IS MILLIONAIRE SPACE TOURIST PLANNING TRIP TO MARS?

Fox News on February 23, 2013, published a apace.com report on buzz building about a planned 2018 private mission to Mars, which may launch the first humans toward the Red Planet. Excerpts below:

A nonprofit organization called the Inspiration Mars Foundation — which is led by millionaire Dennis Tito , the world’s first space tourist — will hold a news conference on Feb. 27, 2013, to announce the 501-day roundtrip mission, which will aim 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 officials wrote in a media advisory yesterday (Feb. 20). “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.”

Tito made history in 2001, plunking down a reported $20 million for an eight-day trip to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

‘A crewed free-return Mars mission would fly by Mars, but not go into orbit around the planet or land on it.’

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.

The speakers’ backgrounds and the lofty goals articulated in the media advisory have led some people to speculate that Inspiration Mars is planning a manned mission to the Red Planet. And it looks like that may be the case, according to some media reports.

On March 3, Tito will give a talk called “Feasibility Analysis for a Manned Mars Free Return Mission in 2018” at an aerospace conference in Montana, the NewSpace Journal reported Thursday, Feb. 21.

The NewSpace Journal says it obtained a copy of the paper Tito plans to present in Montana and gives a summary of its main thrust.

The mission would be privately financed and cheaper than previous estimates for manned Mars efforts, the NewSpace Journal adds, though no overall cost is given.

The purported involvement of California-based SpaceX is not a huge surprise, as company founder Elon Musk has repeatedly stressed his desire to help humanity reach and eventually colonize Mars . Indeed, SpaceX has been developing a mission concept called “Red Dragon,” which would use its Dragon capsule to send astronauts to the Red Planet.

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