A time capsule could soon be sent to Mars, if a group of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are successful with a new plan they recently announced.
The Time Capsule to Mars (TC2M) project is currently seeking crowdsource funding for their project. The idea is the brainchild of the Explore Mars group.
Tens of millions of people from around the world are being encouraged to send digital images, text messages, audio, and video clips to be included in the capsule.
A CubeSat satellite system, which allows the placement of ultra-small payloads into orbit, will be used to send the greetings from Earth towards Mars. The messages will be included aboard several ultra-small cube-shaped pods. The miniscule launching system, housed aboard the International Space Station (ISS), has never-before been used to launch a payload to another planet.
Ion electrospray propulsion will be used to send the cubes to their final destination on the red planet. This engine system, designed at MIT, could reduce travel time to Mars to just four months.
Quartz storage technology, another mechanism under testing, will be used to store the millions of messages sent to Mars.
"This technology is ideal for surviving the hostile surface conditions and for enabling the inclusion of millions of digital explorers," the Time Capsule to Mars website explains.
Sending a time capsule to Mars is expected to cost just $25 million, from initial design to landing on the planet. This cost will be recouped, at least in part, by charges for uploads. Those living in richer nations will be required to pay 99 cents to send a message to the red planet. Residents of developing nations will be exempted from paying the fee. Costs for this free uploads will be compensated by sponsors, yet to be named by the Explore Mars group.
The TC2M group released a video, announcing their mission.
With human colonization of the red planet slated to begin in the next 12 to 25 years, the sponsors hope their capsule will, one day, be uncovered by future residents of Mars.
Students from Kindergarten to high school will be encouraged to upload content to the project. After launch, they can follow the capsule, as it races toward Mars and lands on its tawny surface. Mission control access portals will be provided to students, giving them additional resources to track the interplanetary capsule. Launch is scheduled for 2017.
If successful, TC2M will become the first private mission to Mars, and the first student-managed interplanetary mission. The flight will also test several new technologies, including inflatable antennas, deep space internet systems and a new generation of sensors, designed to detect harmful radiation in space.