SpaceCHI : Human-Computer Interaction for Space Exploration

A Workshop at ACM CHI 2021

May 14, 2021| EST 09:00-4:00

Space travel and becoming an interplanetary species have always been part of humanity’s greatest imaginings. Research in space exploration helps us advance our knowledge in the fundamental sciences, and challenges us to design new technologies and to create new industries for space, all while prompting us to answer the most fundamental questions about our place in the Universe. However, keeping a human healthy, happy and productive in space is one of the most challenging aspects of current space programs. Our biological body, which evolved in the Earth’s specific environment, is not designed to survive by itself in extreme conditions such as high radiation or low gravity (among other threats). Therefore, researchers have been developing different types of human-computer interfacing systems (HCI), which support a human body’s physical and mental performance in space. 


These Space HCI projects range from exoskeletons for supporting humans in low-gravity, to virtual and augmented reality systems for interplanetary exploration, and even zero-gravity musical interfaces for entertainment during the space mission. With advancements in aerospace engineering and the democratized access to space through aerospace tech companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, space research is becoming more plausible and accessible. The dropping costs of space launches and cubesats enables new interdisciplinary research in art, design, science, and engineering in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and beyond. What was once an exclusive, expensive, and narrowly serious pursuit is now evolving to include a vast array of possibilities. Thus, there is now an exciting opportunity for researchers in HCI to contribute to the great endeavor of space exploration by designing new types of interactive systems and computer interfaces which can support human living in space and beyond.

About the Workshop

Our one-day workshop will consist of a keynote lecture, research presentations, lively discussion, and group brainstorming. We anticipate 15-25 participants. The workshop will be held online via Zoom. Accepted papers up to 4 pages long- will be hosted on our website prior to the workshop for participants and conference attendee to access. During the workshop, accepted authors will present their papers.

Following research presentations, small focus groups will be assigned to breakout sessions where they will design short user scenarios related to an HCI technology intervention or countermeasure. The topics could address the potential of an emerging technology solution in a spaceflight context, a particular form factor, or could be used as an opportunity to highlight a human-centered problem requiring further research. Groups will design a “day in the life” narrative showing a scenario of use for the technology, intervention, or countermeasure. Groups will be encouraged to storyboard interactions visually, or to act out the scenarios in a “skit” format. Successes, failures, and future potential of the narrative scenarios will be deliberated in the discussion.

Participants will also engage in an activity to work collaboratively and create a visual research map of CHI for space exploration in an online collaborative platform, “Miro”. During the group brainstorming, participants will use post-it notes on Miro to identify opportunities and produce road maps for how these trends may change the future. We will conclude with a reflective discussion on the future of space CHI and identifying directions for further collaboration.

Pre – workshop  gathering  May 10 (10:00 am -12:00 am EST) – Optional


Time (EST)

Main Workshop

May 14, 2021 (9:00 am – 2:30 pm EST)

9:00 Introduction


    10: 30 Quick break
    10:45 Professor Jeff Hoffman Keynote 
    12:00 Long Break


    1:45 Discussion
    2:30 Closing Remark


    Post – workshop gathering May 24, 2021 (10:00 am -12:00 am EST time) – Optional


    Keynote Speaker : Jeffrey Alan Hoffman

    Jeffrey Alan Hoffman is an American former NASA astronaut and currently a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. Professor Hoffman made five flights as a Space Shuttle astronaut, including the first mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope in 1993, when the orbiting telescope’s flawed optical system was corrected.Trained as an astrophysicist, he also flew on the 1990 Spacelab Shuttle mission that featured the Astro-1 ultraviolet astronomical observatory in the Shuttle’s payload bay. Over the course of his five missions he logged more than 1,211 hours and 21.5 million miles in space. He was also NASA’s first Jewish astronaut, and the second Jewish man in space after Soviet cosmonaut Boris Volynov. Professor Hoffman is interested in the future of human spaceflight and in the use of the International Space Station as a testbed for future aerospace technology. Away from MIT, he enjoys skiing, sailing, hiking, bicycling, skating, and music.


    Call for Participation

    We invite researchers from both academia and industry to submit a short position paper in the theme discussed above. We will evaluate submissions on fit, ability to stimulate discussion, and contribution to the future of HCI. Our website includes examples of past work in this area to help inspire and inform position papers. Papers should be maximum of 4 pages, and should be submitted in the CHI format. The submission deadline is February 15th, 2021.

    At least one author of each accepted position paper must attend the workshop and all participants must register for at least one day of the conference. We will host accepted papers on the workshop website for participants and others to review. Submission can be accessed through our website:

    Suggested topics / areas:

    • On-body/Wearable Technology for Space Health
    • Human-Robot Interaction for Deep Space Mission
    • Interfaces for Human Expression in Space
    • Trust within Autonomous and Intelligent Systems
    • Cognitive load and Human Performance Issues
    • Computer-supported Cooperative Work
    • Augmented Reality/Mixed Reality
    • Smart Vehicle and Habitat
    • Digital Fabrication for Space Mission


    SpaceHuman: A Soft Robotic Prosthetic for Space Exploration

     Sumini et al., 2020

    Read more

    Space Food Experiences: Designing Passenger’s Eating Experiences for Future Space Travel Scenarios

     Obrist et al., 2019

    Read more

    CIMON–the AI-powered crew companion


    Read more

    Cyborgs and space

     Kline & Clynes 1960

    Read more

    Telemetron: A Musical Instrument for Performance in Zero Gravity

    Fish & L’Huillier 2018

    Read more

    How To Design Interplanetary Apps

    Fish  2018

    Read more


    • Pat Pataranutaporn, MIT Media Lab
    • Valentina Sumini, MIT Media Lab
    • Ariel Ekblaw, MIT Media Lab
    • Melodie Yashar, San Jose State Research Foundation, NASA Ames
    • Sandra Häuplik-Meusburger, Vienna University of Technology
    • Susanna Testa, Politecnico di Milano
    • Marianna Obrist, University College London
    • Dorit Donoviel, Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH)
    • Joseph Paradiso, MIT Media Lab
    • Pattie Maes, MIT Media Lab

    Important Dates

    • Submission deadline : February 15th, 2021
    • Notification of acceptance: March 8th, 2021
    • Final submissions due: March 15th, 2021. 
    • Workshop date: May 14h, 2021