Ariel Ekblaw

Thursday, July 08, 2021
10:30am EDT

Location Amphitheater

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Founder and Director, MIT Space Exploration Initiative

Ariel Ekblaw is the founder and director of the MIT Space Exploration Initiative, a team of over 50 graduate students, staff and faculty actively prototyping the artifacts of our sci-fi space future. With today’s democratization of space exploration technology and the potential for future interplanetary civilization, Ekblaw will survey this “majestic domain for human exploration,” as she wrote in her recent Ph.D. dissertation — “a domain of unrelenting challenges posing dangers that are fundamentally at odds with our evolved biology.” 

For the Initiative, Ekblaw drives space-related research across science, engineering, art and design, and charters an annually recurring cadence of parabolic flights and sub-orbital and orbital launch opportunities. Founded in 2016, the Initiative now includes a portfolio of 40-plus research projects focused on life in space (from astrobiology to space habitats), and supports an accelerator-like R-and-D program that enables a broad range of payload development. Ekblaw forges collaborations on this work with MIT departments and space industry partners, while mentoring Initiative research projects and providing technical advice for all mission deployments.

Ekblaw’s personal research builds on her MIT Ph.D. (completed September 2020) in space architecture and the TESSERAE platform: Tessellated Electromagnetic Space Structures for the Exploration of Reconfigurable, Adaptive Environments. This work explores autonomously self-assembling space architecture for future space tourist habitats and space stations in orbit around the Earth, the Moon and Mars. She holds undergraduate degrees in physics, mathematics and philosophy from Yale University, and a master’s in distributed systems from the MIT Media Lab.