Inspiration Mars Wants To Work With NASA To Get To The Red Planet

by Elizabeth Howell on November 21, 2013

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An artist’s concept of how the spacecraft for the Inspiration Mars Foundation’s “Mission for America” might be configured. Credit: Inspiration Mars.

An artist’s concept of how the spacecraft for the Inspiration Mars Foundation’s “Mission for America” might be configured. Credit: Inspiration Mars.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated after more information was received from Inspiration Mars. Tito was highlighting other countries’ interest in the Red Planet in his testimony and has no plans at this time to work with anyone but NASA.

Remember that proposal to send a couple in the direction of the Red Planet, loop around it and then come back to Earth? The founder of the Inspiration Mars project, Dennis Tito, outlined more details of his proposal before the House Science Subcommittee on Space yesterday (Nov. 20).

Inspiration Mars has released an Architecture Study Report that is the fruits of a 90-day study done not only by the foundation itself, but also working with “NASA centers and industry partners” to figure out the best way to launch humans there in late 2017 or 2018. But if it’s delayed, Tito is prepared to go to Russia or China instead, he warns.

Here’s the high-level summary:

  • Two launches using NASA’s forthcoming Space Launch System, one for cargo and one for crew;
  • The crew module would be from the crew transportation vehicle that NASA selected under its commercial crew program (see this Universe Today story yesterday for an update on funding concerns on that program);
  • The cargo and crew vehicles would dock in space and then head out to Mars.

If the NASA proposal doesn’t work out, Tito warned Russia may be interested as well. said he’s quite prepared to bring his idea to another country, Russia. (Recall that Tito flew into space in 2001 on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft as a private citizen, so he does have connections over there.)

Crew of Soyuz TM-32, which flew to the International Space Station in 2001. From left, space tourist Dennis Tito, Russian cosmonaut Talgat Musabayev, and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Baturin. Credit: Wikipedia/NASA

Crew of Soyuz TM-32, which flew to the International Space Station in 2001. From left, space tourist Dennis Tito, Russian cosmonaut Talgat Musabayev, and Russian cosmonaut
Yuri Baturin. Credit: Wikipedia/NASA

“Given Russia’s clear recognition of the value and prestige of accomplishments in human space exploration, and their long-time interest in exploring Mars, my personal belief is that in all likelihood the Energia super-heavy rocket revival announcement signals Russian intent to fly this mission in 2021,” Tito stated.

“Their heavy lift rocket, along with their other designs for modules and the Soyuz, can fly this mission with modest upgrades to their systems.”

A third option would be using Chinese capabilities, he added, The Chinese may also be interested, he said, because the country — reportedly developing a large space station of its own — is likely “contemplating this opportunity to be the first on Mars.” Tito said he is informing Congress of his plans to go elsewhere as a “civic duty”, and that he wants to give NASA the first shot.

More food for thought as Congress mulls how much money to allocate to NASA in fiscal 2014. And Tito had strong words about his feelings on the funding: “If I may offer a frank word of caution to this subcommittee: The United States will carry out a Mars flyby mission, or we will watch as others do it – leaving us to applaud their skill and their daring.”

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

SteveZodiacxl9 November 21, 2013 at 11:49 AM

There is no reason in sending a manned mission around or to Mars. Rovers and orbiters do a perfect job, plus they don’t need to eat, drink or breathe and they are cheaper.

Brian Dunning November 21, 2013 at 3:19 PM

So don’t go.

Kevin Frushour November 21, 2013 at 3:30 PM

Yeah, but sending humans resonates more. A lot of people have trouble wrapping their head around robotic explorers – they want to say “we’ve been there”. But you are right – the probes are doing fine.

Kevin Frushour November 21, 2013 at 4:52 PM

I wonder how many candidates they have lined up for the trip.

Prism2Spectrum November 21, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Whatever pros or cons, for soulless machine or living man (and woman), venturing into Terra Incognito, the first humans to enter Mars orbit, or more spectacularly, land on the Red Planet, from whichever space-faring country they might hail, will either represent one giant leap for all mankind ( accompanying crew, vicariously ), or, potentially, make one big—narrow—step into the future, for one nation ( or would-be empire ). Successful journey pioneered, terrestrial preeminence gain. Depends on who grasps the vision, realizes the cost, and rises boldly off-world, to seize leadership baton ( technological, scientific, etc.), on frontier of tomorrow. For humanity, explore common ground! Or, extra-world space, seize planetary high ground, Earth’s divided geography beyond. Whichever flag should appear in Mars orbit, or flutter rigid over its sand, it will symbolize much, for good or ill ( from militarized planet of man ).

Jeffrey Dean Root November 21, 2013 at 6:43 PM

What’s the point of exploring if you have no plans of going there?

Jeffrey Dean Root November 21, 2013 at 6:44 PM

I say that in regards to the many people who feel that Humans should never leave the Earth.

William Sparrow November 24, 2013 at 12:00 AM

I’ve no issue with humans leaving the Earth, however, in the short term with NASA’s increasingly limited funding, I’d much rather see resources directed to unmanned missions like Cassini and New Horizons. Perhaps ESA, China, Japan et al will take the lead in manned space exploration in the future as much as it pains me to admit. Regrettably Congress doesn’t seem committed to science as much as they are to the war machine. Pity.

George Ellis November 22, 2013 at 4:15 AM

Planning on the SLS for a 2017 mission or on a revived Energia (ha-ha!) for 2021 is completely ignoring the harsh reality and lessons learnt with both NASA and the Russian. I can only speculate that Mr. Tito, whom I respect very much for what he achieved in life, has become delusional. Let me say that very clearly here: There will
be no Mars mission in 2017 using the SLS, and the Russians regularly “announce” the most grandiose schemes of what they are going to do in just a few years from now. But unless they do not cut back on their vodka consumption and management culture of punishing the messenger, there will be no Enegia super heavy flying ever again.

ken anthony November 22, 2013 at 7:14 AM

SLS & Orion are in development and will not be ready [Blog promotion URL removed.] Falcon 9 and Dragon are ready today (superdracos not required.) ILC Dover could provide Dragon with a low mass (perhaps 2000kg) front porch of perhaps 50m3. Discussions with them should start now. Dragon’s heat shield is ready today.

Dragon, inflatable porch, crew and about 3000 to 5000 kg of consumables (no recycling assumed) could launch on a single F9. Don’t inflate the porch until after TMI.

TMI will require a second launch, either refueling the F9 upper stage (already integrated) or for an Atlas/Centaur.

This is much less than a billion dollars and will easily be ready by Dec. 2017.

Orbital refueling should be a high priority because it makes many other lower cost missions possible but it isn’t essential to meet the schedule.

Anyone that doesn’t think a manned mission is desirable has no vision.

Stuart November 25, 2013 at 7:22 AM

Just aquick question have the victims…. er… no sorry, I mean “CAN”didates been chosen yet?

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