How Dennis Tito could send humans to Mars and back by 2020

FEB 21, 2013 11:37 AM

Robert T. Gonzalez

Late last night, word began circulating that entrepreneur Dennis Tito — who, in 2001, became the world’s first space tourist — intends to launch a privately backed mission to Mars in 2018. Details will be announced next week, but initial reports indicate that the expedition will be round-trip and last 501 days.

Most significantly, it will involve human crew members. Can we really send humans to Mars and back by 2020? We’re very skeptical, but it’s certainly conceivable. Here’s why.

First let’s bring you up to speed. Speculation kicked into high gear late last night when news of an historic “Mission for America” — to be announced at a press conference next week — arrived in the form of a media advisory. Titled “The Planets Are Aligning for a Once-in-a-Generation Space Journey,” the press release was issued by aerospace marketing firm Griffin Communications Group on behalf of the Inspiration Mars Foundation, a mysterious entity billed as a “newly founded nonprofit organization led by American Space traveler and entrepreneur Dennis Tito.” (Pictured below is Tito in 2001 during final preparations for his flight to the ISS.)

Contrary to initial reports, the announcement makes zero mention of a manned mission. None whatsoever.

Does it mention a 2018 launch date? Yes. Roundtrip journey? Check. 501-day mission? Yep. But a “daring manned voyage” to Mars? A voyage CNET reported 72-year-old Dennis Tito (77 by January, 2018, mind you) intends to carry out himself? No and no. It seemed… unlikely to say the least. Where would so ambitious a project get its funding? Where’s the technology?

But now, Jeff Foust of NewSpace Journal, has dug up some information that indicates Tito is, in fact, intending to announce a manned, round-trip mission to Mars.

Read more: How Dennis Tito could send humans to Mars and back by 2020 — io9.

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