Millionaire Dennis Tito is planning a 2018 trip to Mars (and back), according to a news release from the non-profit Inspiration for Mars Foundation posted on NASASpaceFlight.com. Tito’s organization is holding a press conference at The National Press Club next Wednesday to discuss its plans to launch an “historic journey” to Mars in January 2018.
According to the organization’s news release, the “Mission for America” will generate new knowledge, experience and momentum for the next era of space exploration. Tito and the Inspiration for Mars Foundation hope to inspire youth through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and motivation.
Tito already has some experience with space travel. Tito became the world’s first space tourist in 2001 after forking over approximately $20 million for a ride to the International Space Station aboard the Russian spacecraft Soyuz. Space.com notes that Tito became the world’s first space tourist forty years to the month after Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space.
“The private spaceflight industry did start with Dennis’ flight,” Tom Shelley, president of Space Adventures, the Virginia-based company that brokered Tito’s eight-day mission with Russia’s Federal Space Agency, told Space.com. “That was the first real milestone and demonstrated to a lot of people that there was a market for private citizens to go to space.”
Why is Tito eyeing 2018 as the launch date for his “historic journey” to Mars? According to DVICE, the same alignment of Earth and Mars won’t occur again until 2031. The spacecraft, however, is not expected to land on the Red Planet. The astronauts will likely make a half-orbit of Mars and use the planet’s gravity to “slingshot” them back towards Earth, reports DVICE. This means that the astronauts’ time near the Red Planet will be exceedingly brief.
PCMag.com reports that Tito is likely to announce a target date next Wednesday for his 501-day roundtrip mission to Mars.
According to the NewSpace Journal, the Inspiration for Mars Foundation will use a modified SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket to send astronauts to Mars. According to a paper obtained by the Journal that is expected to be presented at the IEEE Aerospace Conference in March, the spacecraft will be able to support two people for the mission. “Crew comfort is limited to survival needs only. For example, sponge baths are acceptable, with no need for showers,” the paper reads.
If you had millions of dollars would you spend it on sending astronauts to Mars? Will Tito’s 2018 trip to the Red Planet be successful? Would you make a 501-day roundtrip journey to Mars just to spend a few hours in the proximity of the planet? Share your thoughts in the comments section.