Space Courses

THE SPACE CONSORTIUM COURSES

Available to All

NameDescriptionInstructorTermLevelAffiliation
Space Law, Policy and Ethics Graduate WorkshopNot-for-Credit, free, graduate course dedicated to 1) teaching the basics of space law, policy and ethics, 2) working on students’ space law and policy thesis writing and articles for publication and 3) developing their critical thinking and writing skills. The course will take place for two hours twice a month on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of every month starting September 2022 (Sept 12th, 26th, Oct 10th, 24th, Nov 14th, 28th). All undergraduate and graduate students in the greater Boston-Cambridge area are welcome to apply for one of the 12 available slots. Priority will be given to Harvard and MIT students and all students able to join the seminar in person (currently set at the SOCH, on Mondays, 11.30-1.30pm). However, an online version of the seminar may become available in the future. Please indicate in your letter of intent if you can attend the in-person seminar. To apply, please send via email in one merged PDF the following documents to Ms.Vallery, Head TA, at londonvallery@college.harvard.edu by Friday, September, 2nd, 2022, 5pm ET: 
– a CV
– a 1-page letter of intent (which should include: age, concentration/graduate program, 2 of the 6 seminars you would best prefer to present your work at)
– a 5-page writing sample dedicated to a space law, policy and/or space ethics topic, which we will be working on during the seminars
You will be informed of your selection by Friday, Sept. 8th. 
For questions about the course, please contact Ms. Vallery, Head TA, at londonvallery@college.harvard.edu
Alissa J. HaddajiFallGraduateThe Space Consortium

HARVARD COURSES

Graduate

Course CodeNameDescriptionInstructorTermLevelSchool
ASTRON 300Topics in Modern Astrophysics
A seminar, reading, or research course may be arranged with any of the faculty listed. Students can also arrange to obtain Astronomy 300 credit for reading or research with scientific staff members of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; consult Astronomy Department office.MultipleFallGraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 202AExtragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology IThis course provides an integrated introduction to extragalacticastrophysics and cosmology. Notable topics include: fundamentals of cosmology, growth of cosmic structure, gravitational dynamics of halos and galaxies, and astrophysics of galaxy evolution.Charles ConroyFallGraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 202BExtragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology IIThis continues the integrated presentation of extragalactic astronomy and cosmology, focusing on more advanced topics such as: big bang nucleosynthesis, CMB anisotropies, large-scale structure, gravitational lensing, the intergalactic medium, active galactic nuclei, reionization, inflation, and dark matter.Lars HernquistSpringGraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 200Radiative Processes in AstrophysicsThis course surveys radiation processes and their applications to astrophysical phenomena. Background material in electromagnetic theory, quantum mechanics, relativity and statistical mechanics is briefly reviewed as needed. Thermal and non-thermal radiative processes are discussed, including atomic and molecular transitions, bremsstrahlung, Compton scattering and synchrotron radiation.Ramesh Narayan
FallGraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 100Methods of Observational AstronomyIn this course we will learn the basic tools of modern astronomical research, including telescopes, detectors, imaging, spectroscopy, and common software. Emphasis will be placed on both the theory behind telescopes and their use, and hands-on experience with real data. Using this basic knowledge we will analyze science-level astronomical data from a wide range of telescopes and review the basic properties of stars, galaxies, and other astronomical objects of interest. The course includes a trip to the F. L. Whipple Observatory on Mount Hopkins, Arizona, to gather data with various telescopes.Edo BergerSpringBothFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 305Topics in Origins of Life ResearchThis semester we will lay out a plausible story of how life emerged on Earth from chemistry that led to the synthesis of molecular building blocks, which in turn self-assembled to form cells. I will do that by reviewing two recent papers – the required reading for this course [1,2]. Each week we will also use, as necessary, relevant papers to the topics to be discussed. The list of topics is enclosed in the syllabus, as are some of the papers.Dimitar SasselovSpringGraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 209Exoplanet SystemsA survey of the rapidly evolving field of exoplanets with the goal of equipping students with the ability to identify and pursue research questions. Topics include observational methods and instrumentation to detect and characterize exoplanets; properties of stellar hosts; formation and dynamical evolution of planetary systems; composition and physical structure of planets; planetary atmospheres; habitable zones and biosignatures.John JohnsonFallGraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 140Introduction to General RelativityRecent exploration of black holes and gravitational waves have revealed the relativistic Universe like never before. This course will introduce students to the theory of general relativity and some of its key applications. Topics include: review of special relativity, physics in curved spacetimes, the Einstein field equations, gravitational lensing, black holes, gravitational waves and cosmology. Mathematics used in general relativity will be introduced along the way.Xingang ChenFallBothFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ESE 160Space Science and Engineering: Theory and ApplicationsThis course is an introduction to the challenges involved in designing spacecraft for observation of Earth and exploration of other planets. Topics covered include basic atmospheric and planetary science, key principles of remote sensing, telemetry, orbital transfer theory, propulsion and launch system design, and thermal and power management.Robin WordsworthFallBothFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ENGLISH 182BFBlack Science FictionThis course addresses two genres—black fiction and science fiction—at their point of intersection, which is sometimes called Afrofuturism. Our term “black fiction” includes texts that issue out of and speculate about the African-American experience. Our term “science fiction” comprises texts that speculate about alternative, cosmic, dystopian, utopian, and future worlds. Overlapping and mutually transforming concepts include: genetics, race, diaspora, miscegenation, double consciousness, technology, ecology, biology, language, history, futurity, space (inner and outer), and the alien. We will consider the short stories, novels, comics, film, television, and music of black science fiction. Namwali SerpellSpringBothFaculty of Arts & Sciences
HBSSpace: Public and Commercial EconomicsEach class meeting will welcome guests from across the space sector, such as vice president of Blue Origin Ariane Cornell, M.B.A. ’14 and former administrator of NASA Charles Frank Bolden, Jr.Matthew C. WeinzierlSpringGraduateHarvard Business School

Undergraduate

Course CodeNameDescriptionInstructorTermLevelSchool
ASTRON 91RSupervised Reading and ResearchSupervised Reading and ResearchKarin ObergSpringUndergraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 1The Big Questions of AstronomyWe will discuss the big questions of astronomy that have engaged scientists and the general public alike for centuries: How did the universe begin? What is the ultimate fate of the Sun? How do planets form? Is there life outside the Solar system? Students will use telescopes to study the night sky and examine how the combination of astronomical observations and physical theory have led to an understanding of the vast and dynamic cosmos we inhabit.David CharbonneauFallUndergraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 5AstrosociologyIn an age of magnificent astronomical progress and discoveries, the increasing knowledge of the cosmos has manifold repercussions in society and culture. This course will examine how outer space-related phenomena impact, or potentially impact, society and culture, and vice versa. Especially in light of the proliferating discovery of exoplanets, an intriguing topic of astrosociology is presented by the possibility of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, their detection, communication with them, and even contact.Gerhard SonnertSpringUndergraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 17Galactic and Extragalactic AstronomyThis course will introduce you to the physical principles describing galaxies and the composition and evolution of the Universe. We will cover a wide range of topics from nearby galaxies to quasars to the Big Bang.The goals of the course are 1) to introduce you to the broad sweep of extragalactic astronomy and cosmology, including major concepts and common jargon, 2) to develop detailed applications of physics, particularly mechanics, to galaxies and cosmology, 3) to gain exploratory experience in observational astronomy.Daniel EisensteinFallUndergraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 100Methods of Observational AstronomyIn this course we will learn the basic tools of modern astronomical research, including telescopes, detectors, imaging, spectroscopy, and common software. Emphasis will be placed on both the theory behind telescopes and their use, and hands-on experience with real data. Using this basic knowledge we will analyze science-level astronomical data from a wide range of telescopes and review the basic properties of stars, galaxies, and other astronomical objects of interest. The course includes a trip to the F. L. Whipple Observatory on Mount Hopkins, Arizona, to gather data with various telescopes.Edo BergerSpringBothFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 22The Unity of Science: From the Big Bang to the Brontosaurus and BeyondScience is like a well-woven, ever-expanding fabric, designed to uncover Nature’s secrets. This course emphasizes the strong connections between subfields of science,showing it as the never-ending and greatest detective story ever told, with evidence always the arbiter. These characteristics are exhibited in the semi-historical treatment of three main themes: unveiling the universe, the earth and its fossils, and the story of life.Irwin ShapiroSpringUndergraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 140Introduction to General RelativityRecent exploration of black holes and gravitational waves have revealed the relativistic Universe like never before. This course will introduce students to the theory of general relativity and some of its key applications. Topics include: review of special relativity, physics in curved spacetimes, the Einstein field equations, gravitational lensing, black holes, gravitational waves and cosmology. Mathematics used in general relativity will be introduced along the way.Xingang ChenFallBothFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 16Stellar and Planetary AstronomyThis course provides an introduction to the physical principles describing the formation and evolution of stars and their planetary companions. Topics include thermal radiation and stellar spectra; telescopes; energy generation in stars; stellar evolution; orbital dynamics; the Solar system; and exoplanets. This course includes an observational component: students will determine the distance to the Sun, and use the Clay Telescope atop the Science Center to study stellar evolution and detect exoplanets.Karin ObergSpringUndergraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ASTRON 2Celestial NavigationNever be lost again! Find your way on sea, land, or air by employing celestial and terrestrial techniques. Acquire expertise in using navigators’ tools (sextant, compass, and charts) while learning the steps to the celestial dance of the sun, moon, stars, and planets. This 108-year-old course continues to rely on practical skills and collaborative problem-solving, while utilizing historical artifacts (instruments, maps, captains’ logs) and student-built devices. Culminating in a day-long cruise to practice navigation skills.Philip SadlerFallUndergraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ESE 160Space Science and Engineering: Theory and ApplicationsThis course is an introduction to the challenges involved in designing spacecraft for observation of Earth and exploration of other planets. Topics covered include basic atmospheric and planetary science, key principles of remote sensing, telemetry, orbital transfer theory, propulsion and launch system design, and thermal and power management.Robin WordsworthFallBothFaculty of Arts & Sciences
ENGLISH 182BFBlack Science FictionThis course addresses two genres—black fiction and science fiction—at their point of intersection, which is sometimes called Afrofuturism. Our term “black fiction” includes texts that issue out of and speculate about the African-American experience. Our term “science fiction” comprises texts that speculate about alternative, cosmic, dystopian, utopian, and future worlds. Overlapping and mutually transforming concepts include: genetics, race, diaspora, miscegenation, double consciousness, technology, ecology, biology, language, history, futurity, space (inner and outer), and the alien. We will consider the short stories, novels, comics, film, television, and music of black science fiction. Namwali SerpellSpringBothFaculty of Arts & Sciences
GENED 1006Music From EarthIn 1977 humanity sent a mixtape into outer space. The two spacecraft of NASA’s Voyager mission include a Golden Record, featuring greetings in 55 earth languages, 116 images of the planet and its inhabitants, plus examples of music from a range of cultures across the world: from Azerbaijani bagpipes to Zaire pygmy songs, from English Renaissance dances to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and from Louis Armstrong to Chuck Berry. The samplings of earthbound auditory culture are on their way into the unknown. The Voyagers left the solar system around 2014, and in about 40,000 years the sun will no longer be their nearest star.
The Golden Record raises a number of big questions. The vast temporal and spatial distances that it traverses force us to change our perspective so as to imagine the distant future and to think far beyond our usual comfort zone. In trying to make contact with the Big Other—quite literally, communicating with the alien—the Golden Record asks us to confront our very humanity and to pose questions of self-representation and communication on the broadest level.
It is ironic that in 1977 the idea of communicating with aliens was something of a crackpot theory that serious scientists rarely promoted, whereas the vast number of exoplanets that have been discovered over the last forty years has given new relevance to this idea. We now believe that there must be at least 100 billion exoplanets, so the tables have turned: now it seems statistically unlikely that there would be no other inhabited planet in the universe.

The central question we will ask in this class is bafflingly simple: What might happen if someone picked up the Golden Record at the other end? What does listening actually mean on this broadest, interplanetary level? Of course, any answer must remain speculative, but this doesn’t mean that we must throw our arms up in the air in despair. SETI, the Study of Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, has identified a number of factors that we can safely assume to be universally recognizable across planets. Chief among them is the binary system of zero and one; it is also likely that sensory perception will rely on vibration patterns in a fluid medium. These give us a basis for some informed speculation. Concrete answers will likely remain evasive, but the creative and deductive work that goes into solving these puzzles are just as important as the answers themselves.
Alexander RehdingAlexander RehdingUndergraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences
GENED 1070Life as a Planetary PhenomenonWhat is it about Earth that enables life to thrive? This question was reinvigorated with the 2016 ground-breaking discovery of a habitable planet around the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. A decade of exploration confirmed that such planets are common in our galaxy, and the commonality of habitable planets has raised anew some age-old questions: Where do we come from? What is it to be human? Where are we going? Are we alone in the universe? And last, but not least, what are the dangers of becoming a multi-planet species? Life and planets are intricately linked through geological processes, chemistry, and ultimately, biology, all of which you will explore in this course as we endeavor to answer questions about our place on this planet and beyond. You will gain knowledge of some natural sciences fundamentals while exploring current issues in biotechnology and space exploration technology. This course aims to equip you with both a conceptual understanding of Earth and its place in the universe as well as the quantitative reasoning to think critically about it. Hands-on experiences are central to accomplishing these objectives.Dimitar SasselovSpringUndergraduateFaculty of Arts & Sciences

MIT COURSES

Graduate

Course CodeNameDescriptionInstructorTermLevelSchool
MIT 8 .614Introduction to Plasma Physics IIFollow-up to 22.611 provides in-depth coverage of several fundamental topics in plasma physics, selected for their wide relevance and applicability, from fusion to space- and astro-physics. Covers both kinetic and fluid instabilities: two-stream, Weibel, magnetorotational, parametric, ion-temperature-gradient, and pressure-anisotropy-driven instabilities (mirror, firehose). Also covers advanced fluid models, and drift-kinetic and gyrokinetic equations. Special attention to dynamo theory, magnetic reconnection, MHD turbulence, kinetic turbulence, and shocks.Nuno F. Gomes LoureiroSpringGraduateMass Institute of Technology
MIT 16 .891Space Policy SeminarExplores current and historical issues in space policy, highlighting NASA, DOD, and international space agencies. Covers NASA’s portfolios in exploration, science, aeronautics, and technology. Discusses US and international space policy. NASA leadership, public private partnerships, and innovation framework are presented. Current and former government and industry leaders provide an inside the beltway perspective. Study of Congress, the Executive, and government agencies results in weekly policy memos. White papers authored by students provide policy findings and recommendations to accelerate human spaceflight, military space, space technology investments, and space science missions. Intended for graduate students and advanced undergraduates interested in technology policy.Dava J. NewmanSpringGraduateMass Institute of Technology
MIT 16 .89Space Systems EngineeringFocus on developing space system architectures. Applies subsystem knowledge gained in 16.851 to examine interactions between subsystems in the context of a space system design. Principles and processes of systems engineering including developing space architectures, developing and writing requirements, and concepts of risk are explored and applied to the project. Subject develops, documents, and presents a conceptual design of a space system including a preliminary spacecraft design.Edward F. CrawleySpringGraduateMass Institute of Technology
MIT MAS .859Space Technology for the Development LeaderFollow on to MAS.858. Introduces intersections between space technology and sustainable development by examining technical, policy and social aspects of seven space technologies: satellite earth observation; satellite communication; satellite positioning; human space flight and micro gravity research; space technology transfer; fundamental scientific space research; and small satellites. Lectures introduce the UN Sustainable Development Goals and show linkages to seven space technologies from the perspective of development practitioners. Students read scholarly papers, write weekly responses, give presentations, and write a research paper.Danielle Renee WoodSpringGraduateMass Institute of Technology
MIT 16 .88Prototyping our Sci-Fi Space Future: Designing & Deploying Projects for Zero Gravity FlightsInstruction in project development, prototyping, and deployment readiness for parabolic flights. Admitted student teams are offered flyer and project-deployment slots on the Space Exploration Initiative’s spring parabolic flight, upon successful completion of the course in the fall and integration with the flight provider. Covers three main topic areas: 1) rapid prototyping and engineering skills to prepare projects for operation in microgravity; 2) logistics, training, and safety pre-approval steps to meet flight readiness requirements and pass a Technical Readiness Review (TRR); and 3) creative and technical lenses for the future of space exploration, examining the MIT Space Exploration Initiative’s design and prototyping approach, and MIT parabolic flight research examples across Science, Engineering, Art, and Design, and across departments.Ariel C. EkblawFallGraduateMass Institute of Technology
MIT 16 .857Asking How Space Enabled Designs Advance Justice and DevelopmentExamines theoretical and practical challenges of applying complex technology, such as space systems, to advance justice and development within human society. Proposes and critiques a concept of justice and development based on attainment of the US Sustainable Development Goals. Analyzes text by historians and economists around global patterns of uneven technology access. Teaches systems engineering tools to analyze the context, stakeholders, functions and forms of complex systems that impact society. Presents six space technologies used for specific Sustainable Development Goal. Students read several text, discuss key themes, write reflective responses, and write a research proposal on a topic of their choice. Part of two-class series on space technology and sustainable development.Danielle Renee WoodFallGraduateMass Institute of Technology
MIT 16 .522Space PropulsionReviews rocket propulsion fundamentals. Discusses advanced concepts in space propulsion with emphasis on high-specific impulse electric engines. Topics include advanced mission analysis; the physics and engineering of electrothermal, electrostatic, and electromagnetic schemes for accelerating propellant; and orbital mechanics for the analysis of continuous thrust trajectories. Requires a term project in which students design, build, and test an electric propulsion thruster in the laboratory.Paulo C. LozanoSpringGraduateMass Institute of Technology
MIT STS .468Entrepreneurship in Aerospace and Mobility SystemsExamines concepts and procedures for new venture creation in aerospace and mobility systems, and other arenas where safety, regulation, and infrastructure are significant components. Includes space systems, aviation, autonomous vehicles, urban aerial mobility, transit, and similar arenas. Includes preparation for entrepreneurship, founders’ dilemmas, venture finance, financial modeling and unit economics, fundraising and pitching, recruiting, problem definition, organizational creation, value proposition, go-to-market, and product development. Includes team-based final projects on problem definition, technical innovation, and pitch preparation.David A. MindellFallGraduateMass Institute of Technology
MIT 16 .851Introduction to Satellite EngineeringCovers the principles and governing equations fundamental to the design, launch, and operation of artificial satellites in Earth’s orbit and beyond. Material includes the vis-viva equation; the rocket equation; basic orbital maneuvers, including Hohmann transfers; bielliptic trajectories, as well as spiral transfers; the link budget equation; spacecraft power and propulsion; thermal equilibrium and interactions of spacecraft with the space environment, such as aerodynamic drag; electrostatic charging; radiation; and meteoroids. Spacecraft are initially treated parametrically as point masses and then as rigid bodies subject to Euler’s equations of rotational motion. Serves as a prerequisite for more advanced material in satellite engineering, including the technological implementation of various subsystems. Lectures are offered in a hybrid format, in person and remote.Olivier L. De WeckFallGraduateMass Institute of Technology

Undergraduate

Course CodeNameDescriptionInstructorTermLevelSchool
MIT 12 .431Space Systems DevelopmentStudents build a space system, focusing on refinement of sub-system designs and fabrication of full-scale prototypes. Sub-systems are integrated into a vehicle and tested. Sub-system performance is verified using methods of experimental inquiry, and is compared with physical models of performance and design goals. Communication skills are honed through written and oral reports. Formal reviews include the Implementation Plan Review and the Acceptance Review. Knowledge of the engineering design process is helpful.Rebecca A. MastersonSpringUndergraduateMass Institute of Technology
MIT 2 .00AFundamentals of Engineering Design: Explore Space, Sea and EarthStudent teams formulate and complete space/earth/ocean exploration-based design projects with weekly milestones. Introduces core engineering themes, principles, and modes of thinking. Specialized learning modules enable teams to focus on the knowledge required to complete their projects, such as machine elements, electronics, design process, visualization and communication. Includes exercises in written and oral communication and team building. Examples of projects include surveying a lake for millfoil, from a remote controlled aircraft, and then sending out robotic harvesters to clear the invasive growth; and exploration to search for the evidence of life on a moon of Jupiter, with scientists participating through teleoperation and supervisory control of robots.Santosh ShanbhogueSpringUndergraduateMass Institute of Technology
MIT 12 .400Our Space OdysseyTraces historical and scientific advancement of our understanding of Earth’s cosmic context. Introduces basic physical principles by which planets form and create their associated features of rings, satellites, diverse landscapes, atmospheres, and climates. Includes the physics of asteroids and comets and their orbital characteristics and links to meteorites. Considers one of the most fundamental questions – whether or not we are alone – by detailing the scientific exploration goals to be achieved at the Moon, Mars, and beyond.Julien De WitSpringUndergraduateMass Institute of Technology
MIT 16 .400Human Systems EngineeringProvides a fundamental understanding of human factors that must be taken into account in the design and engineering of complex aviation, space, and medical systems. Focuses primarily on derivation of human engineering design criteria from sensory, motor, and cognitive sources. Includes principles of displays, controls and ergonomics, manual control, the nature of human error, basic experimental design, and human-computer interaction in supervisory control settings. Students taking graduate version complete a research project with a final written report and oral presentation.Amy L. AlexanderFallUndergraduateMass Institute of Technology

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