A Mission to Mars – Herald Sun







As Duke University students continue to savor the Blue Devils’ national basketball championship a week ago, many no doubt have set their sights on the school’s next title.

But some students have their sights set higher – much higher. As in, on Mars, the tantalizing planet some 140 million miles from Earth. (Give or take 100 million miles, depending on where each planet is in its orbit around the sun.)

Duke students led by senior Emily Briere have formed a non-profit, Time Capsule to Mars (TC2M), which is coordinating efforts by students at several universities to undertake what would be the first student-led mission to Mars.

They hope launch by 2018 a mini-spacecraft carrying a specially designed capsule that would deliver to the planet’s surface a “Snapshot of Humanity” time capsule.

The group’s website is soliciting photos and digital messages to include in the capsule. Anyone can submit a digital photo for inclusion for the iTunes-like price of 99 cents. The organizers will be using other crowdfunding methods and are soliciting donations and corporate support to finance the $25 million mission.

The fascinating project is far more than a late-night bull session. Briere, mission director for the project, announced it at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington last June, and it has attracted favorable coverage in space-oriented media. NASA and several private companies, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin, are partners.

Duke students are joined by peers from Georgia Tech, Stanford, the University of Connecticut, MIT, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the Florida Institute of Technology and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Many conferred on Duke’s campus or by teleconference on the logistic of the project this past weekend.

Explore Mars, a nonprofit advocating for human exploration of Mars within the next 20 years, oversees the project. In a report on a poll that showed strong public support for that goal, the group said “Americans are eager to embrace something bold, something exciting – something that will show that the United States is ready to lead the world leader in science and technology.

The idea of landing the time capsule is more modest. But it’s driven by the same sentiment – and by a belief that Duke is a natural leader in the TC2M venture.

“Duke has consistently been a school that pushes boundaries,” Briere said Saturday during the conference here.  “You look at pretty much any other aspect of campus they’re having revolutionary discoveries.”

We applaud this latest effort and will be watching eagerly for that capsule landing on Mars.



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