Students at MIT and other universities are building a time capsule that they hope will soon contain messages, photos, audio clips, and videos gathered by tens of millions of people across the world. But this won't be just any other time capsule, because this one is destined for Mars.
"we go to space to push forward humanity."
The digital time capsule — appropriately named "Time Capsule for Mars" — is the first crowdfunded, student-led space mission. According to The Boston Globe, it will be sent to the red planet via three 27-pound satellites, named Cubesats. The project will also test several new and relatively inexpensive technologies that researchers hope will advance current Mars exploration capabilities. Emily Briere, the project's mission director and a student at Duke University, told The Boston Globe that the students "wanted to remind people we go to space to push forward humanity."
The capsule, which is expected to cost about $25 million, will launch in 2017. But a lot of the technologies that the students plan to use haven't been tested yet, so that target date might take a hit. "The actual propulsion, the communication, and health of the spacecraft are the biggest concerns," said Paulo Lozano, director of the Space Propulsion Laboratory at MIT. But for Lozano, the project is about more than just getting to Mars. "These endeavors require a high technical skill, and it's very important for young people to be a part of that."
Astronauts Charlie Precourt, Kent Rominger, and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin are currently serving as project advisers. The students will also get some help from NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and the Boston-based nonprofit Explore Mars. The group is currently accepting donations, and time capsule submissions, on the project's website.