We’ve been to the moon and back. Now, Danielle Wood is taking on the imperative task of using space technology to save Earth. Director of MIT’s cutting-edge Space Enabled Research Lab, Wood uses tools that typically orbit us to advance social good on our home planet. In her talks, Wood takes audiences behind-the-scenes of her projects—like pairing African teens with space technology and empowering them to improve their water sources. Innovative and truly entrepreneurial, Wood shows us how to harness the most complex, cosmic technologies to address the here and now.
“How can a satellite be an instrument of justice?” asks space engineer, teacher, and development scholar Danielle Wood. Are the materials causing anyone harm? Are they accessible only to a select few? As director of the MIT Media Lab’s Space Enabled program, Wood puts these questions into action, working with scientists, engineers, and fine artists to use tech like communication satellites (which we already use for cell phone and internet service) to change the world for the better. “Positioning satellites tell us where we are by telling us where they are,” explains Wood in her TED Talk. Scientists can use these technologies to do things like track endangered wildlife, predict destructive storms, or understand which areas of the world are in danger of famine or drought—communicating that data to aid organizations. Her talks illuminate fascinating concepts like building a “moral supply chain, ”as well as how scientists and civilians alike can draw from sophisticated, seemingly niche technologies to solve problems that benefit diverse people.
A scholar of societal development, Wood’s background is a mix of research and hands-on creation, including satellite design, earth science applications, systems engineering, and technology policy. Prior to serving as faculty at MIT, Wood held positions at NASA Headquarters, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Aerospace Corporation, Johns Hopkins University, and the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs. A prolific MIT alum herself, Wood earned a PhD in engineering systems, SM in aeronautics and astronautics, SM in technology policy, and SB in aerospace engineering.