The mission, a “return fly-by”, in which the spacecraft would fly around Mars rather than land, would last for 500 days. It is expected to cost between $1 billion and $2 billion, which Mr Tito is hoping to fund partly through television rights and by selling data to Nasa.
His organisation, Inspiration Mars, is planning to select a middle-aged couple who may have already had children and would be willing to risk the potential risk to their fertility of being exposed to radiation for a prolonged period. (Note- A few days ago when details were not released and people discussed the problem of sending two people together, I noted that sending a married couple would make more sense.)
They would be forced to spend a year and a half together in a 14ft x 12 ft Dragon space craft, accompanied by supplies ranging from more than a tonne of dehydrated food to 28kg of lavatory paper.
They will use a private rocket (probably a Spacex Falcon Heavy) and space capsule (Spacex Dragon probably) and some kind of habitat that might be inflatable (Bigelow Aerospace), employing an austere design that could take people to Mars for a fraction of what it would cost NASA to do with robots.
A technical paper will be present in a couple of weeks with details on the mission.
The Mars mission will launch Jan 5, 2018 to enable a free gravitation return.
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. The mission will provide a platform for unprecedented science, engineering and education opportunities, using state-of-the-art technologies derived from NASA and the International Space Station. It will be financed primarily through philanthropic donations, with some potential support from government sources.
This mission will be a flyby passing within 100 miles of the surface of Mars. Additional maneuvers will be minor course corrections only, using the gravitational influence of Mars to “slingshot” the vehicle onto a return course to Earth. An inflatable habitat module will be deployed after launch and detached prior to re-entry.
The beauty of this mission is its simplicity. The flyby architecture lowers risk, with no critical propulsive maneuvers, no entry into the Mars atmosphere, and no rendezvous and docking. It also represents the shortest duration roundtrip mission to Mars. The 2018 launch opportunity coincides with the 11-year solar minimum providing the lowest solar radiation exposure. The next launch opportunity for this mission (2031) will not have the advantage of being at the solar minimum.
There are risks associated with the mission, as is true of every space exploration mission. But these are exactly the kinds of risks that America should be willing to take in order to advance our knowledge, experience and position as a world leader. We believe the risks and challenges we have uncovered are well within the scope of our collective experience and can be overcome to achieve a safe and successful mission. In fact, studies by experts have found that the technology and systems are viable with proper integration, testing and preparation for flight.
We are steadfastly committed to the safety, health and overall well-being of our crew. We will only fly this mission if we are convinced that it is safe to do.
The foundation has formed a partnership with NASA via a reimbursable Space Act Agreement between Paragon and the Ames Research Center to conduct thermal protection system and technology testing and evaluation. Foundation officials will also seek to tap into NASA’s knowledge, experience and technologies to fine-tune and/or develop some of the more challenging elements of this mission, including environmental controls, radiation protection, and human health and productivity plans.