Space Studies Program

NASA has had a long and productive relationship with Rice University beginning at the establishment of Johnson Space Center. This collaboration continues today. As part of NASA's overall mission, we are dedicated to education at all levels with special emphasis on education programs that meet our workforce needs. Rice has historically educated our outstanding scientists and engineers. The Professional Master's degree in Space Studies fits within our workforce needs as it provides training across technical areas, from science to practical engineering and management. These types of programs can enhance our workforce as we continue in the 21st century transformation of human space flight. We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with Rice and your program.

– Craig Stencil, Deputy Director of Space Life Sciences, NASA, Johnson Space Center Overview


The Space Studies program is tailored to enrich individuals' understanding of space engineering, science, program management, and policy. It encompasses advanced engineering, biological and physical science courses, and introduces students to economics, public policy, and management disciplines relevant to space commercialization and national policy. This program specifically aims to train scientists and engineers interested in program management, equipping them with the necessary tools to tackle the intricate challenges inherent in US space policy, human and robotic space exploration, and the role of science in space exploration and technology advancement.

In addition to science and engineering classes, students will participate in a solar systems overview course and a Space Studies Seminar led by industry experts. They will also engage in cohort courses with peers from other tracks listed in the program brochure. These courses cover topics such as Science Policy and Ethics, management, and corporate seminars. They are meticulously designed to furnish students with the skills needed to apply advanced scientific concepts in business or governmental settings. Students are educated in scientific problem-solving approaches while simultaneously receiving training in essential business concepts, policy and ethics considerations, as well as verbal and written communication skills. Their education is further enriched by advanced practical training in their chosen field of interest. This unique blend of interdisciplinary curriculum and hands-on experience enables students to seamlessly transition into the scientific and technical workforce.


The Rice Space Institute

The Rice Space Institute, under the leadership of Dr. David Alexander, provides an exceptional collaborative environment to address the educational, research, and technological challenges inherent in human and robotic space exploration.

Rice University boasts a rich heritage of collaboration with NASA and the nation’s space program, recently commemorating 50 years of science and engineering partnership with the Johnson Space Center. As we embark on the next 50 years, the Rice Space Institute is dedicated to strengthening our connections with JSC and the wider Houston space community. We aim to foster deeper research collaborations within this community and facilitate multidisciplinary research endeavors to tackle the most pressing scientific and technological challenges in space exploration.

Space exploration has profoundly influenced global society and culture in diverse and imaginative ways, reshaping our perspectives, interactions, and perceptions of our place in the world. Increasingly, research in the humanities and social sciences is exploring this impact and delving into the cultural context in which it unfolds. The Rice Space Institute endeavors to facilitate these discussions and bridge disciplines as we seek to comprehend the societal and cultural ramifications of space exploration.


David Alexander, Faculty Director, Physics and Astronomy
Patrick Rodi, Program Advisor, Mechanical Engineering
Janet Braam, Biosciences
Stephen Bradshaw, Space Physics
Ramon Gonzalez, Chemical Engineering and Biomolecular Engineering
Chris Johns-Krull, Physics and Astronomy
Adrian Lenardic, Earth Science
Marcia O’Malley, Mechanical Engineering
Kirstin Matthews, Baker Institute for Public Policy
Erzsebet Merenyi, Departments of Statistics and Electrical and Computer Engineering
Tayfun Tezduyar, Mechanical Engineering
Frank R. Toffoletto, Physics and Astronomy
Mary Purugganan (PSM Professional Communication)

Thomas Killian, Dean, Wiess School of Natural Sciences