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

Check out NASA's 60th Anniversary Magazine online here!


The Space Studies track is geared to help individuals increase their knowledge of space engineering, science, program management and policy. The program includes advanced engineering, biological and physical science classes and introduces students to economics, public policy, and management disciplines, which impact space commercialization and national policy. This program focuses on training scientists and engineers interested in program management providing them with the tools to face the complex challenges inherent in US space policy, human and robotic space exploration, and the role of science in space exploration and technology development.

In addition to science and engineering courses, students will take a solar systems overview course, a Space Studies Seminar taught by industry experts, and cohort courses with students involved in the other tracks listed in this brochure. These courses include a Science Policy and Ethics course, a management course and a corporate seminar. These courses are designed to equip students with the skills needed to connect advanced scientific concepts in a business or governmental setting. Students are educated in the scientific approach to problems, while simultaneously being trained in vital business concepts, policy and ethics issues, verbal and written communication, and rounding out their education with advanced practical training in the field of their interest. This unique combination of an interdisciplinary curriculum and hands-on experience enables students to move seamlessly into the scientific/technical workforce.

The Rice Space Institute, led by Dr. David Alexander, provides a unique collaborative environment in which to meet the educational, research and technological challenges faced by the human and robotic exploration of space.

Rice University has a proud and distinguished heritage of collaboration with NASA and the nation’s space program, recently celebrating 50 years of science and engineering partnership with the Johnson Space Center. As we embark on the first steps of the next 50 years, the Rice Space Institute is working to strengthen our ties with JSC and the broader Houston space community, to foster deeper research collaborations within this community, and facilitate multidisciplinary research to address the most pressing scientific and technological problems facing the exploration of space.

Space exploration has impacted society and culture across the globe in many diverse and imaginative ways, changing how we view the world, how we interact with it, and how we imagine our place within it. Increasingly, research in the humanities and social sciences is addressing this impact and exploring the cultural context in which it occurs. The Rice Space Institute aims to foster these discussions and to bridge the disciplines as we seek to understand the societal and cultural impact of space exploration.

Education is the cornerstone of our activities as we strive to produce the next generation of scientists, engineers and scholars. Education at all levels is a crucial component of the mission of the Rice Space Institute and our goal is to expand our efforts in undergraduate and graduate level study while enhancing our participation in Rice’s broad range of outreach programs and community engagement.

Faculty involved in the Space Studies Program:

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/Amy Sesson (PSM Professional Communication)

Thomas Killian, Dean, Wiess School of Natural Sciences

Various adjunct faculty from industry