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Capsule Project Will Put a Digital Scrapbook on Mars

Jun 24, 2014 11:18 AM EDT

Only a year ago, a young space-travel enthusiast dreamt up getting a time capsule on Mars. Now this idea is a very real project that is gaining significant support and funding.

Twenty-year old Emily Briere from Duke University is leading a multi-university, crowd-sourced and crowd-funded effort to get photos, video, and audio of moments in people's lives from 2014 onto the surface of Mars.

The project, which is already a year in the making, was first picked up by the nonprofit group Explore Mars, which has assumed operational control. Behind them, the project has gained various forms of backing by ATK Space Launch, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Deep Space Industries, Draper Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, NASA, Remarkable Technologies and Uwingu.

Students and experts from Stanford University, the University of Connecticut, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and - of course - Duke University, have all become involved in the project as well.

Briere said a statement Monday that "this mission is bigger than any one University, one company, or one country. We have come together to unite and inspire humanity under one mission, as one race, in the spirit of global cooperation and peace as we collectively seek to colonize the first off-world planet."

Of course, this project won't be the one to colonize Mars. It will instead be sending a CubeSat-based spacecraft to the surface of the Red Planet, leaving behind millions of slices of 2014 life for future colonists to discover.

In a Q&A session with National Geographic, Briere explained that she wanted to do this to get her own generation more involved and excited about space exploration.

"Mars is definitely to us what the Moon was to the first space generation," she said. "Our generation is all about social media and connecting, and [the Time Capsule to Mars] would be an extension of that. People would feel a real part of it - going into space virtually. We'll be taking another step to connect Earth and Mars."

The project would be connecting Earth and Mars in a more literal sense as well. Along with the time capsule, "Delay Tolerant Networking (DTN) will also be deployed to begin testing for a future deep space Internet communications network," according to an Explore Mars press release.

The project's crowdfunding effort was launched Monday - likely the largest crowdfunding effort ever taken - aiming to raise $25 million.

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