Although Inspiration Mars released this illustration of its mission
concept, the organization is still studying various mission
architectures involving a mix of launch vehicles and spacecraft.
(credit: Inspiration Mars Foundation)


A Martian adventure for inspiration, not commercialization

by Jeff Foust
Monday, March 4, 2013

Paragon Space Development Corporation is a small company based in Tucson, Arizona, best known as a leading developer of life support systems and related technologies for NASA and commercial spacecraft. That background, Paragon CEO Taber MacCallum says, means that the company regularly hears from people looking to do things in extreme environments, such as diving in contaminated waters. Most of those ideas don’t go very far.

But even with that experience, MacCallum says he was taken by surprise by the company’s latest project. “If someone had told me six months ago I’d be talking with you about this,” Taber MacCallum said in an interview last week, shaking his head as the words trailed off. The “this” he was referring was the plan formally unveiled February 27 by a new organization, the Inspiration Mars Foundation, to mount a privately-funded crewed Mars flyby mission in 2018. Yet he and others were not just talking about, but also actively working on, something that sounded like science fiction but which they had, at least so far, not proven could not be done.

The last couple of years have seen the rise of a number of audacious private space ventures: giant air-launched rockets, asteroid mining efforts, and private human lunar landing missions. Yet Inspiration Mars stands out from the others not just in what they’re planning to do, but how they’re planning to do it: a one-time, non-commercial project with a firm deadline dictated by orbital mechanics, and with the goal not of making money but inspiring a new generation.

Read more: The Space Review: A Martian adventure for inspiration, not commercialization.

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