Dennis Tito asks US Congress to repurpose NASA rocket tests for launching Mars Fyby mission in 2018

Dennis Tito has pitched a private-public partnership option for the Mars flyby to the US Congress.

At the Inspiration Mars Foundation, we have designed the architecture for a mission carrying two astronauts to the far side of Mars and back. It would be a voyage around the sun of more than 808 million miles in 501 days. We propose to do this in collaboration with NASA, as a partner in a NASA mission, in the name of America, and for the good of humanity. The endeavor is not motivated by business desires, but to inspire Americans in a bold adventure in space that reinvigorates US space exploration. In fact, the capabilities developed through private funding will belong to NASA for this and future missions.

This partnership is a new model for a space mission. It is not the model of traditional contracts or subsidies for vehicle developments, although those models are imbedded in the NASA programs to be leveraged for this unique mission. It is a philanthropic partnership with government to augment resources and achieve even greater goals than is possible otherwise.

Every 15 years or so, there is a rare planetary alignment that makes a Mars journey relatively less complex, relying on the gravitational forces of Mars, the Sun, and Earth. An American spacecraft would have to be on its way in the first days of 2018. Otherwise, we’re looking at another 15 years before that perfect alignment occurs again.

If we need a Plan B, there is a mission 88 days longer that flies by Venus before going by Mars, a unique trajectory that could be flown in 2021.

In testimony on Capitol Hill today, Inspiration Mars Chairman Dennis Tito said about $300 million could be raised privately while NASA would invest $700 million. NASA is developing the Space Launch System (SLS) anyway. This would just repurpose early tests to launch the main Mars flyby capsule. There would not be crew risk for such a test. The crew would be launched in a proven and safer smaller rocket.

The Inspiration Mars Foundation released the Architecture Study Report, demonstrating the technical feasibility of the free return Mars flyby mission with two crew members. A summary of the Architecture Study Report is provided with this written testimony.

The mission takes advantage of a rare planetary alignment occurring at the end of 2017. One interesting result of the study is a clear demonstration of the need for the Space Launch System (SLS) as well as advanced reentry capsule technology. As shown in the attached data sheet, the architecture calls for launching the unmanned spacecraft into low Earth orbit using SLS. The crew is subsequently delivered to the spacecraft loitering in low Earth orbit by one of the commercial crew transportation providers. With the crew on board and spacecraft checkout complete, the commercial crew vehicle undocks and the SLS with Dual Use Upper Stage performs the burn sending the spacecraft and crew on their way to Mars and back

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