Space Technology for the Development Leader (MAS.859) — MIT Media Lab

MAS.859 Space Technology for the Development Leader

Spring 2023 MAS Graduate Course (open to undergraduates and graduates at MIT, Harvard and Wellesley)

Dates for spring 2023 semester: February 6 to May 15

Class Meetings: Mondays, 9am – 12pm in Building E14 Room 493 (hybrid connection via Zoom available, email Prof Wood for contact, [email protected])

This course will help you understand how rapidly changing technologies and politics in the space sector matter in your life. Join us as we strive to shape a shared vision for a space-based society that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

Course information

Office hours are on request. Please join [email protected] for more information.

Course Prerequisite: Permission of the Instructor; No prior knowledge of space technology or development is required.

Course Description: This course will introduce students to the intersections between space technology and sustainable development by examining the technical, political, and social aspects of seven space technologies. The technologies we discuss include satellite earth observation; satellite communication; satellite positioning; human spaceflight and microgravity research; space technology transfer; basic scientific space research; and small satellites. The workshop will explore how these technologies can promote sustainable development through discussions, lectures, readings and projects. The workshop will also consider what upcoming trends in space are likely to affect the application of space for development. The course examines development from the perspective of leaders at several scales, including international development agencies, national governments, local community leaders, and socially motivated entrepreneurs. The Space Enabled Research Group’s mission is to advance justice in Earth’s complex systems using projects created from space. The Space Enabled Research Group defines equity in two ways. First, in a just world, the benefits of technology for public services will be available to people living in all nations and from all socioeconomic levels. This is currently not the case due to the driving forces of the modern era, including colonialism, racism, and imperialism, which have concentrated both wealth and access to technology in certain countries or urban centers. Second, the future will be fairer if the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals are met and exceeded. The course suggests that technologies from space have been used to support sustainable development for decades, but barriers remain that limit the impact of these technologies. This 6-section workshop takes an applied approach and explains the practicalities that arise when applying space technologies to support sustainable development.

Note on related course: This course thematically follows the fall semester course taught by Professor Daniel Wood titled Can Space-Based Designs Accelerate Equity and Development?. It is not necessary for a student to take the fall course first, although students are encouraged to take both courses in any order to understand the full range of concepts. Both courses address aspects of the mission statement of the Space Enabled Research Group at the MIT Media Lab, which is to achieve equity in Earth’s complex systems using space-enabled projects.

Learning objectives: After completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Describe examples of ways in which space technologies have been used to support sustainable development, while discussing barriers that limit their impact
  • Explain the origin, purpose and impact of UN sustainable development
  • Development goals and their relation to space technologies
  • Describe the roles that development leaders play in organizations such as multilateral institutions, national governments, local governments, NGOs, multinational companies and small private businesses
  • Write reflective responses that capture learning from the reading
  • Apply the systems architecture framework adapted by Professor Wood to analyze stakeholders, needs, context, goals, forms and functions
  • Write a research paper that analyzes the use of a particular space technology in support of sustainable development goals using the systems architecture framework

Structure of class meetings: The class will meet once a week for virtual three-hour sessions. Attendance at class meetings is mandatory for students taking the course for credit and is a vital aspect of class learning and participation. Each student will have the opportunity to lead part of the learning activities during the semester.

A typical class session includes the following activities:

  • Student presentations on individual semester projects
  • A lecture by an instructor or guest speaker on a specific topic outlined in the curriculum

Learn about the spring 2022 semester edition of the course and watch videos of past guest speakers:

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