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Mars Space Science

Millionaire Plans Mission To Mars In 2018 97

Posted by samzenpus
from the mars-needs-millionaires dept.
littlesparkvt writes in with news about the possibility of a privately funded Mars mission. "Millionaire Dennis Tito became the first paying customer to make a trip to the International Space Station and now he wants to launch a privately funded mission to Mars in 2018. Dennis paid a reported 20 Million to ride aboard a Russian rocket to the International Space Station and has since stayed out of the spotlight, until now. There’s no word whether the trip will include humans, there will be more information on that fact next week. Considering there is little time to train a crew for the mission the flight in 2018 will most likely be an unmanned probe. There’s also a possibility that the first mission to Mars from this private investor will harbor supplies for future astronauts. Plants and food are a possibility as they would take much less space than a full human crew."
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Millionaire Plans Mission To Mars In 2018

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  • by Saint Aardvark (159009) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:44PM (#42973953) Homepage Journal

    From http://www.newspacejournal.com/2013/02/21/new-insights-on-that-private-crewed-mars-mission/ [newspacejournal.com]:

    This publication obtained a copy of the paper Tito et al. plan to present at the conference, discussing a crewed free-return Mars mission that would fly by Mars, but not go into orbit around the planet or land on it. This 501-day mission would launch in January 2018, using a modified SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket. According to the paper, existing environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) technologies would allow such a spacecraft to support two people for the mission, although in Spartan condition. âoeCrew comfort is limited to survival needs only. For example, sponge baths are acceptable, with no need for showers,â the paper states.

    The IEEE Aerospace Conference is in March [aeroconf.org] -- next month. That's pretty interesting timing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:45PM (#42973961)

    with a 'b' if he intends to go to and return from Mars.

    • by cstdenis (1118589)

      Who said anything about return?

    • with a 'b' if he intends to go to and return from Mars.

      You are off by a factor of a thousand. He would need to be a trillionaire, with a 't', and no individual human has ever come close to that. The Curiosity Rover Mission [wikipedia.org] cost about $2.5 billion, and that was for a go-and-stay robot. A go-and-return human mission is projected to cost over a trillion. A go-and-stay human mission might be done for $100 billion, but would require follow-on missions to be viable.

      • by DeBaas (470886) on Friday February 22, 2013 @02:57AM (#42976699) Homepage

        I believe that NASA needs to be a 'trillionaire'. No offence to NASA, but I believe that with the right idea and a smaller organisation it might actually be possible for much less money.

        • by Sockatume (732728)

          I have a hypothesis that NASA's at a disadvantage because the components of any manned mission have to be reusable parts of a larger-scale human space exploration strategy. They could go to the moon relatively easily back in the '60s because there was no "after Apollo". If the objective at the time had been to establish a permanent station orbiting Earth, then go to the moon, then establish a moon base etc. etc. then I dare say it would've taken longer to achieve any one step.

          Put another way, it's easier to

  • by LVSlushdat (854194) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:45PM (#42973963)

    If Dennis is got the $$$ to float this kind of a plan, why the hell doesn't he get onboard with the Mars-One group? They actually have a pretty fleshed-out plan to put human colonists on Mars starting in 2023. They could really use a large influx of $$$ to get their plan going.. From what I've read, they have it pretty well planned out to send the first 4 colonists to Mars in 2023, but still need a lot more sponsors/funding...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because this is about launching investments not spaceships.

      Either that or it's the old standby of crazy doesn't mix with crazy

    • by Sir or Madman (2818071) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:58PM (#42974067)

      The two ideas are perfectly compatible. Tito's mission could be a proof-of-concept for actually getting people out that far and back. The Mars-One people could learn from his mistakes.

      Correction: the The Mars-One people -must- learn from Tito's mistakes because there will be many and Mars-One has pretty lofty goals. Even going to our moon required baby steps, unmanned satellites, first dog in space, first person in orbit, etc.

    • by IdahoEv (195056) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @08:04PM (#42974129) Homepage

      The Mars One people have no intention to bring anyone home. Presumably Tito wants his ass back on the Earth someday.

      This is a farce anyway. Tito's net worth is more than a full order of magnitude too small for even the cheapest conceviable Mars mission.

      • by norpy (1277318) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @08:39PM (#42974383)

        You forget how deep the gravity well of mars is, It's not like the moon where you can pretty much just jump to put yourself into orbit around it.
        Mars is more like taking off from earth, and the weight of all that fuel would never make it out of *our* gravity well let alone landing it safely and taking off again at the other end.
        Until we have the ability to synthesize or mine more fuel at the other end of the trip and land a reusable launch module the trip to mars is one-way.

        This is either a plan for one-way mission or it's a scam (or both?)

        • by TrevorB (57780) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:31PM (#42974763) Homepage

          Apparently 2018 has an opportunity for a 501 day free-return trajectory. It could just be a flyby.

        • It is a FLY-BY. As such, it is MUCH cheaper to do.
        • Zubrin of the Mars Society already addressed this issue. You don't take the fuel with you, you make it on Mars. His plan is to send a "fuel factory" to Mars many months in advance. This machinery would extract fuel from the CO2 atmosphere. I don't recall the exact details, but might be as simple as separating the carbon and oxygen. He suggests powering it with nuclear reactors, but I wonder if solar would be better, if slower.

          As to Tito's plans, it's hard to say. There seems ample reason for cynicis

          • by tragedy (27079)

            Zubrin of the Mars Society already addressed this issue. You don't take the fuel with you, you make it on Mars. His plan is to send a "fuel factory" to Mars many months in advance. This machinery would extract fuel from the CO2 atmosphere. I don't recall the exact details, but might be as simple as separating the carbon and oxygen. He suggests powering it with nuclear reactors, but I wonder if solar would be better, if slower.

            The plan is to send an advance robot mission to make methane and oxygen for rocket fuel from the Martian atmosphere for the return trip. It could be made with Martian water, broken down with electrolysis, but Zubrin doesn't rely on being able to take advantage of in situ water. Instead, he suggests sending liquid hydrogen and a nuclear reactor. The hydrogen is reacted with CO2 extracted from the atmosphere to make methane and water through the Sabatier process, then the water is subjected to electrolysis to

        • by tragedy (27079) on Friday February 22, 2013 @02:47AM (#42976667)

          You don't seem to have actually read the post you're replying to. IdahoEV doesn't seem to have any illusions for you to correct.

          You seem to have some illusions about the relative difficulties of launching from various celestial bodies, however. First of all, you can't even get remotely close to orbiting the Moon by jumping there. Perhaps you were confusing our Moon with Deimos, where you really could pull that off with a good leap. On the moon, the minimum you need for orbit is about 1.5 km/s, which is a bit hard to achieve. You wouldn't be able to manage it even if you could jump tall buildings in a single bound back on Earth.

          The escape velocity of the Moon is about 2.4 km/s. The escape velocity of Mars is about 5 km/s. For Earth, it's about 11.2 km/s. So Mars has just over twice the escape velocity of the Moon and Earth has a bit more than twice the escape velocity of Mars. That makes taking off from Mars more like taking off from the Moon than it is like taking off from the Earth, especially so when you consider the near-vacuum of the atmosphere. The Apollo ascender was about 56% fuel by mass, but only had to achieve about 1.7 km/s to meet up with the command module. A Mars mission would similarly only need to achieve about 3.36 km/s (Mars Odyssey orbit, for reference). Using the ideal rocket equation, that means that a Mars ascender with comparable specific impulse to the Apollo ascender would need about a 3 to 1 propellant to payload ratio. That's idealized, of course. It might actually be something like 5 to 1. It's more than the Moon, but it's not some ridiculously unattainable ratio. We can also certainly get it out of our gravity well, even if we need to launch the lander dry and fill it in orbit. As far as landing goes, the thin atmosphere of Mars, while fairly launch friendly, still offers significant aerobraking potential. Enough that the amount of fuel you need for landing your lander + ascender + fuel for ascension shouldn't need to be more than the amount of fuel you need for ascension.

          Anyway, in the end, fuel is cheap in space travel. It's going to be something like 1% of the budget for even a big, dumb rocket. There clearly will be a lot needed for a Mars mission, but it's not one of those cases where the requirements rapidly grow ridiculously out of bounds and you need a mountain worth of fuel to send an apple there and back.

      • If executed by a wasteful government agency, sure. With clever outsourcing easily done.
      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Isn't it a slight flaw that you would require volunteers who were insane?

        When they got to Mars they'd probably decide to go naked sunbathing or something.

      • by Sigg3.net (886486)

        The Mars One people have no intention to bring anyone home.

        I can probably arrange this for 40% of the cost. Give me a call!
        ???
        Profit!!

    • 2018 is a good year. Mars will be at about 57 M miles. One has to wait until 2035 to do better and that's only a million miles closer. 2023 isn't a particularly good year.

    • Mars-one really is not that well thought out or fleshed out. In fact, I doubt that it will ever get off the ground. The fact that they want to use dragons to live in indicates that they will NEVER be taken seriously. Any plan that has ppl living on the surface will NEVER work. Not only do you have meteorites, BUT, you have large amounts of radiation. As such, unless you live underground, you will have a short life. In addition, they want the trans-habitat unit to be from thales. IOW, they want a unit from t
      • by tftp (111690)

        However, I would rather go to an asteroid that is say 1-2 months away and then come back after a week stay.

        The asteroid belt is farther than Mars. I guess you could do a flyby of one that is coming closer to Earth, but that is difficult because of wildly different speeds of your vehicle and the rock.

        However in every other aspect your plan is much better. Once you are in the Belt you can get by with minimum amount of fuel because gravity there is microscopic. The volume of the Belt is tremendous, and yo

        • Actually, we have LOADS of asteroids close to earth. BUT, as you say, we do not know all of them, their speeds, etc. However, NASA is now studying just that.
          BUT, Mars will never be that close to us. It will remain 6 months out, until we get nuke engines. So, I like the idea of putting a small base such as BA-330 on phobos for a short term stay, but more importantly, as a rescue ship. It might be possible to put one of these inside of a cavern there, and ideally seal the cavern. With a small nuke genarator,
      • The whole radiation exposure is suspect to begin with. One can surely die from a huge doze from acute radiation sickness, but chronic exposure not so much. There are hundreds of people who never left the mandatory exclusion zone around Chrenobyl who are doing just fine almost 30 years later.
        • There are hundreds of people who never left the mandatory exclusion zone around Chrenobyl who are doing just fine almost 30 years later.

          That's only because they can use their tentacle to harvest fish from the river
      • by tehcyder (746570)

        This would actually make it possible to put a BA-330 on Phobos.

        Geez, while you're there, why not just start teleportation experiments to Deimos?

  • He doesn't have the money.

  • by Hsien-Ko (1090623) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:58PM (#42974073)
    Did anyone else do a double take reading the headline?
  • by multiben (1916126) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @08:18PM (#42974241)
    We took 8 years to go from never having launched a man in a rocket to landing them on the moon and bringing them back safely. Although the scope of this mission is a lot bigger, we are also clued up on many aspects of space travel we had no idea about back then. 5 years is *ample* time to train a crew.
    • by careysub (976506) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:08PM (#42974591)

      You are right to point out the quibble of "no time to train the crew" is straining at a gnat.

      But you are having some trouble in trying to swallow the camel. Project Apollo cost $200 billion in current dollars to solve a much easier problem (an 8 day trip) compared to a year-and-a-half trip with an enormously larger delta-vee requirement (if you come back). Perhaps, in a similar national level high priority crash project, like the U.S. undertook in the "space race" it could be done in not much longer than 8 years. But you are looking at something exceeding the cost of Apollo.

      Yes, I know Mars One claims they have a plan for a one-way trip that will only cost 6 billion: "The six billion figure is the cost of all the hardware combined, plus the operational expenditures, plus margins." (Emphasis added.)

      But they also claim "This plan is built upon existing technologies available from proven suppliers." apparently blissfully unaware of the fact that (as rudy_wayne posted above) that no one knows how to build a workable re-entry system http://www.universetoday.com/7024/the-mars-landing-approach-getting-large-payloads-to-the-surface-of-the-red-planet/ [universetoday.com] . I guess if you wave away all of the really hard problems its all quite easy.

      They also don't address the costs of maintaining the colony in perpetuity - it saves on the really hard problem of return but creates a permanent multi-billion dollar annual obligation to the Earth to keep their colony of four people alive.

      • by multiben (1916126) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:14PM (#42975497)
        That "much easier problem" in the terms of the 1960s was just as big, if not bigger than a mars mission with today's understanding of space travel. We have already sent men into space for considerably longer than 8 days - in fact we'd already done that before we went to the moon. Granted, this is everything on a bigger scale, but the unknowns facing us are nothing compared to what we faced when we first put a man in a rocket.
      • Not really. An 8 day trip is almost as difficult as a trip to Mars. The only issue is one of supplies. Back then it was 100% consumable. Now, we can recycle a lot of it, esp. water and CO2/O2. But the life support issues are the same. The living space is the same issue. The protection from solar radiation is the same.
      • by PerMolestiasEruditio (1118269) on Friday February 22, 2013 @02:43AM (#42976659)

        They are planning a Mars fly-by so apart from the problem of providing life support for 500 days there is actually less deltaV required than for the Apollo moon missions because they don't need an extra 4.5km/s to land and takeoff from the moon's surface.

        Almost all the fuel will be used at earth escape, and only minimal maneuvering thrust from there on so a modified dragon capsule is probably capable of doing the job. Launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket that might cost less than $200 million in total (costs $140 million for a Falcon 9 Dragon launch to LEO).

        The dragon capsule can carry 6.6 tonnes of payload and is designed to survive in space for up to 2 years, so has more than enough capacity to support 2 people. And while some may claim that 2 people cannot survive in a capsule that big for a year and a half for psychological reasons, that is just bollocks - but it will be easier if they pick people with the right sort of temperament.

      • by tragedy (27079)

        with an enormously larger delta-vee requirement (if you come back)

        It's really only marginally larger. The majority of either a Mars mission or a Moon mission is getting off Earth in the first place. Mars does have twice the escape velocity of the moon, but you can save a lot of energy by aerobraking on Mars.

    • We took 8 years to go from never having launched a man in a rocket to landing them on the moon and bringing them back safely.

      Um... no. The development of the booster started a couple of years before the decision to go to the moon. The development of the engines for the booster started a couple of years before *that*. The capsule (but not the lander) was also well underway in study and development before the decision was made to go to the moon.

      Reality isn't like the neat progression you see in pop

      • by tragedy (27079)

        We took 8 years to go from never having launched a man in a rocket to landing them on the moon and bringing them back safely.

        Um... no. The development of the booster started a couple of years before the decision to go to the moon. The development of the engines for the booster started a couple of years before *that*. The capsule (but not the lander) was also well underway in study and development before the decision was made to go to the moon.

        Um... yes. At least, if you're talking about just the US and not the human race in general. May 5th, 1961, Alan Sheppard goes on a suborbital flight. July 20th, 1969, Armstrong and Aldwin walk on the moon. 8 years and 2 months. If you go back to Yuri Gagarin, you add another month. If you go all the way back to Sputnik 1, it's something like 11 and a half years from the first space launch to walking on the moon. Currently, it's 43 and a half years since that first moon walk. So, in 2 and a half years, it wi

        • In other words, 5 years should be ample time.

          In other words - you completely miss my point. Worse yet, such ignorance seems to be willing... faced with facts that don't accord with your world view, you simply ignore them and fall back on stupid semantic arguments.

          • by tragedy (27079)

            faced with facts that don't accord with your world view, you simply ignore them and fall back on stupid semantic arguments.

            Ok, sure. Because I am, after all, the one who responded to a simple statement of how long it took for the US to go from putting a man in space to putting some on the moon by disagreeing and bringing up almost unrelated points about other, previous, rocket development. No, actually that was you. I also wasn't arguing over semantics, I was arguing over facts. The simple fact is that the original poster you replied to was correct about how rapid the development of the Apollo program was. Now we have 4+ decade

  • While they have restricted access to the paper that describes how they are going to do this, what Tito is going to do has already been revealed. Most of the sentences in the summary are wrong. Yes the mission will include humans. No it will not be bringing anything beyond what is required to keep the astronaut(s) alive. Astronaut training? You could fly this mission yourself tomorrow if you had the dedication and the planets were aligned. Which they aren't, and won't be until 2018. Word is that this will be

    • It is poorly thought out. Instead, it should be one FH to take up a fueled booster and a Bigelow Sundancer. Then the second one brings up supplies and the crew. Once they have hooked up the dragon with the Sundancer, THEN they launch for mars.
    • Sign me up. 500 days in a tiny tin can bathed in interplanetary radiation sounds wonderful.

    • by tragedy (27079)

      If and when they return to Earth they will not be able to walk again without significant physical therapy and they will be known as the biggest bad-asses in the Solar System.

      Polyakov was walking on his own within a matter of hours after 437 days in microgravity. He surely received extensive physical therapy and large amounts of medical testing, but he didn't need any of it to walk again. Is there something magical about the microgravity when you're off around other planets that makes it worse than the microgravity in low Earth orbit?

  • by Type44Q (1233630) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @08:28PM (#42974307)

    ...will harbor supplies

    I'm wondering who they'd have to harbor these [presumably innocent] fugitive supplies from...

  • Hold on, let me pause for a moment to laugh. (pause) Ahh, that was funny. Seriously, try scraping together a couple of BILLION dollars before you start planning a mission to Mars, Mr. Moneybags.
    • by tftp (111690)

      A couple of million dollars will buy you one (1) space-rated instrument, like a navigational aid, or a simple engine, or something else of that scale. It often takes about a million dollars to design a product here, on Earth, that is not even certified for aviation use. One engineer over one year will cost you about $250K, so four engineers over one year will eat your million just in salary - without having any money left for materials, tools, services, licenses, or just for rent of the building where they

  • Welcome our new billionaire overlords... oh8!
  • by darth_borehd (644166) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @08:58PM (#42974507)

    With this millionaire and the Mars One group planning a trip in 2023, has anybody thought of the contamination this might cause.

    NASA and space agencies around the world have been trying to find life, or evidence life once existed, on Mars for years. If we have several independent groups landing their own spacecraft, is there a chance they might careless contaminate Mars with Earth microbes, thus throwing any future findings into question?

    • Screw worrying about contaminating mars. I would be MUCH more worried about a 2-way trip that brings back bugs to earth. Any mission to mars should be a one-way, or at least a 2-way with at least 10 years stay on mars.
    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:58AM (#42976141) Homepage Journal

      Yes and it would take hundreds to thousands of years to explore all of Mars as a sterile experiment. We shouldn't wait that long to go there.

    • by Neil Boekend (1854906) on Friday February 22, 2013 @05:31AM (#42977339)
      I advocate the reverse: Introduce some radiation-hardened plants that can survive in a low-oxygen atmosphere on purpose. Let them spread and prepare the planet for future colonization. We have checked for life, there isn't any.
      Creating an oxygen rich atmosphere on Mars will probably take centuries, so we should start now.
      • radiation-hardened plants that can survive in a low-oxygen atmosphere

        The plants also need to be able to grow in 8.3ph soil. And need (almost?) no water, and less than half the sunlight. That's getting to be a pretty tall order.

  • FFS, do we even have anywhere near the reliable tech to send humans on a 6mth+ journey through space, with any hope in hell of getting there alive, much less landing in 1 piece, much less get back to earth (if that's even on the cards)...?

  • OTOH, add a dragon to a bigelow sundancer, than maybe. But you want the life support system to be duplicates of each other.
    Still this idea of sending to mars AND BACK bugs me. It should be a one-way mission. The reaon is that the return trip will normally be very slow.
  • somebody told Mitt that Mars is really Kolob?

  • What!? 4 + years is not enough to train someone to go to Mars?

    Come on, I've been to many places in Mexico and most Caribbean islands, I'm ready to go to Mars tomorrow!

    I mean, if one can survive those trips, going to Mars is walk in the park...

    Return? Who the hell wants to get back to this shithole?

    Mars or bust!

  • Could someone please create a website where we petition all governments to join this effort and turn this into a human mission to Mars in 5 years time.
  • There will be one less millionaire on planet Earth then cause he won't survive the trip or will come back as a massive tumor.

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