Plans for a privately-funded manned mission to the planet Mars in 2018 have been revealed by the Inspiration Mars Foundation. The foundation is being led by the American multimillionaire Dennis Tito, and are aiming to be there first to bring humans to the planet Mars, launching their mission in only 5 years.
The nonprofit organization will be holding a news conference on February 27th to detail and formally present their 501-day roundtrip mission. The mission is currently aiming for a January 2018 launch.
“This ‘Mission for America’ will generate new knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration,” Inspiration Mars representatives stated in a media advisory on February 20th. “It is intended to encourage all Americans to believe again, in doing the hard things that make our nation great, while inspiring youth through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and motivation.”
Dennis Tito probably has a personal interest in eventually going to the Red Planet, he was actually the world’s first ‘space tourist’, journeying to the ISS in 2001.
“Tito will participate in the Feb. 27 news conference. So will Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter, CEO and president, respectively, of Paragon Space Development Corp., which has expertise in life-support systems; and space-medicine expert Jonathan Clark of the Baylor College of Medicine.”
Also, on March 3, Tito is currently scheduled to present a talk called “Feasibility Analysis for a Manned Mars Free Return Mission in 2018” at an aerospace conference.
According to The NewSpace Journal, which says that it got a hold of a copy of it, the paper discusses “a crewed free-return Mars mission that would fly by Mars, but not go into orbit around the planet or land on it. This 501-day mission would launch in January 2018, using a modified SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket. According to the paper, existing environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) technologies would allow such a spacecraft to support two people for the mission, although in Spartan condition.”
According to those involved the mission will be entirely privately financed, and a good bit cheaper than the estimates for manned Mars exploration that are currently out there.
SpaceX is reportedly involved, which is not very surprising since the exploration of Mars is one of their founding goals. Company founder Elon Musk has made it very clear that he wants to “help humanity reach and eventually colonize Mars.” SpaceX is itself currently developing a Mars exploration mission concept, dubbed “Red Dragon.” That mission aims to send human explorers to Mars using the Dragon capsule.
Even without landing on the planet’s surface, the Inspiration Mars mission will still be 501 days in space, which will pose many potential problems. These include, the health problems astronauts on the ISS already experience, threats posed by travel in deep space, and the potential psychological problems.
“Researchers have tried to understand the psychological and sociological effects of being isolated in cramped quarters for long stretches, notably during the Russia-based Mars500 mock mission, which wrapped up in November 2011. But the physiological effects may be tougher to simulate and mitigate, experts say.”
This announcement follows on the heels of the impressive success that the private space technology firm SpaceX has had, many advancements in technologies such as solar sails, and the creation of several asteroid harvesting corporations. The next 10-20 years should be an interesting time with regards to space exploration.