Millionaire will send married couple to Mars

By Efrosini Costa

One lucky pair will receive the trip of a lifetime, as entrepreneur Dennis Tito unveiled plans today to send a couple to Mars in 2018.

The one-and-a-half year mission to get to the red planet will be led by a team including the millionaire and former space tourist himself.

Tito’s Inspiration Mars Foundation believes the great outer space feat is feasible, having even carried out a study using the latest existing technology to prove that the mission is achievable.

The yet-to-be chosen married couple will endure being crammed into a space, likened in size to an RV, for 16 months in order to reach their destination. But they won’t be venturing outside.

Instead their cosmic flight will see the husband and wife astronauts hover above their destination, close to 100 miles away in fact.

“We fly within a hundred miles of Mars. I mean that is essentially being there. Swing by, use the gravitational shift of Mars and come back to earth, just like a boomerang, you don’t need to have any propulsive manoeuvres,” said Tito, the Inspiration Mars Foundation’s chairman.

According to the space enthusiast, also the first ‘tourist’ in space – having spent six days on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001- a middle-aged couple past their childbearing years would make the most ideal crewmembers, providing the emotional support needed for the journey. One male and one female are also symbolic of humanity Tito said.

Though Tito intends to provide the initial funds for the privately funded Mars mission, investors will need to come forward in order to cover the expected 1 billion dollar cost of the trip.

NASA is not involved in the ambitious voyage and as such the backers will have to source a private space capsule and rocket. They hope to use an inflatable design that will be cheaper to create than the space vehicles built by NASA using high-tech robots. No spacesuits will be needed, as none of the team will be spacewalking onto Mars.

There will be minimal food and clothing available to the team and urine will be collected and recycled into drinkable water for the entire crew.

“This is not going to be an easy mission,” the chief technical officer and potential crewmember Taber MacCallum told reporters.

“We called it the Lewis and Clark trip to Mars,” he added.

While many onlookers believe the space voyage has many potentials risks, MacCallum believes: “It’s a risk well worth taking”.

The January 2018 launch date has been chosen as it coincides with a once in a generation close approach of the two planets, Earth and Mars. If all goes according to plan, the crew is expected to return to Earth on May 21, 2019.



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