Wealthy engineer and pioneering space tourist Dennis Tito is planning to fund a private, manned drive-by mission to Mars that will provide the first close-up view of the planet through human eyes. If that weren’t ambitious enough, he plans to make it happen by 2018.Why the rush? Tito hopes to take advantage of a once-every-15-years alignment of Earth and Mars that will provide the shortest travel time between planets. The two-man crew would fly in a barebones craft that would pass by Mars and then travel back to Earth nearly a year and a half later with minimal course corrections (and no additional boost). Tito has set up a nonprofit called Inspiration Mars to develop the project.
Tito announced his plans at a press conference in Washington, D.C., in February.
With the Mars Rover already providing us plenty of on-the-ground footage from the Red Planet, what’s the point of a manned pass-by? Tito (who paid $20 million to join the Soyuz TM-23 mission in 2001) says he wants to inspire people the way the moon landings did decades ago.
There’s a paper available describing how the two crew members would be kept comfortable and sane during the 500-plus day mission. That document outlines a craft that leverages the SpaceX Falcon Heavy for the launch vehicle, and SpaceX Drag capsule for the crew. Also on board would be an inflatable “space habitat” that would be deployed from he nose of the vehicle while in space. Canadian company Thin Red Line is working with Bigelow Aerospace to attach a similar inflatable habitat to the International Space Station.
Tito plans to fund the project for two years, but will need to raise significant capital from outside sources as well. Total cost could be around $1 billion. You can watch the press conference below.
Source: Inspiration Mars