Time Capsule to Mars Mission: Student-Led, Crowd-Funded Project to Send Bits of Life to the Red Planet

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By Alyssa Ashley Lucas | June 25, 2014 1:46 PM EST

An idea that came up after attending a conference and now a mission that will most likely send bits of life to the Red Planet, the student-led, crowd-funded project "Time Capsule to Mars" is aiming to make a connection between Earth and Mars through launching photos, audio and video encased in capsules into space.

The "Time Capsule to Mars" mission is being spearheaded by 20-year-old junior student of Duke University, Emily Briere, who is said to have once dreamed up the mission after attending the Humans to Mars conference at George Washington University with his father and brother before everything eventually became a project that is gaining help from various entities through crowdsourcing.

In an interview with National Geographic, Briere explained the main goal of the mission and how it would be possible to launch photographs, audio, video and text from humans to space and be able to land it to the red planet Mars without getting shattered or burned up.

"We were fortunate to get some funding to do a feasibility study at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], and the aerodynamics of our landing seem to work," Emily Briere told NatGeo's Marc Kaufman.

According to Briere, the sheets to be used in the "Time Capsule to Mars" mission would be "extremely thin" tungsten sheets about 30 centimetres (12 inches by 16 inches) that weigh only 23 grams (less than an ounce), which will travel at 12 kilometres per second into the atmosphere.

The junior Duke University student explained that a projection of approximately 80 percent of the "Time Capsule to Mars" storage will be photos, which will be engraved on the said sheets. The audio and video (digital) will be 15 percent and the text will be 5 percent. A microscope, however, is needed to view them -- "an image of your favourite person up there on Mars."

Briere explained that the plan is to have the sheets "bolted on to the surfaces of three CubeSats," cube-shaped payloads that NASA let students, teachers and faculty use in their researches and investigations.

The CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI), which according to NASA "provides opportunities for small satellite payloads to fly," will apparently be used for the "Time Capsule to Mars" mission.

"We'll rely on aerobanking to slow down, and our simulations show the sheets will spin and tumble through the atmosphere and will hit the ground at 20 metres per second. We were delighted by that number. Meanwhile, the CubeSat capsules will burn up in the atmosphere, and so won't be crashing into the time capsules," Emily Briere added, addressing the possibility of the sheets crashing or burning up.

For more information about "Time Capsule to Mars," visit the mission's official Web site www.timecapsuletomars.com.

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