February 28, 2013
Mars Trip Seen As A Mission For America For The Next Great Era Of Space Exploration
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineDennis Tito, the first private space tourist and chairman of the foundation, officially announced Wednesday plans to send private citizens on a trip to pass within 100 million miles of Mars.
This 501-day journey is aimed at taking place on January 5, 2018, and is completely dependent on timing. The mission will see that two professional US crew members, preferably a man and woman, fly as private citizens on a "fast, free-return" mission.
“Human exploration of space is a critical catalyst for our future growth and prosperity,” said Tito. “This is ℠A Mission for America´ that will generate knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration."
He said the foundation hopes this mission will encourage Americans to believe "in doing the hard things that mark our nation great," as well as inspire the next generation of explorers.
As far as feasibility is concerned, it seems as though the technology is already in place to be ready by 2018. Inspiration Mars says it will be using existing space transportation systems and technologies built from the space industry, such as SpaceX Dragon capsule. This capsule, known best for being the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS), is already being turned into a crew capsule for NASA and space tourists to use.
“Investments in human space exploration technologies and operations by NASA and the space industry are converging at the right time to make this mission achievable,” said Taber MacCallum, chief technology officer for Inspiration Mars. MacCallum is also CEO/CTO of Paragon Space Development Corporation.
The foundation released a "feasibility fact sheet" of an analysis regarding a manned Mars mission by 2018. This sheet includes mathematics that show a spacecraft launch aboard a Dragon capsule and a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket would be able to deliver the crew to the proper trajectory to make the trip to Mars. They've broken down everything from how much carbon dioxide would be produced, to how much solid waste would be produced during the journey. Inspiration Mars even included items such as "Feminine Health" in its analysis.
"We are confident that this mission is feasible, and this investigation did not reveal any showstoppers. We believe that the cost would be significantly less than previous estimates for manned Mars missions, and could be financed privately without relying on government funding," the foundation said in the analysis.
"We also believe that with current and near-term technology it is possible to be ready for a Mars flyby launch in January, 2018 and that we should not pass on this mission since the next opportunity does not occur again until 2031," they wrote.
Inspiration Mars Foundation says that January 2018 is the target launch date because of the conditions that lie ahead as far as the alignment Mars has with Earth at this time. To keep the cost down, they would be relying on a trajectory from Mars to swing the future Martian explorers back to Earth. They found fast trajectory opportunities occurring two times every 15 years, with a 1.4-year duration. This trip would be significantly less than most Mars free return trajectories, which could take up to 3.5 years.
Inspiration Mars said the paper "determines the launch and life support feasibility of flying such a mission using hardware expected to be available in time for an optimized fast trajectory opportunity in January, 2018."
Probably the biggest hiccups for the Inspiration Mars team is assuming the weather would allow for a January, 2018 launch window and that SpaceX has both its crew Dragon capsule and Falcon Heavy rocket by then.