June 24, 2014
Time Capsule To Mars Crowdfunding Campaign Launched By Students From Various Institutions
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Led by college students at several different American institutions, the Time Capsule to Mars (TCM) campaign has officially kicked off a crowd-funded effort to bring digital time capsules called CubeSats to the Red Planet.
Project organizers said they hope to place three CubeSats on Mars within the next five years. The satellites will contain photos, videos and other content from people around the globe who financially contribute to the project.
More than just a mission fueled by novelty, vanity or hubris – the project aims to spin off numerous technological advancements in pursuit of relatively cheap methods of exploring Mars, according to Paulo Lozano, director of the Space Propulsion Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“This is not different from any other benefits technology brings to society,” he told the Boston Globe. “These endeavors require a high technical skill, and it’s very important for young people to be a part of that.”
"We hope this mission might be the first private mission to Mars," TCM founder Emily Briere told reporters at a press conference, according to Space.com on Monday. "We hope it'll be the first interplanetary trial of ion-electrospray propulsion ... and we also hope it'll be the first student-led endeavor to (another) planet and first interplanetary CubeSat."
"We've got a lot of firsts, and it's very exciting," added the Duke University senior. “(M)illions of people from around the world (will be able to) send in their photo, their picture of their dog, their handwritten poem, and feel that they themselves are going to Mars and making an impact."
The project has elected to raise the $25 million necessary to get to Mars via a crowdfunding campaign. If TCM were to reach its goal, it would set a record for the largest crowdfunded campaign in history.
"We were looking for opportunities to fund this mission in a way it would involve as many people as possible," said Jon Tidd, director of fundraising and marketing and a Duke University graduate student. "We came up with the idea of a simplified 99-cent upload for a single digital photo."
The project announced that it also plans to offer the chance for funders to upload videos, audio and text content in addition to photos in the near future. The digital content will be stored using “quartz storage technology” – an emerging storage medium that could maintain fidelity for hundreds of millions of years.
Other groundbreaking developments the project is said to be in pursuit of include ion propulsion and "deep space internet.”
“This is looking at various options that will help us get to Mars faster than we currently can,” Chris Carberry, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Explore Mars, told the Globe. “There’s an awful lot of excitement about Mars these days.”
“We wanted to remind people we go to space to push forward humanity,” Briere noted. “A lot of technology came from the Apollo era. We think space exploration is a natural avenue to explore that has endless rewards to people on Earth,” she added.