Wanted: Married Couple For Mission To Mars

Inspiration Mars plans to send a couple to the red planet in 2018Last week we brought you preliminary information on a proposed mission to Mars that is being spearheaded by Dennis Tito, the American multi-millionaire who became the world’s first space-tourist back in 2001. At the time, Tito’s plans were a bit nebulous but he promised more information was coming soon. On Wednesday of this week, he shared more details, including the possibility of sending a husband and wife team on a flyby of the red planet.

Tito’s new non-profit organization, Inspiration Mars, was launched with the expressed purpose of mounting a manned mission to Earth’s neighbor in just five years time. Tito believes that we have a unique window of opportunity early in 2018 when the Earth and Mars will be aligned with one another, making the flight path relatively straightforward and simple. He is aiming to launch his currently unknown spacecraft on January 5 of that year on what is expected to be a 501-day journey.

To combat the loneliness that could come from a prolonged space voyage of this type, Tito is proposing that the crew consist of two members – a man and a woman. He went on to say that it would be preferable if they were a husband and wife team to prevent issues of incompatibility along the way. After all, the two people selected to go will be sharing small, cramped quarters for well over a year. It would make sense that they have a solid relationship and know each other well before they depart.While it would be easy to simply dismiss Tito’s plans as being too ambitious to succeed, he is taking an approach that may allow him to achieve his goals. Unlike other commercial space programs that are looking to turn their ventures into a profitable business, Tito says this is a one-shot deal. He plans to use technology that either already exists or is close to completion to build his rocket and spacecraft, and he plans to fund much of it with his own money. As the mission gets closer to becoming a reality, however, he expects to solicit sponsorships and other funding as well.

As noted above, this journey to Mars will just be a fly by. The spacecraft would pass within 100 miles of the planet before beginning the long journey back to Earth, although it wouldn’t enter orbit at all – nor would it touch down on the surface. The crew would still get one heck of a view as they pass by, however, becoming the first humans to visit an alien planet in the process.

That is about the extent of what we know on this project at the moment. Inspiration Mars isn’t expected to announce the process for selecting a crew for at least six months or more. But they plan to move ahead with their plans to select a rocket and space capsule that can accomplish the mission.

In the meantime, I’m looking for a girl who wouldn’t mind taking a honeymoon to Mars.

[Photo Credit: Inspiration Mars]

Space tourism celebrates tenth anniversary

space tourism, Dennis Tito
Space tourism
is ten years old this week. On 28 April 2001 millionaire Dennis Tito became the first person to go into space as a tourist and not an astronaut or scientist.

In an interview with BBC today he talked about how thrilled he was and called his eight days being in orbit “paradise.”

While space tourism is the ultimate in high-cost adventure travel–only seven people have done it so far and Tito is said to have paid $20 million for the privilege–private companies are hoping to make it more widely available. They also want to make it more comfortable. Tito was crammed “elbow to elbow” in a Russian capsule after NASA refused to put him on one of the Space Shuttles. Not that he cared at the time. Check out this video of Dennis Tito’s arrival at the International Space Station. The guy’s euphoric!

A number of private companies are looking into commercial space travel. The most serious contender is Virgin Galactic, which has already built a spaceport and put their spaceship Enterprise through a test flight. The company hopes to push an orbital trip down to $200,000, just one percent of what Tito paid. Who knows? Maybe good old free-market competition will push the price even lower than that.

Even more ambitious is Excalibur Almaz, a company based in the Isle of Man that has bought some Russian space capsules that they’re refurbishing. They boast that they’ll offer trips around the Moon by 2015.

Best of luck folks, but I won’t be looking for a Lonely Planet Outer Space in the bookstores anytime soon.

[Photo courtesy NASA]

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