Team of UConn Students Contribute to Development of Time Capsule to Mars

A team of UConn students is helping to develop a time capsule that will be sent to Mars.

Time Capsule to Mars is a collaboration between eight universities and a number of companies with the goal of sending a memory storage time capsule to Mars that will preserve life as we know it, said Zachary Thatcher, a sophomore Materials Science and Engineering student and a technical leader for the project.

Next year, Zachary Thatcher, Dan Cataldo and Michele Ziegler will lead the 12‐ member team.

Other members include Alexandra Merkouriou, Jordan Kovacs, Jon Rasimas, Tom Gross, Jake Lampron, Kevin Yong, Ben Bedard, Doug Hendrix and Lauren Salisbury. Dr. Avinash Dongare and Dr. Daniel Burkey are advising the team.

Although the goal of the project is to send a capsule to Mars, the ultimate goal is much broader.

“The purpose of the project is to send a time capsule to the surface of Mars to preserve human culture for millions of years into the future, gather technical information about Mars, and raise awareness around the world for the need for space exploration and insight,” Thatcher said.

According to Thatcher, the UConn team is working on the capsule’s memory storage device and is in charge of the materials that make up the shell.

This shell will protect the memory device as the capsule enters and leaves space as well as when it lands.

Thatcher said the team’s intended outcome is a confirmed landing of the time capsule on the surface of Mars.

However, there are a lot of steps they must take to get there.

According to Thatcher, they will use a small space craft called a “cubesat” attached to a rocket that goes into orbit.

“Once free of the rocket, we will use an ion propulsion system currently under development at MIT to travel to Mars,” Thatcher said. “Once in Mars orbit, our design, the time capsule itself, will deploy from the ‘cubesat’ and hit Mars.”

Thatcher said this should happen between 2017 and 2020.

“We have prototypes already, but we will have a much more finalized prototype by this time next year,” Thatcher said.

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