71 participants

26 countries

5 teams

2020 marked the 20th anniversary of continuous human presence in space, and as public access and understanding of space continues to expand, so too do the opportunities for leveraging space-based research and development to help build a better future. Sustaining climate action, encouraging social innovation and improving global quality of life all require creative and collaborative solutions. By shaping current and future space activities through the lens of design thinking, diverse audiences are able to experience and incorporate space in their own lives to meet the challenges of tomorrow.


Held over a two-week period from 28 September – 9 October 2020, the Design in Space for Life on Earth Design Challenge was hosted by WDO in collaboration with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), manager of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory (ISS National Lab). This unique initiative brought together over 70 space industry leaders, researchers and designers from 26 countries to apply design thinking to space-based research for life on Earth.



Bringing space and design thinking together in new ways, this design challenge aimed to humanize and demystify the possibilities of a laboratory floating in space, as well as to encourage innovative strategies and ideas that can be used to address some of our most pressing challenges on Earth.  



In alignment with the provided challenge statements, outcomes of this initiative included: a set of interdisciplinary, sustainability challenges aimed at leveraging space-based research to address the UN SDGs, two orbital university proposals built around accessibility and capacity building, a digital app to promote collaboration in space and foster corporate sponsorships and an international consortium utilizing space data and imagining to build agricultural resilience and prevent future environmental disasters.

To learn more about the Design in Space for Life on Earth Design Challenge, download our Report.

Challenge Statements

With the goal of addressing sustainability issues, contributing to education engagement (STEM) and increasing space commercialization, challenge organizers narrowed in on three statements. Hover on the images to find out how we aimed to bridge design and space and address some of the challenges most applicable to life on Earth:

How can space-based
research address the United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals?

How can we build an orbital

How can the ISS become a
business incubator?

“The playback sessions were fun! I think it’s very important to do a halfway check in to keep groups on track. It’s also great to see what the other teams are up to.”

“Really enjoyed that we could all contribute our strengths on Miro by commenting on each other’s work. WDO and ISS National Lab were very awesome at hosting an inclusive safe environment to produce our best work.”

“Space is for everybody. It’s not just for a few people in science or math, or for a select group of astronauts. That’s our new frontier out there, and it’s everybody’s business to know about space.”