Tycoon wants to send married couple on Mars flyby (Update)

Feb 27, 2013 by Seth Borenstein
A drawing provided by Inspiration Mars shows an artist's conception of a spacecraft envisioned by the private group, which wants to send a married couple on a mission to fly by the red planet and zip back home, beginning in 2018. The nonprofit "Inspiration Mars" will get initial money from multimillionaire Dennis Tito, the first space tourist. Outsiders put the price tag at more than $1 billion. The mission, announced Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, would last more than 16 months. (AP Photo/Inspiration Mars)

It is a road trip that could test the best of marriages: Mars.

A tycoon announced plans Wednesday to send a middle-aged couple on a privately built spaceship to slingshot around the Red Planet and come back home, hopefully with their bodies and marriage in one piece after 501 days of no-escape togetherness in a cramped capsule.

Under the audacious but bare-bones plan, the spacecraft would blast off less than five years from now and pass within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of the Martian surface. The cost was not disclosed, but outsiders put it at more than $1 billion.

The team of space veterans behind the project hasn't quite figured out the technical details of the rocket they will use or the capsule the husband-and-wife astronauts will live in during the 16-month voyage. But they know it will be an adventure not for the weak of body or heart.

"This is not going to be an easy mission," chief technical officer and potential crew member Taber MacCallum said. "We called it the Lewis and Clark trip to Mars."

The trying circumstances include: no showers, limits on toilet paper and clothing, drinking water made from the crew members' recycled urine and sweat, and almost no privacy. But the flight also comes with never-before-seen views of Mars. And there's ample time for zero-gravity sex in space, something NASA doesn't like to talk about.

As for why a man and a woman will be selected, "this is very symbolic and we really need it to represent humanity," MacCallum said.

He said if it is a man and a woman on such a long, close-quarters voyage, it makes sense for them to be married so that they can give each other the emotional support they will probably need when they look out the window and see Earth get smaller and more distant: "If that's not scary, I don't know what is."

The private, nonprofit project, called Inspiration Mars, will get initial money from NASA engineer-turned-multimillionaire investment consultant Dennis Tito, the first space tourist. The organizers hope to raise the rest through donations, advertising and media partnerships.

NASA, which has talked about sending astronauts to orbit Mars by the mid-2030s, will not be involved in this project. Instead, its backers intend to use a ship built by other aerospace companies, employing an austere design that could take people to Mars for a fraction of what it would cost the space agency to do with robots, officials said.

Even though some of the hardware hasn't even been built, Tito said he is confident everything will come together by 2018 with no test flights.

It will be a stripped-down mission when it comes to automation and complexity, meaning the couple will have to fix things on the fly and do more piloting than on NASA vehicles, said chief medical officer Jonathan Clark.

The flight is timed to take advantage of the once-in-a-generation close approach of the two planets' orbits. The timeline calls for launch on Jan. 5, 2018, the Mars flyby on Aug. 20, 2018, and a return to Earth on May 21, 2019.

It involves huge risk, more than a government agency like NASA would normally permit, officials concede. For example, the spaceship will fly during a period when galactic cosmic rays will be high because of the sunspot cycle. That will increase the crew's cancer risk by about 3 percent, which is more than on any NASA mission, Clark said.

The ship would also re-enter Earth's atmosphere at twice the speed of ordinary space capsules, something Tito said still needs to be worked out.

"Life is risky," said Clark, a former NASA flight surgeon whose astronaut wife died in the 2003 space shuttle Columbia accident. "Anything that's worth it is worth putting it all at stake for."

What may be most at stake is the crew members' marriage. The couple will be selected within a year.

MacCallum and his wife, Jane Poynter, hope to be picked. They were a couple when they participated in Biosphere 2, a sort of giant terrarium that was supposed to replicate a mission on another planet. Poynter said it was such a fraught experience psychologically that some participants wouldn't talk to each other for most of the two years.

But MacCallum said it brought him and Poynter closer together. He said the right couple going to Mars, if screened and counseled ahead of time, would come back with a stronger marriage.

Poynter said the husband and wife need to be even-tempered. Clark said they should be post-childbearing age because of exposure to radiation. Poynter is 50, MacCallum 48.

For the 30 years NASA has been flying men and women, it has avoided the question of sex in space. MacCallum said it will happen: "It's a man and wife. Private time. Let your imagination run wild."

In a statement, NASA spokesman David Steitz said the venture validates President Barack Obama's decision to rely more on private sector ingenuity to explore space, and is "a testament to the audacity of America's commercial aerospace industry and the adventurous spirit of America's citizen-explorers."

He said "NASA will continue discussions with Inspiration Mars to see how the agency might collaborate on mutually beneficial activities."

Stanford University professor Scott Hubbard, NASA's former Mars mission chief, said the team's technical paper outlining the flight is "long on inspiration, short on technical details. What is there is correct."

Other outside experts praised the expertise of the team but worried about the lack of testing.

Former astronaut and current MIT aerospace engineering professor Jeff Hoffman said: "Since they don't plan to land on Mars, it's really a question of keeping people alive for 501 days in space, which is not an impossible task."

Explore further: NASA deep-space rocket, SLS, to launch in 2018

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Maggnus
2 / 5 (12) Feb 27, 2013
Can you say "publicity stunt"?
nanotech_republika_pl
3.5 / 5 (8) Feb 27, 2013
If Apollo 8 mission around the Moon was a publicity stunt, then yes I could say this one is too. But I think it is a great idea for a privately founded flight going so soon.
LariAnn
3 / 5 (12) Feb 27, 2013
It's about time some adventurous 1-percenter decided to do this - with help from others like Mark Zuckerberg and/or Bill Gates, the mission will become a reality. It could very well become much more than what is presently envisaged, and I say, "Go For It!"
aaron1960
3.3 / 5 (7) Feb 27, 2013
Great Idea and Great Project. One Billion Dollars is next to nothing in cost for any serious space activity.
Maggnus
3.5 / 5 (12) Feb 27, 2013
If Apollo 8 mission around the Moon was a publicity stunt, then yes I could say this one is too. But I think it is a great idea for a privately founded flight going so soon.


That's comparing apples to oranges.

Still, I'm abashed--I would actually love to see something like this actually go forward. I just doubt very much that it will.
LagomorphZero
2 / 5 (3) Feb 27, 2013
Seems much more likely to succeed than the "reality TV show on mars" concept that was floating around.
VendicarE
2 / 5 (8) Feb 27, 2013
Alas the trip would be suicide.

http://www.youtub...heK8ssg0
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (11) Feb 27, 2013
Well if they would use VASIMR engines they could get there in 39 days and still be alive when they got back. And sane.
LarryD
1.9 / 5 (7) Feb 27, 2013
My opinion, not worth much I know, is that this would make the Military look...well 'inadequate'(?) in Gov. circles and I wonder if the whole thing might be ruined by Gov. intervention, that is, turn it into a spying mission.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm all for it and the sooner the better. After all, the following flight (with the then better technology)might even land on Mars. It will happen one day and better it be a 'private' venture rather than a Gov. one. Great! it has my thumbs up.
obama_socks
1.7 / 5 (14) Feb 27, 2013
The less that governments are involved with this and subsequent flights, the better off the science of new discovery will be, and there will be no shortcuts taken as to safety and comfort for the married couple since the project(s) will not be dependent on taxpayer money distributed by the Obama or other political regime. And far better care by private enterprise will be taken to ensure the couple's safe and timely return to Earth.

The military of any country should never be allowed access to Mars or any other planet in the future. Once the military of a country gets a foothold on Mars, they will create a situation very much like an "arms race" but with the military of other countries having the intention of also establishing a presence on the planet. It should be strictly a project for scientists and engineers, and peripherals required.
obama_socks
1.3 / 5 (14) Feb 27, 2013
Well if they would use VASIMR engines they could get there in 39 days and still be alive when they got back. And sane.
ThegoatofBlotto1923

You should have done some research before posting that bit of b.s.

http://www.marsso...simrhoax

According to the Mars Society website, the Vasimr still has not been made available in spite of it being funded by the Obama regime with American taxpayer money.

Blotto should explain why the married couple would not be still alive after a 16 month round trip as per the article.
Osiris1
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 28, 2013
the 'ship' has no built in rotation for artificial gravity as seen designed. The astronaut Krikaliyev returned almost hopelessly helpless to the extent Russia considered re-launching him to space to preserve his life. If no artificial gravity, no survival. And VASIMR is NOT a hoax no matter what Zubrin says under the influence of petrodollars.
VendicarE
2.7 / 5 (7) Feb 28, 2013
I bet they will power this craft with Cold Fusion and take BigFoot along for a ride.

It is only logical.
LarryD
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 28, 2013
Oh VendicarE where is thy faith,VendicarE It will happen! And big Foot couldn't afford it...Yeti might though with all them there hidden diamonds in the mountains. Not Cold Fusion but the heart of the Event Horizon, the movie that is.
Artificial Gravity, no problem, talk to the guys at Area 51 they have this suit...experimenting with liquid filled capsules.
thingumbobesquire
1 / 5 (3) Feb 28, 2013
"The bottom line is that we have some good ideas (ATLAS, infrared surveys, ESA's all-sky survey), and we just need to spend the money and roll these out. But to find the smallest objects — 30 to 50 meters in size — we are talking of the order of a billion dollars to do it right," said Timothy Spahr, director of the Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.
VendicarE
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 28, 2013
Newsflash:

Drunk Bum on New York subway car claims he has plans to send Iceland on a 3 day joy ride to the surface of Saturn for peace talks with the Saturnian defense force, and a little nookie, nookie and bear at local Saturnian lap dance parlors.

Thrust for the departure will be provided by specially modified cans of beans using an exact formula of his design and modeled on the thrust that propels projectile vomit.

Passengers will be protected from the harsh realities of space with quantum suits composed entirely of sandwich wrap and banana peals and will cost less than a bottle of ripple.

Scheduled departure is Jan 31, 2009.

TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (8) Feb 28, 2013
Vasimr still has not been made available in spite of it being funded by the Obama regime
And your info is 3 yrs old:

"On December 8, 2008, Ad Astra signed an agreement with NASA to arrange the placement and testing of a flight version of the VASIMR, the VF-200, on the International Space Station (ISS). As of June 2012, its launch is anticipated to be in 2015..."
Blotto should explain
The very excellent (but lying fake) NASA Eng'r should explain why she did not know that

"In March 2, 2011, Ad Astra and NASA Johnson Space Center have signed a Support Agreement to collaborate on research, analysis and development tasks on space-based cryogenic magnet operations and electric propulsion systems currently under development by Ad Astra. As of February 2011, NASA had 100 people assigned to the project to work with Ad Astra to integrate the VF-200 onto the space station."
why the married couple would not be still alive
Because per the article it is very dangerous.
Ducklet
1.7 / 5 (6) Feb 28, 2013
Post-childbearing age is worse than sending a younger couple that isn't planning to have children (because they don't want to or whatever other reason they have). 50 vs 40 is a pretty significant step up in medical emergency risk, and more sensitivity to lack of weight-bearing exercise. While in absolute terms it may not be a huge difference, it's statistically significant and a mission like this should work the odds consistently in its favor.
Ducklet
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 28, 2013
On the other hand going from 40 to 30 while medically beneficial is going to greatly reduce the selection pool - in part because at that age participants may not yet have decided not to have children or haven't had them yet if they will; in part because of lack of experience; and in part due to lack of psychological maturity (which is going to be a factor in 500 days confined to a tin can).
dschlink
3 / 5 (2) Feb 28, 2013
I am also a bit puzzled by the 4000-tonne reactor system in the Mars Society article. The SL-1 reactor was rated at 200 KW electrical and weighed much less than 100 tonnes. 25 MW (electrical) reactors are under development that are small enough to be transported on existing roads.

Yes, I am a nuclear engineer.
obama_socks
1.6 / 5 (9) Feb 28, 2013
Vasimr still has not been made available in spite of it being funded by the Obama regime
And your info is 3 yrs old:

"On December 8, 2008, Ad Astra signed an agreement with NASA to arrange the placement and testing of a flight version of the VASIMR, the VF-200, on the International Space Station (ISS). As of June 2012, its launch is anticipated to be in 2015..."
Blotto should explain
The very excellent Aerospace Eng'r should explain why he did not know that
-TheghostofBlotto1923

But I DID know it...that is also old news.

Agreements for placing and TESTING of a FLIGHT VERSION on the ISS simply means that the VASIMR cannot be tested for flight in a factory or anywhere on the surface of the Earth b/c it is designed for use in a vacuum or near-vacuum, thus it is to be attached to ISS in LEO.

"Launch...anticipated...2015..." means nothing up to and until it actually happens. We will then see if it is a hoax or not, ala Zubrin, and if it actually works.

obama_socks
1 / 5 (8) Feb 28, 2013
Vasimr still has not been made available in spite of it being funded by the Obama regime
And your info is 3 yrs old:

"In March 2, 2011, Ad Astra and NASA Johnson Space Center have signed a Support Agreement to collaborate on research, analysis and development tasks on space-based cryogenic magnet operations and electric propulsion systems currently under development by Ad Astra. As of February 2011, NASA had 100 people assigned to the project to work with Ad Astra to integrate the VF-200 onto the space station."
why the married couple would not be still alive
Because per the article it is very dangerous.
-Blotto

"A Support Agreement to collaborate on research...blah blah blah, etc."...means nothing except that Ad Astra is receiving taxpayer money from NASA while the VASIMR is 'under development' in an Ad Astra factory somewhere. Work on the original or modified design(s) by NASA's 100 people almost guarantees engine failure. Possible sabotage is likely also.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (6) Feb 28, 2013
the VASIMR cannot be tested for flight in a factory or anywhere on the surface of the Earth
So. Pussytard. Where do you think THIS occurred?

http://www.youtub...6pWwezEU

-A NASA engr would have explored this possibility before posting bullshit. Yes?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (6) Feb 28, 2013
Pussytard said:
Work on the original or modified design(s) by NASA's 100 people almost guarantees engine failure. Possible sabotage is likely also.
Which is sort of redundant as per your 3 year old article it is a hoax anyway. Yes? So it makes a lot of sense that NASA would have 100 people working on a hoax that according to you they cant even ACCESS, and attaching one to the ISS in a few years. Of course.
the Vasimr still has not been made available
-is what you said. So what are these 100 people working on then?
obama_socks
1.4 / 5 (9) Feb 28, 2013
Blotto should explain why the married couple would not be still alive after a 16 month round trip as per the article.
Because per the article it is very dangerous. -TheghostofBlotto1923/Blotto

Going up into LEO is also dangerous. Living on the ISS is dangerous. Crossing a street with heavy traffic is dangerous. So what else is new?

"This is not going to be an easy mission," chief technical officer and potential crew member Taber MacCallum said. "We called it the Lewis and Clark trip to Mars."

Blotto appears to be unaware that the scientists and engineers, et al involved in this terrific project will do their utmost to ensure the safety of the passengers and that the spacecraft and propulsion system are fully operational and their performance is optimal with the technology available.

The technology will improve greatly in the ensuing time before launch and the married couple will be extremely familiar with each others' needs so as to make for smooth operations aboard.
obama_socks
1.4 / 5 (10) Feb 28, 2013
There is no 'pussytard' in this website except in TheghostofBlotto's demented brain. As Blotto is proven to be a hater of women - including its own mother, Blotto believes that those it disagrees with, or has a hatred for, MUST BE A WOMAN. Blotto suffers from DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER, and has multiple sock puppets that represent Blotto's different personalities. (see my Profile for names)

Blotto also suffers from PAREIDOLIA, as evidenced in this link:

http://phys.org/n...html#jCp

Blotto desperately argues even though Blotto is wrong in that link, just as Blotto does in every thread with both myself and other commentators. Blotto cannot stand to be wrong and throws a verbal fit when called out on its errors.

Blotto gets most of its information from Wikipedia and YouTube, even though both are known to be filled with errors and/or not current news.

Pathetic.

TheGhostofOtto1923
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 28, 2013
Blotto is wrong in that link
You didnt answer the questions. You said:
Work on the original or modified design(s) by NASA's 100 people almost guarantees engine failure. Possible sabotage is likely also.
Which is sort of redundant as per your 3 year old article it is a hoax anyway. Yes? So it makes a lot of sense that NASA would have 100 people working on a hoax that according to you they cant even ACCESS, and attaching one to the ISS in a few years. Of course.
the Vasimr still has not been made available
-is what you said. So what are these 100 people working on then?
obama_socks
1 / 5 (8) Feb 28, 2013
The article is not about Ad Astra or the VASIMR, which renders your questions irrelevant. It is apparent that the 100 people have been assigned by NASA to OVERSEE the building of the VASIMR since it is scheduled to be attached to the ISS at some later date. If the VASIMR engine had been an exclusive project for the Ad Astra corporation for their own use and unconnected with NASA, there would be no need for 100 people to be assigned by NASA to Ad Astra to oversee its progress.

Obviously, the VASIMR is still unavailable and far from ready for flight, which is the reason why 100 people have been assigned to it by NASA. The engine is still untested as it would have been tested already if it was a chemical rocket and it cannot be tested as to its stated performance until it is in LEO, which is why it is being worked on before it is taken up to the ISS.

I will now return to the topic of the article and ignore your further blub blub blatherings and stupidity.
Whydening Gyre
1 / 5 (8) Mar 02, 2013
Wife and I live and work together in the same fairly large house. I love her and everything, but even our house isn't big enough... SHe still gets on my nerves (or is it the other way round...?)
Might be more successful if they were a middle aged couple that just got married.
Lurker2358
1 / 5 (5) Mar 02, 2013
Under the audacious but bare-bones plan, the spacecraft would blast off less than five years from now and pass within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of the Martian surface. The cost was not disclosed, but outsiders put it at more than $1 billion.


Are you sure they didn't say "one trillion"?

If anybody could do this for just $1 billion it would have been done 40 years ago...

You couldn't design and build the ship and it's systems for ten or even 100 times that price, never mind design and build the rockets to launch them from the Earth.

Last I heard, NASA estimates of the cost of a new manned Lunar mission would be around 200 BILLION, and a Mars mission would be at least one TRILLION...beging the question where Obama plans to fund his alleged manned mission to an asteroid (exponentially more dangerous than Mars and up to twice as far away).

Someone is ignorant.
javjav
not rated yet Mar 03, 2013
Even if this mission is touristic or symbolic, it could still make some interesting science not possible in other ways. A couple of nearby pilots is what is needed to fly small zeppelins or quad-rotor explorers into some of those caves. This is not possible with autopilot software because it can not take decisions about where to go, specially about what is "interesting" or not in order to point cameras and sensors, and remote control from earth is not an option. But a flyby will give the two pilots a couple of days to remote control a few drones with low latency.
alfie_null
not rated yet Mar 03, 2013
exponentially more dangerous

Consider the cost and complexity of landing and taking off Mars, vs. a rendezvous with an asteroid. The rest of either mission is just flying through space - which we've done before.
Whydening Gyre
1 / 5 (8) Mar 03, 2013
Atually, amending my previous thought, it should be a left handed 55-60 yr old guy and TWO 25-30 yr old women - 1 right-handed, the other left-handed...
javjav
not rated yet Mar 03, 2013
Are you sure they didn't say "one trillion"?

If anybody could do this for just $1 billion it would have been done 40 years ago...
Wrong. This mission is just a "flyby", no landing nor orbiting mars, just passing over there and use Mars gravity to turn back. It is even simpler and cheaper than the Curiosity mission. Once the ship is on course to mars no more thrust is required, just a bit for small adjustments. Supporting live for 500 days in space is a bit complex but not too exaggerated. Valery Polyakov was in the Mir for 437 consecutive days. Radiation maybe 40% higher, but also the shielding. And no need to design any ship or rocket, as they plan to use commercial rockets (either existing or already in development for other purposes, like SpaceX heavy & dragon), plus an inflatable module, (Bigelow have one in development). In any case they plan to use existing ships, not design a specific ship for this trip, which reduces the cost dramatically.
alq131
5 / 5 (2) Mar 04, 2013
actually, $1B seems excessive. Especially if you can get together the consortium of private companies who would willingly fly hardware as part of what really is a test flight, even if crewed.

The graphic looks to show a SpaceX Dragon capsule, with a Bigelow Aerospace BA-330 habitat. There is actually no reason they couldn't do more. Assemble in space? 5 years is a lot of time given the good state of our technology. We should be asking, why would it cost $1B? If NASA did it, it would cost $1T, with endless studies and zero risk to life scenarios and design efforts.

I imagine that SpaceX has some skunkworks plans to land a person on Mars in this same time frame and this is just a separate exercise to gauge public opinion, and regulatory push back. I could see Elon Musk in three years saying "heres our Mars ship and colonization plan"