Ariel EkblawDirector, MIT Space Exploration Initiative
As founder and director of the MIT Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), Ariel drives aerospace-related research across science, engineering, art, and design and coordinates an annually recurring cadence of space flight opportunities (parabolic flights, suborbital launches, and ISS missions). She manages a 10-person direct staff team and leads fundraising, strategic partnerships, and collaborations across MIT and with external space industry partners.
In just one year, Ariel grew the Initiative from grass-roots interest to a community of over 50 graduate students, faculty, and staff who are now actively engaged in rigorously prototyping the artifacts of our space exploration future. Now four years old, the Initiative includes a portfolio of over 40 research projects (from satellite constellation algorithms to astrobiology to space architecture) and supports R&D prototyping sessions, launch contracts for project deployment in space environments, an annual flagship event (Beyond the Cradle), and project mentorship from an expanding network of space exploration advisors.
Ariel mentors Initiative research projects and provides technical advice for all mission deployments. Her SEI endeavors have been featured in WIRED (March 2020 cover story) and the Wall Street Journal, and on the BBC, CNN, NPR, IEEE and AIAA proceedings, and more. Her personal research passion revolves around space architecture, building on her MIT PhD thesis on self-assembling mega-structures in orbit (TESSERAE: Tessellated Electromagnetic Space Structures for the Exploration of Reconfigurable, Adaptive Environments).