BY ALAN BOYLE,
Student-led project called Time Capsule to Mars kicked off a $25 million crowdfunding campaign on Monday, with the aim of sending 4-inch-wide probes to the Red Planet.
For 99 cents, supporters can upload a photo, an audio or video clip or a snippet of text to be included on a quartz-crystal memory module enclosed within the spacecraft. The module would be designed to last for millions of years, preserving the messages to be decoded by future Mars colonists.
Time Capsule to Mars is planning to offer other goodies, yet to be announced, as part of its in-house fundraising effort.
“We hope that this mission will be the largest crowdfunded effort in history,” project founder and mission director Emily Briere, a senior at Duke University, said during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
The Mars-bound spacecraft would be CubeSats, a class of nanosatellites built from standard 4-inch-wide (10-centimeter-wide) cubes. Three of the CubeSats would be launched out into space as secondary payloads on a commercial orbital mission, and make their way to Mars using an ion-electrospray propulsion system.
Briere said arrangements were being made for launch sometime in the next five years, assuming that the fundraising campaign and the technology development program were successful. However, she said those arrangements were proprietary for now.