What does it mean to be multiplanetary for life here on Earth? — MIT Media Lab

Join the Aspen Institute Conversations with Great Leaders Series, in memory of Preston Robert Tisch, for a virtual discussion that will examine the challenges facing our society and our planet as we look up and out. Will our future include space travel for the average person? Will we inhabit other planets and, if so, how will we prepare for that time? Can what we learn in preparing for such a future benefit us now? And what are the implications of human space travel for the economy, international relations and the environment here on Earth?

Moderated by Marina Koren (Editor at The Atlantic), this conversation will feature Charles F. Bolden, Jr. (12th NASA Administrator and Founder and CEO Emeritus of the Charles F. Bolden Group), Ariel Ekblaw (founder and director of the MIT Space Exploration Initiative), and David Munns (Associate Professor of History of Science and Technology at CUNY’s John Jay College and co-author of Far Beyond the Moon: A History of Life Support Systems in the Space Age).


the honorable Charles F. Bolden Jr.., Major General, United States Marine Corps (Ret.). served as Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from July 2009 to January 2017. Bolden’s 34-year career in the Marine Corps included 14 years as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Office. After joining the bureau in 1980, he traveled to orbit aboard the Space Shuttle four times between 1986 and 1994, commanding two of the missions and piloting two others. Today, in addition to his many professional affiliations, General Bolden is the founder and CEO emeritus of the Charles F. Bolden Group, providing leadership in space/aerospace exploration, national security, STEM+AD education and health initiatives. He received a Bachelor of Science from the US Naval Academy and a Master of Science from the University of Southern California.

Ariel Ekblaw, Ph.D., is the founder and director of the MIT Space Exploration Initiative, a team of more than 50 graduate students, staff, and faculty actively prototyping the artifacts of our sci-fi space future. Founded in 2016, the Initiative now includes a portfolio of over 40 research projects focusing on life in space (from astrobiology to space habitats) and supports an accelerator-like R&D program that enables a wide range of payload development. She forges collaborations on this work with MIT departments and space industry partners, while mentoring the Initiative’s research projects and providing technical guidance for all mission deployments. His previous work experience includes supersymmetry research and big data programming at CERN’s Particle Physics Laboratory, user-centric product design and development at Microsoft Azure, microgravity research with NASA, and engineering Mars2020 rover hardware systems at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Ariel earned her undergraduate degree in physics, mathematics, and philosophy from Yale University, a master’s degree from the MIT Media Lab, and a Ph.D. from MIT.

David Munns, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of History of Science and Technology at John Jay College, CUNY. His published work encompasses the history of modern life and the physical and technological sciences, environmental history, anthropocene studies, and litter studies. His most recent book (co-authored with Karin Nickelsen), Far Beyond the Moon: A History of Life Support Systems in the Space Age, reveals how the development of artificial life support systems was as important as the development of rockets. the space age. . Dr. Munns received his M.Phil from the University of Sydney and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.

Marina Koren is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers everything in space, from astronaut missions and robotic explorers to the wonders of the solar system and beyond. She wrote dispatches from Cape Canaveral in Florida, NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, and the SpaceX launch site in South Texas, the last of which appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2021. to work in science journalism, Marina was a breaking news and political journalist.

The Aspen Institute is grateful to Steve Tisch, Laurie Tisch, Lizzie, and Jonathan Tisch, and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund for their generous support of this program.

This program is produced in partnership with the Science & Society program at the Aspen Institute.

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