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Private space foundation plans 2018 Mars flyby for two

Jenny Winder, News Writer
Feb 28, 2013, 8:00 UTC

Sen—A private U.S. space organisation has announced plans for a manned 501 day return trip to Mars.

The crew will be two U.S. citizens, a man and a woman. The journey is a flyby withe spacecraft passing within 100 miles of Mars before swinging back and safely returning to Earth. The mission will not involve landing on the Red Planet. 

The target date for launch is January 5, 2018 to take advantage of Earth and Mars being closely aligned enough to allow at 501 day return trip.

The ambitious mission will be operated by the Inspiration Mars Foundation, a nonprofit organisation. The Chairman is Denis Tito who flew in space in 2001 as the world's first fare paying space tourist. 

The Inspiration Mars Foundation announced its plans to pursue the audacious mission in order to provide a platform for unprecedented science, engineering and education opportunities.

"When nations boldly follow opportunities, rooted in curiosity and guided by technological innovation, they grow, prosper, learn and lead. And this is what makes a nation great," said Tito, chairman of the Inspiration Mars Foundation.

Inspiration Mars will be funded primarily through private, charitable donations. The foundation will also seek out government partners that can provide unique expertise, access to infrastructure and other technical assistance as part of a public-private partnership.

The mission will be built around proven, existing space transportation systems and technologies derived from industry, NASA and the International Space Station that can be available in time to support the launch date.

The mission system will consist of a modified capsule launched out of Earth orbit using a single propulsive manoeuvre to achieve the Mars trajectory. An inflatable habitat module will be deployed after launch and detached prior to re-entry. Closed-loop life support and operational components will be located inside the vehicle, designed for simplicity and "hands on" maintenance and repair.

"Mars presents a challenging, but attainable goal for advancing human space exploration and knowledge, and as a result, we are committed to undertaking this mission," said Taber MacCallum, chief technology officer for Inspiration Mars. "Experts have reviewed the risks, rewards and aggressive schedule, finding that existing technologies and systems only need to be properly integrated, tested and prepared for flight."

Tito explained that the "beauty of this mission is its simplicity." The flyby architecture lowers risk, with no critical propulsive maneuvers after leaving Earth vicinity, no entry into the Mars atmosphere, no rendezvous and docking, and represents the shortest duration roundtrip mission to Mars. The 2018 launch opportunity also coincides with the 11-year solar minimum providing the lowest solar radiation exposure.

Tito said. "We are engaging the best minds in industry, government and academia to develop and integrate the space flight systems and to design innovative research, education and outreach programs for the mission."

Tito explained that the Inspiration Mars mission aligns perfectly with emerging U.S. space priorities and programs, and will contribute valuable research to accelerate next-generation systems and their missions.

"The mission will help create public awareness, enthusiasm and momentum for a long term commitment and vision for space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit...all the way to Mars" said Tito.