Dennis Tito Envisions Journey to Mars in 2018
A rendering of the spacecraft
February 28, 2013 - A group founded by private space traveler Dennis Tito announced plans Wednesday to pursue a manned mission to Mars in January 2018.
Inspiration Mars Foundation, a new nonprofit organization, will attempt to provide a platform for a 501-day journey to Mars and back, manned by two professional crew members, one man and one woman. The spacecraft would reach as close as 100 miles from the red planet's surface and span about 140 million miles.
"Human exploration of space is a critical catalyst for our future growth and prosperity," Tito said. "This is a mission for America that will generate knowledge, experience, and momentum for the next great era of space exploration."
The foundation will be funded primarily through private, charitable donations, but will also seek government partners who can provide unique expertise and technical assistance as part of a public-private partnership. Cost was not disclosed on Wednesday, but some reports say it could top $1 billion.
Existing space transportation systems and technologies derived from the industry, NASA, and the International Space Station will also aid in the development of the mission.
"With the support of NASA and an evolving team of industry partners, we intend to do everything possible to take advantage of this unique opportunity for America," Tito said. "The mission will help create public awareness, enthusiasm, and momentum for a long-term commitment and vision for space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit - all the way to Mars."
The planned launch date of January 5, 2018, coincides with a rare planetary alignment that will allow for a free-return orbit opportunity. The proposed launch date also coincides with the 11-year solar minimum, providing the lowest solar radiation exposure to the crew members.