TC2M Blog

Posted: 4/27

By: Rohit Ray, Business Director, TC2M


DURHAM, NC – April 23, 2015 – University teams from across the U.S. gathered at Duke University on April 10-12 to accomplish a major technical milestone for an historic student space mission to Mars, called Time Capsule to Mars™ (TC2M).

TC2M, an Explore Mars BE BOLD technical project, is a student-led non-profit project that is designing, building, launching, and landing the first privately-funded mission to Mars by 2019. The spacecraft will carry digital content uploaded by individuals from around the world for a small fee. That content will be sent through space and will land intact on Mars for future human explorers to recover.

After months of case studies and research, the teams successfully met the review criteria to move into the next major phase of the project: design of the actual spacecraft. The goal of the series of meetings – entitled a “System Requirements Review” (SRR) – was to review the readiness of systems requirements that have been developed by each university team that is responsible for a specific portion of the mission.

“This is the first of our reviews that will allow us to proceed with our conceptual design and validate the different design options,” said Cassidy Chan, TC2M’s Lead Systems Engineer and senior at the Florida Institute of Technology. “Our student teams have really come together around this milestone and we’ve built some great momentum. We’re now setting our sights on the next major technical review in January 2016.”

TC2M teams are developing and testing cutting-edge aerospace technology that will pave the way for new applications in both manned and unmanned spaceflight. The mission will be the first interplanetary “CubeSat” mission. CubeSats are miniaturized satellites used for space research at low costs. It will also be the first interplanetary mission to utilize ion electrospray propulsion being developed at MIT. TC2M also plans to use groundbreaking data storage technology to carry the digital content uploaded from around the world.

University teams physically and electronically present at the SRR meetings this weekend hailed from Duke, MIT, UConn, Florida Institute of Technology, and University of Colorado at Boulder. Other university teams involved in the TC2M mission include Georgia Tech, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and the Savannah College of Art & Design.

Boeing members of the TC2M advisor team supported the SRR over the weekend. Tamika Jones and Jessica Zotta, both members of the Boeing advisor team, attended the meetings at Duke University. “It was a wonderful experience to be part of the student-led review of the TC2M mission this weekend. The students are making great progress, and we look forward to continuing our support of their requirements definition and subsequent reviews in the future.”  

The TC2M mission is headquartered and led out of Duke University, and was founded by Duke senior Emily Briere. 



Posted: 2/17
By: Emily Briere, Mission Director, TC2M


The Beginning of My Universe

When I was five years old, my mom brought home a video on black holes, and for the first time, I had a question that my parents didn’t know the answer to: what was infinity? The scientists in the video described the potentially infinite nature of time and space… a concept that we had learned in math class was impossible to comprehend; how could something continue forever? They discussed the idea that our Universe was not too different from a donut, where you could walk forever in a “straight” line and never reach an end. But then what was past the donut? What happened before the donut was made, and how long would the donut be there? Up until this point, I had taken everything I learned in the classroom as fact. But for the first time, I was introduced into a field where many questions lacked answers. Curious and stubborn, that set the foundation for my paradigm of questioning that defines me to this day.

I began by focusing on the smaller questions, and the social innovations that could directly provide solutions. How could I improve communications within my soccer team? How could I foster more interest in the Latin languages? Entrepreneurship and my love for math and science seemed totally separate. For so long I had thought my other interests had been vastly different too (exploring the outdoors, finding patterns in English novels, connecting the correct resources in Model United Nations, being a detective/treasure hunter). But I soon realized they all hung on the same premise: I have an unshakable need to understand the world we live in, to put together the clues until they make sense. To some degree, I think all of us do. It wasn’t until college that I realized I could wed the above in aerospace engineering. I found that fixing problems on Earth didn’t necessarily mean one had to be looking at Earth. As I read about the Apollo era, I learned that not only does incredible innovation (such as the mammogram and cell phone) come out of space exploration, but that it is human nature to need to understand our place in the Universe.

During my summer at the NASA Ames Academy for Space Exploration, everything clicked. Here was a group of people asking the really BIG questions (where do we come from? where are we going?) and refusing to stop until they got an answer. I had spent my previous summer exploring the very small, particle physics, as an REU fellow on the GlueX National Lab team, and I was struck by the inconsistencies between quantum mechanics and general relativity. I didn’t know why, but I (and many others) have an intuition that there should be “one theory to rule them all”, and that the laws of the universe should make sense. Today, in my History of the Scientific Revolution course, I am learning that such a sentiment wasn’t always widespread. Back when the Earth was considered the center of the universe, and Aristotle’s four pure elements comprised the Universe, the Universe wasn’t considered to be defined by math or even experimentation, but by reason, philosophy, and religion.

So what do we believe that is completely wrong? What fundamental views of our Universe will be turned on their head in several centuries? Could it be that infinity is indeed a possible phenomenon, or even that the fabric of space-time can propagate “gravity” faster than the speed of light? Could our universe be stretching and compressing like a spring, exhibiting Big Bang after Big Bang? A quick note from Stephen Hawking that such questions don’t in any way limit the existence of a God or religion, but simply put limitations on when He/She could have acted in creating our known world. All I know for sure is that we will never know unless we continue to question. I am so proud to be part of an international mission that sets the stage for such questioning to rise exponentially. We are capturing students’ imaginations, giving them the responsibility to lead, all while they help educate youth and all of humanity in STEM. Through our interactive mission, we will all take our first interplanetary step together, discover together. Further, our small CubeSat platform hopes to set the stage in enabling more technology to get into space, to maximize our place in this vast space and time together.

Through our educational online portal, and through direct interactions with elementary and middle school students (I’m so excited to speak with Jon at Arcola Intermediate School’s STEAM day on March 31st!), I hope Time Capsule to Mars can catch children around the world in that same developmental phase that I was when my mom exposed me to black holes. Because the next Copernicus won’t necessarily have a scientist for a parent. But the questions will always be there. And it’s never too soon to start asking.

Onwards and Marswards,

Mission Director, TC2M

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