Dennis Tito (who flew as a guest astronaut on the International Space Station in 2001) was the first space tourist, spending $20 million for his trip aboard a Russian launch - and return to Earth. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't envy the heck out of his trip into Earth orbit. He made his millions the old fashioned way, by founding Wilshire Associates, a company that provides investment management, consulting and technology services.
Tito is going it one better. He's sending one couple into space on January 5, 2018 on a round-trip to Mars. They'll lift off on January 5, 2018 for a 140 million mile ride. (Fox News)
The mission’s target launch date is Jan. 5, 2018. This exceptionally quick, free-return orbit opportunity occurs twice every 15 years. After 2018, the next opportunity won’t occur again until 2031. (Inspiration Mars)
|Dennis Tito - The first Space Tourist|
Dennis Tito said, "This is humanity's first flight out to Mars, and humanity should be represented by both genders. We hope that we can find a married couple. When you're out that far and the Earth is a tiny blue pinpoint, you're going to need someone you can hug. What better solution to the psychological problems you're going to encounter with that isolation?" It's a 1.4 year trip to Mars and back (hopefully in one piece) and “It’s a really long road trip, you’re jammed into an RV that goes the equivalent of 32,000 times around the Earth…and they’ll have about 3,000 pounds of dehydrated food that they’ll get to rehydrate with the same water they drank two days ago,” explained Jane Poynter, a member of the project.
The mission will cost around US$1 billion but in terms of US manned space missions, it's nearly chump change, and it will be using private money. The government is not a part of this particular program. Since it's not apparently designed to make Muslims feel good about themselves, it's a departure from the general philosophy that underpins much of the modern NASA outreach under the Obama Administration.
In the past, concerns about manned deep space travel outside of the radiation belts that protect both the Earth and the Moon have primarily revolved around having adequate shielding to keep the crew alive. Radiation from the Sun is not uniform (one of many reasons for 'climate change') and some sunspots blast very heavy directed radiation into space.
The five year timeline to launch is quite short to design, build and test the spacecraft, which will be essentially a habitability chamber (shielded) sitting in front of a propulsion unit that will accelerate the ship and presumably also decelerate it at the end of the 501-day long slingshot/free return mission (see below).
Mark August 21, 2018 on your calendar because if all goes well, the date will be one for the history books as some select couple will be passing by Mars on the first manned trip to the Red Planet.
It's interesting that the first manned trip to Mars will not be a government effort, but a private one. I hope that it will go according to plan and break new ground for the future.
If you could go to Mars (irrespective of your age or educational qualifications), would you? And who would you want to make the trip with?