Student’s Space Dreams in Full Flight with Time Capsule to Mars Project

DUKE Fuqua imageDURHAM, NC – David Rokeach is going to be an astronaut one day. He’s been saying so since he was three. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I figure being a part of Time Capsule to Mars will help me get there,” he jokes. But he isn’t entirely kidding.

“It’s something I’ve always been passionate about,” says the second year Daytime MBA student. After deciding against an astronomy degree, David has found ways to be involved with space throughout his career. He worked on Capitol Hill with Rep. Randy Neugebauer, who serves on The Committee on Science, Space and Technology, where he got to learn about NASA and experience it from a policy perspective.

When he came to Fuqua, David’s love of space led him to talk to another space enthusiast on campus, Jon Tidd, MBA `14, who had interned at SpaceX. Jon told him about a student-led project he had been involved in, a program whose mission was in its name: Time Capsule to Mars.

Time Capsule to Mars, also known as TC2M, was founded by Duke undergraduate student Emily Briere. The TC2M team hopes to launch by 2018, with the ambitious goal of sending ideas, images and memories of as many people as possible from this planet to another. Emily had come to Fuqua to look for help on the business end of the project, and Jon had come aboard as business director. Jon was assembling a business team of Duke students to compliment the technical team led by an MIT graduate student and the MIT Space Propulsion Lab.

Jon asked David to join the team and David said yes, reaffirming his commitment to be a part of any project that pushed the idea of space exploration forward. “To me, space is an astounding thing to think about, no less to pursue,” he says. “To be sending something out to it is really exciting.”

After Jon graduated, David took over as business director and now leads a team of twelve business students. He couldn’t be more proud of his crew: “The twelve people committed to this project have authentically engaged in it,” he says, and Fuqua has supported it. Dean Bill Boulding even recorded a video for the Time Capsule.

Although the project was founded and is run by students in the United States, David says it’s really about building a global footprint. “The goal is to create a representative sample of humanity in the data we send to Mars,” he said.

To achieve this goal, David has been running the project like a start-up, late night phone calls and all. Sometimes he wakes up at 4am with 17 new ideas to write down, but he says the experience is intoxicating like no other. With technical feasibility to send a time capsule to the Red Planet just a few years away, his dreams of interstellar exploration are closer to becoming a reality than he might have imagined when he first walked into Fuqua.

For now, Time Capsule to Mars is pursuing a fundraising round of $250,000. That funding will help launch a Kickstarter campaign, and to give the project the exposure it needs to recruit new “crew members”.

As for David, who will graduate from Fuqua this spring, he plans on staying on the team as an advisor to the next class of students who “will pick it up and hopefully have the same valuable experience I have.” And with former astronaut “Buzz” Aldrin already serving as a project advisor, David will be one small step closer to living out his childhood dream.

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