Speculation is growing that Dennis Tito, the millionaire space buff who paid a reported $20 million to travel to the International Space Station in 2001, will announce a privately-funded manned mission to Mars during a news conference on Feb. 27, PC Magazine reported. The mission would launch in Jan. 2018.
Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter of the Paragon Space Development Corp., which makes life-support systems, and space-medicine expert Jonathan Clark from the Baylor College of Medicine will also participate in the press event, according to Space.com.
A paper Tito plans to present at an aerospace conference in Montana in March, entitled "Feasibility Analysis for a Manned Mars Free Return Mission in 2018,” hints at the kind of space vacation he’s envisioning, according to the NewSpace Journal.
The paper describes a Mars mission in a modified SpaceX Dragon spacecraft that would take 501 days to fly to the red planet and back, the NewSpace Journal reported. The spacecraft wouldn’t land on Mars or even orbit the planet, just fly by before beginning its return trip to Earth.
According to the NewSpace Journal:
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.
The SpaceX Dragon has not yet carried humans into space, but the company is gearing up for a low-orbit manned mission as early as 2015, PC Mag reported.
"This 'Mission for America' will generate new knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration," officials for Tito’s nonprofit organization the Inspiration Mars Foundation wrote in a press release this week. "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.
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