About RSI

The Rice Space Institute (RSI) was formed in 2000 as part of the merger between the former Physics and Space Physics and Astronomy departments under the leadership of Prof. Patricia Reiff, a noted space physicist. During Prof. Reiff’s directorship, RSI earned an international reputation for the quality of its public outreach programs and educational partnerships. In 2011, the Wiess School of Natural Sciences began a program to strengthen Rice’s involvement in space-related research and to pursue a more formal partnership with the NASA Johnson Space Center under the auspices of RSI. This led, in March 2012, to the appointment of Rice solar physicist, David Alexander, as RSI Director, NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, on-loan from NASA Johnson Space Center, as Executive Director, and Pat Reiff continuing her Education and Public Outreach leadership as Associate Director for Public Outreach.


RSI has taken a central role in fostering programs which have given rise to Rice’s international reputation in all areas of space research. As a world leader in space, earth and astronomical sciences, advanced technology and engineering, public policy and business, Rice University invests in efforts to further the development of new ideas and innovation in the broad area that is space exploration and utilization. The Rice Space Institute provides the coordinating hub to foster and develop these activities. RSI partners with other Rice University institutes to advance space as part of the larger research endeavor on campus. The primary mission of RSI is to generate multidisciplinary collaboration, across campus and beyond the hedges, to stimulate advanced research and education focused on space.

Educational goals:

RSI proudly promotes the involvement of undergraduates in its programs and the Texas Space Grant Consortium regularly recognizes the accomplishments of its talented undergraduates. In addition, RSI has a strong tradition of recruiting high-caliber graduate students to study in Rice’s multi-institutional and interdisciplinary setting. Outside the hedges, RSI has partnered with the NASA Johnson Space Center (including the recent signing of a Space Act Agreement) other NASA centers around the country, the Lunar and Planetary Institute, and the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Internationally, RSI is working with the UK Space Agency and the Norwegian Space Center to promote international activities in space technology.


RSI has a worldwide reputation for its outstanding public outreach and boasts partnerships with the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences, the Baker Institute for Public Policy (BIPP), Sally Ride Science and the Jemison Foundation. In particular, our partnership with BIPP bridges the gap between public policy and fundamental research and education, and our leadership in these areas is widely respected across the city, state and nation.

RSI is also proud of its partnership with the Rice Campus Observatory that draws visitors from all over Southeast Texas, frequently co-hosting public events with our colleagues in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

RSI is a dynamic leader in bringing the community together to promote space research, education, policy and advocacy.