Washington, DC. February 27, 2013 — A group called Inspiration Mars working for Dennis Tito is eying a 2018 launch window for a dramatic flyby of the planet Mars. The group is studying the idea of a two person crew where neither occupant would land on Mars; rather they would swing close by the Red Planet in a revolutionary if somewhat Spartan crew quarters and head back to earth.The group is now reviewing mission architectures, including several that might launch the entire package to low earth orbit and beyond in one shot.
Tito became the world’s first privately funded astronaut when he ventured to the ISS in 2001 aboard a Soyuz space craft. He was chosen as the recipient of Space Frontier Foundation’s Vision to Reality Award that same year. Chairman of the Board of the Foundation, Bob Werb, explained the award is given to people like Tito because “he didn’t just say he wanted to go into space, he actually did it, showing how he can deliver on ambitious projects, presumably including this latest one.”
The year 2018 was chosen because it’s an ideal window for a relatively fast orbit between Mars and earth. The entire round trip would take an estimated 501 days. The group is necessary because concerns about such a long voyage are not limited to issues like supplies or on board system redundancies. Long periods in microgravity can causes changes in human physiology. Loss of bone mass and bone density have been reported in astronauts and cosmonauts over the years in space stations including most recently the ISS. Inspiration will study these and other critical issues before making a determination for final feasibility.
Speaking as the self-described master of ceremonies, Miles O’Brien introduced key members of the team and noted the launch window being analyzed is January 2018, “which happens to be the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission and the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s circumnavigation of the earth.”
Dennis Tito then took the podium and put to rest rumors he was a candidate for one of the two crew members. Tito explained his interest in the fly-by with simplicity and candor, “In my view having started in the robotic side at JPL, we continue to make progress, outstanding progress, on the unmanned side, from Voyager to Hubble. But we have not made the same kind of progress on the human side; we have not sent anyone to the moon in over 40 years. I think it’s time to put an end to that lapse. … ”
It was this initial motivation, Tito said, that drove him to create the team and ultimately a nonprofit organization to study the feasibility of a Mars free return mission. Wrapping up he noted wryly, “This is not a for-profit mission, if it goes as planned I’ll come out a lot poorer, but my grandchildren will be much richer … ”
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