExWG (Human Exploration Working Group), and led the mission concept study for an in situ lunar polar rover. Heldmann also supports NASA’s Artemis plans to send humans to the Moon by serving on the Artemis III Science Definition Team (SDT).  She is also an Artemis curriculum development lead and astronaut crew trainer focused on the science and exploration of lunar volatiles.

Seminar | Translational Research Institute for Space Health


Dorit Donoviel

As Executive Director for the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH), Dorit Donoviel, Ph.D., leads a $0.25B NASA-funded innovation R&D program that finds, funds, and facilitates disruptive human health and performance solutions for astronauts traveling in deep space. In her previous role as deputy chief scientist of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI), Dr. Donoviel led both domestic and international research programs that bridged academic, industry, and government resources to deliver fast and cost-effective tangible results. Dr. Donoviel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology and the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) where she lectures and mentors graduate and medical students. She was elected a BCM Woman of Excellence, served as a Faculty Senator, and is a Health Policy Scholar for the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy. Dr. Donoviel has received NASA awards and is also the recipient of the NSBRI Pioneer Award. Dr. Donoviel has authored science thought leadership articles in academic journals as well as in the lay press.

Panel | Space and the Arts


Viktoria Modesta; Dana Karwas; Zach Mendoza; Emmai Alaquiva; Emmai Alaquiva

Viktoria Modesta is a bionic pop artist, creative director, musician, and champion of future innovations. Her work explores modern identity through performance, fashion, avant-garde visuals, technology, and science.
Currently living in Los Angeles, she has established herself as a 'Sci-Fi in real life' artist, creative leader, and innovator in the post-disability community. Her mission is to explore the outer limits of the technologically-enhanced human experience.
Born in the former USSR (now Latvia), she was hospitalized extensively for the correction of birth injuries to her leg, resulting in periods of isolation where imagination was her only escape from reality. In 1999 her family immigrated to England, prompting Viktoria on an identity quest in the depths of London subculture. There, playing with image, using the body as a canvas, and as art protest gave her the courage to transform her disability with an elective amputation aged 20. That led Viktoria to co-create, wear, and exhibit the most iconic and innovative prosthetics to date through collaboration with Alternative Limb Project and tech fashion designer Anouk Wipprecht. Her life story has been recognized worldwide as a testament to human strength. Former President Barack Obama profiled Viktoria’s transformative approach to modern identity for his guest-edited WIRED magazine Frontiers issue.
Viktoria first stepped onto the global stage with a performance at London 2012 Paralympic Closing Ceremony, followed by her perennially viral music/art video Prototype commissioned by Channel 4. Tallying hundreds of million views across the internet & television, her arresting spike dance and post-disability aesthetic introduced Viktoria as the world's first Bionic Pop Artist. She is known for her  hyper-stylized performances and productions across the globe and constantly pushing art innovation and inclusivity in entertainment forward. Past events include Miami Art Basel, Super Bowl 2022, a sold-out residency at the iconic Crazy Horse Paris cabaret, various Fashion Weeks and several inclusivity events such as Abylimpics and True Colors Festival Tokyo.
Her work with brands spans from an ambassadorship to fully involved art direction, team curation, strategy, and production executed via a co-founded creative studio Modestar specializing in accelerating future-focused narrative. Some of her key past clients include Rolls Royce, GM, Intel, Snap, Veuve Clicquot, Autodesk, Ray-Ban and Pangaia. 
Using the latest media tools, Viktoria presents a new archetype of a cultural influencer, always taking an opportunity to bring education and substance to all projects. A frequent keynote speaker & panelist, she has been featured in Forbes, Wired, Elle USA, Guardian, CNN, Vice, Vogue, LA Times, Dazed, and New York Times. 
Viktoria's Web3-focused chapter of work is on virtual identity and augmentation. Extending her mission, her avatar by Lilium Labs debuted in a TIME Pieces, 'Build a Better Future' NFT drop with a follow-up raising funds for Ukraine. Viktoria’s images, videos, and prosthetics have been featured in several exhibitions, such as TechStyle at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston and the National Portrait Gallery. However, a recent project with her Avatar secured her first larger installation. The 'Virtual Twin' collaboration with virtual fashion commerce DressX, avatar incubator Lilium Labs and interactive art production by No Magic No Fun went on display in early 2023 at the Crystal Bridges Museum, bringing a taste of the future to the Fashioning America 'Grit to Glamour' exhibit.
An MIT Media Lab, Directors Fellow - 2016 Cohort, Young European Leaders - class 2019, and ambassador for accessibility space initiative Mission Astro access, Viktoria explores the impact of technology on the future of human lifestyle and culture . Her latest project with Aurelia Institute tapped into a new frontier of body augmentation in microgravity through tech wearables and architectural fashion. 
'Human augmentation is more than a costume change for your identity, it can change the course of your destiny'. 

Dana Karwas is the Director of the Center for Collaborative Arts and Media (CCAM) at Yale and is a Critic at the Yale School of Architecture teaching courses related to mechanized perception and space architecture.  She holds an MPS from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and has a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Kansas. With her arts and research practice, Karwas has shown her work at Artspace, The Chelsea Art Museum, and The Museum of the Moving Image. Her experimental short film, Ultra Space: Terra Cosma, was awarded Best Documentary at the 2023 Experimental Dance & Music Film Festival.
Karwas has completed design projects and creative direction for a variety of clients ranging from Maya Lin Studio to Knoll Furniture. Karwas co-founded Maquette a Yale interdisciplinary arts and culture publication at CCAM with writer Alex Zafiris.  In Maquette, Karwas has interviews with Sarah Oppenheimer and Keller Easterling, and  is a frequent contributor to architecture publications including Paprika!, writing articles that challenge architectures relationship to technological offsets. She has contributed essays to exhibition catalogs including The Opera House of the Future and her essay, Image Gravity: Defining Spatial Constructs for Invisible Phenomena is published by Springer.
Karwas is a fellow at the Aurelia Institute a nonprofit space architecture R&D lab, the NYU Tisch Collaboratory, and at Brandford College at Yale University. She has taught interdisciplinary art and architecture courses and New York University and Columbia University.

After graduating with honors from Art Center College of design in 2015, Zach Mendoza’s exhibition history has continued to grow throughout the United States. His work has been featured in national publications including New American Paintings and Creative Quarterly among others. He has participated in shows with The Museum of Art and History Lancaster and the Fullerton Museum as well as numerous galleries throughout the United States. "My work is often a mishmash of ideas, images, half- truths and afterimages that become almost ghoulish amalgams of the sum of their parts. "I find myself preoccupied with images that deal with chaos”. Francis Bacon once said “I want a very ordered image but I want it to come about by chance”.
“When making work, disruption can both unsettle and enliven creative progress. I enjoy working from a solid framework of ideas with an image that I haven’t quite solved yet. The dichotomy of chaos and order, I find are recurrent themes in my work. There are marks that come about independent of reason or expectation and these are the moments which either destroy a work or elevate it to the “not-yet-known”. Working in this way requires a constant process of disruption, reinterpretation and response. I view this process also as a microcosmic expression of the world in which we live. Everything changes constantly, is broken and reassembled an infinitude of times over in every moment.”

Mikael Owunna is a Nigerian American multimedia artist, filmmaker, and engineer. Exploring the intersections of technology, art, and African cosmologies, his work seeks to elucidate an emancipatory vision of possibility that revives traditional African knowledge systems and pushes people beyond all boundaries, restrictions, and frontiers.
Owunna’s work has been exhibited across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America and has been collected by institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Nasher Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Middlebury College Museum of Art; Equal Justice Initiative; Duke University Pratt School of Engineering; and National Taiwan Museum. His work has also been featured in media ranging from the New York Times to CNN, NPR, VICE, and The Guardian. He has lectured at venues including Harvard Law School, World Press Photo (Netherlands), Tate Modern (UK), and TEDx. Owunna has published two monographs: Limitless Africans (FotoEvidence, 2019) and Cosmologies (ClampArt, 2021). Owunna’s multimedia practice includes film, and in 2021 he directed the dance film Obi Mbu (The Primordial House) with Marques Redd. Owunna's work has been commissioned for major public art installations by organizations including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Foundation, Contemporary Art Museum Raleigh, Pittsburgh International Airport, and Orange Barrel Media. 

Marques Redd is a traditional African cosmologist, independent scholar, and multimedia artist.  The foundation of his work is the reclamation, modernization, and extension of traditional African knowledge systems, particularly from ancient Egyptian and West African (Yoruba, Dogon, Dagara, and Igbo) contexts, and he seeks every medium he can – film, sculpture, academic scholarship, spiritual retreats, performance, and public installation – to bring the multidimensional depths of African cosmologies to the 21st century world.
He specifically strives to revive the traditions of gatekeepers, a lineage of queer African spirit workers, artisans, and diviners. Because queer people can vibrate masculine and feminine energy, it was believed in many indigenous African perspectives that we preserve a special connection to the Creator, the Primordial Androgynous Blackness from which all life emerges, and as such are tasked with maintaining the “gates,” the high vibrational points connecting the physical to the spiritual world. He takes this ancient mandate seriously and endeavors to create work that ritually elevates those who engage with it.
Redd graduated from Harvard University with an AB in African and Afro-American Studies and Social Studies and from the University of California, Berkeley with a PhD in English Literature. He has written essays on a wide variety of topics, including the poetry of jazz musician Sun Ra, the novels of Ishmael Reed, the art of the Women of Visions collective, and global 19th-century poetry. His forthcoming book is a scholarly text entitled Ancient Origins, Future Destinies: Blackness, the Word, and World Creativity that explores connections between the ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, the Odu Ifa, Dogon myth, and contemporary African American writers such as Jay Wright.
With his collaborator Mikael Owunna, he has released several artistic projects. They co-directed Obi Mbu (The Primordial House), a 30-minute film which presents a choreographed dance performance exploring the movement of illuminated Black dancers as they reenact an Igbo myth of creation. Playing the Cosmic Strings is their public art collaboration with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra centered around the unveiling of a 1,200 sq. ft. billboard influenced by Igbo conceptualizations about the origin of music. As artists-in-residence at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, they are working on a series of sculptures of ancient Egyptian deities.

Student Lightning Talks, Part II



Jessica Todd is a PhD candidate in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program, conducting her PhD research jointly with the AeroAstro Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Applied Ocean Science and Engineering Department at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Her PhD focuses on developing machine learning and decision-making algorithms for science robots in extreme environments, like the surface of Mars or the depths of the ocean. Jessica is passionate about developing scientific systems that can aid both Earth and planetary scientists in expeditionary science. Her past research includes virtual and augmented reality environments for astronaut training and robotic control, self-assembling observation towers for the lunar surface, and mission concept designs for scientific missions to Titan and Ceres. She has interned at JPL as part of the Mars Science Helicopter team, tested robots on the International Space Station, travelled to Antarctica as part of the Homeward Bound leadership project, and spent two weeks as a simulation Mars astronaut in the deserts of Utah. Jessica was named a 2022 National Geographic Explorer. When she’s not conducting fieldwork on the reefs of the Caribbean and Bermuda or in the Arctic Circle, Jessica is a passionate SCUBA diver and EMT, and women in STEM advocate.

Rachel Bellisle received a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Rhode Island and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Bioastronautics/ Medical Engineering and Medical Physics through the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program with the Draper Scholar Program. Her research focuses on wearable technology and neuromuscular interventions for human spaceflight, providing solutions for physiological adaptations in extreme environments.

Thomas G. Roberts is Graduate Research Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Astrodynamics, Space Robotics, and Controls Laboratory and a PhD candidate in the Institute’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He is also an adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Aerospace Security Project in Washington, D.C. Thomas’ research interests include astrodynamics, space sustainability, and international space policy. He holds an SM in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT, an SM in technology and policy from MIT, and a BA in astrophysical sciences with honors from Princeton University. In 2015, he was named a Harry S. Truman Scholar. In 2021, he was awarded the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship.

David Colby Reed is a designer and futurist. He co-founded Foossa, has taught design futures at Parsons, and researches the political economy of emerging technologies at MIT.
David’s work revolves around the creation of enabling conditions for democratic equality and sustainable development on and beyond Earth. As a design entrepreneur, he has worked to make public services more inclusive, respectful, and high-performing in their execution. As a social scientist in engineering heavy spaces, he seeks to articulate approaches to technology design ethics that center political economy. As a facilitator, he makes stakeholders perspectives more legible to one another. As a futurist, he helps organizations imagine new forms of shared value.
David studied cognitive science at Harvard, public policy at NYU, and system design at MIT. He is currently a PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab and works in the Space Enabled research group, which advances justice through applied space technologies.

Joseph Kennedy is an interdisciplinary designer and creative technologist who works across multiple scales encompassing both natural and built environments. He is a first year DDes student whose research leverages digital fabrication, tunable material and applied ecology to participate in the remediation of post-industrial landscapes.
He is a graduate of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked in the Mediated Matter group with Neri Oxman to produce bio-fabricated structures exhibited in MoMa, SFMoMA and the Cooper Hewitt. Joe received his Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University with a Goodwin Sands thesis prize, the Eidlitz Fellowship, and Cornell Council of the Arts Funds. Additionally, he co-taught a design-build studio at the AHO while completing his Fulbright Fellowship in Oslo.
Joe has held teaching positions at UC Berkeley, Woodbury University and the Boston Architectural College. Previously, he has worked for design firms such as Snøhetta in SF, Only If in NYC, and Miniwiz in Taipei as well as in creative roles at NASA JPL in LA, and OPT Industries in Cambridge.

Pat Pataranutaporn is a technologist and a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he explores the intersection of synthetic virtual humans and synthetic biology, specifically at the interface between biological and digital systems.  He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Fluid Interfaces research group at MIT Media Lab and a KBTG Fellow. His interdisciplinary research ranges from investigating AI-generated characters for learning and well-being human-AI co-reasoning, a wearable lab on the body with programmable bio-digital organ for space exploration, a machine learning model to detect linguistic markers related to mental health issues,  and mind-controlled 3D printer. Pat's research has been published in Nature Machine Intelligence, Nature Biotechnology, IEEE, ACM CHI, ACM SIGGRAPH, ACM ISWC, ACM Augmented Humans, Royal Society of Chemistry, etc. He also serves as a reviewer and editor for  IEEE and ACM publications. Pat’s research publication is recognized worldwide and has been featured in the United Nations AI for Good forum, Time magazine, Forbes, National Geographic, FastCompany, The Guardian, Disruptive Innovation Festival, and more.  As a person, who really loves space dinosaurs, Pat believes in bringing crazy ideas, and moonshot thinking to create future innovation.

Astronaut Augury



Dr. Cady Coleman is an astronaut, scientist, wife, mother, pilot, and musician. During her 24-year career at NASA, she spent more than 180 days in space, including two space shuttle missions and a six-month expedition living and working on the International Space Station (ISS), where she served as the Lead Robotics and Lead Science officer. She began her service in the US Air Force as a research chemist, retiring as a Colonel.
A popular and in-demand speaker, Cady draws from her time at NASA to talk about a wide range of topics including innovative leadership, building inclusive teams, and why “mission” matters if you want to achieve ambitious goals. She is also a highly regarded media adviser and on-air expert, known for her STEM/STEAM and diversity advocacy. She is a regular ABC contributor, often co-anchors their Special Reports on space. While living on the Space Station, she advised Sandra Bullock for her appearance in Gravity.
Cady and her family were recently featured in two documentaries. The most recent, The Longest Goodbye, funded in part by PBS’ Independent Lens, premiered at Sundance this year. It explores one of the challenges of exploration – the stress of living away from friends and family. The Wonderful: Stories from the Space Station brings to life the experience of living and working on the International Space Station through the stories of 10 astronauts and flight directors.
An amateur flute player, Cady performed the first-ever space duet from the Space Station – with Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. For more than a decade, she performed and spoke about space several times a year with the acclaimed Irish band, the Chieftains. She also performs several times a year as a member of Bandella, a band of astronauts who have been performing together since 1992.
Currently the Global Explorer in Residence at Arizona State University (ASU), Cady co-hosts Mission: Interplanetary, a podcast known for its focus on the big questions that face humans as we become an interplanetary species. She is an advisor and zero-gravity coach for Mission: AstroAccess, a non-profit working to advance disability in space. She also serves as a Research Affiliate at the MIT Media Lab, where she consults on space-related work, and is a board member at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
Cady lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband Josh Simpson, an internationally renowned glass artist, and they have two adult sons. She is currently working on a book about her NASA experiences.

Mike Massimino is a former NASA Astronaut, a New York Times bestselling author, a Columbia University engineering professor, an advisor at The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, and a television personality.
After working as an engineer at IBM, NASA, and McDonnell Douglas Aerospace, along with academic appointments at Rice University and at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Mike was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1996. He persisted through three rejections over 7 years on his way to becoming an astronaut, including overcoming a medical disqualification by training his eyes and brain to see better. A spacewalker on the fourth and fifth Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions in 2002 and 2009, Mike and his crews traveled faster (Mach 26) and higher (350 miles) than any other astronauts in the 21st century while increasing the discovery capabilities of arguably the greatest scientific instrument ever built by a factor of 100. During the final Hubble servicing mission, Mike was faced with both success and life-threatening challenges as he performed the most intricate repair ever attempted in space. Mike was the first person to tweet from space, holds the team record for the most spacewalking time on a single space shuttle mission, and was the last person to work inside of the Hubble Space Telescope.
In 2014, Mike left NASA to become a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University where he teaches two courses, Introduction to Human Space Flight and Aerospace Human Factors Engineering, which harness his years of academic and professional experience. He also teaches The Art of Engineering, a course in which all first-year engineers work on engineering projects with socially responsible themes. In addition, Mike is the faculty advisor for the Columbia student space club (the Columbia Space Initiative), and faculty director of the India Urban Works challenge. His responsibilities also include outreach to high schools throughout the United States to promote STEM education, and support of university development efforts and alumni affairs.
Mike’s book, Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe, has received rave reviews and is a New York Times best-seller. His second book, Spaceman: The True Story of a Young Boy’s Journey to Becoming an Astronaut, a young adult version of his previously published autobiography, is a National Science Teachers Association 2021 Best STEM Book Winner. He is a recipient of 2 NASA Space Flight Medals, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, Columbia Alumni Association Egleston Medal, Star of Italian Solidarity (Italian Knighthood), Christopher Award for Most Inspirational Book, Long Island Reads Book of the Year Award, Columbia Outstanding Community Service Award, National Space Club Communications Award, an Honorary Doctorate from Hofstra University, and was inducted into the Long Island Air and Space Hall of Fame. The street that Mike grew up on in Franklin Square, Long Island has been renamed “Mike Massimino Street.”
Mike has made numerous television appearances including a recurring role as himself on the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory. He is also a commentator on Discovery Channel’s Space Launch Live, the host for the Science Channel Series The Planets and Beyond, was featured in National Geographic Television’s One Strange Rock, in the Netflix series Worn Stories, and in the IMAX movie Hubble 3D. Mike is a frequent expert guest on news programs and late night television (including Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNBC, and The Late Show with David Letterman), and has been called the real-life astronaut who inspired George Clooney’s role in the movie “Gravity.”
As a keynote speaker, Mike uses humor and his unique storytelling ability to inspire audiences to identify the passion in their work, to use teamwork and innovation to solve problems, to provide leadership in the face of adversity and crisis, and to never give up when pursuing a goal. He also conveys messages on the importance of safety, education, and environmental awareness.
Mike received his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from Columbia University. He has four graduate degrees from MIT – a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, a master’s degree in technology and policy, the degree of mechanical engineer, and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Mike lives in New York City.

Artists at BTC


Josh Simpson

Josh Simpson is an American glass artist whose vibrantly colored vessels and sculpture are often inspired by astrophysical themes. A pioneer of the studio glass movement, Simpson has spent half a century inventing new formulas and making glass objects that combine his fascination with color, form, pattern and complexity, with his interest in the workings of the universe. Simpson’s Planets evoke imaginary worlds that might exist in distant galaxies, while his signature New Mexico Glass resembles swirling seas or the starry night sky, and his Corona Glass evokes deep space phenomena.
Simpson’s work is held in the permanent collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, the
Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, and the Glass Museum in Lviv, Ukraine, among many others.

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