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Dennis Tito's 2018 Mars Mission To Be Manned 233

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-nominate-shatner-and-nimoy dept.
Last Thursday, we discussed news that millionaire Dennis Tito was planning a private mission to Mars in 2018, but details were sparse. Now, reader RocketAcademy writes that Tito has provided more information about the tip, and that he intends the mission to be manned: "Dennis Tito, the first citizen space explorer to visit the International Space Station, has created the Inspiration Mars Foundation to raise funds for an even more dramatic mission: a human flyby of the planet Mars. Tito, a former JPL rocket scientist who later founded the investment firm Wilshire Associates, proposes to send two Americans — a man and a woman — on a 501-day roundtrip mission which would launch on January 5, 2018. Technical details of the mission can be found in a feasibility analysis (PDF), which Tito is scheduled to present at the IEEE Aerospace Conference in March. Former NASA flight surgeon Dr. Jonathon Clark, who is developing innovative ways of dealing with radiation exposure during the mission, called the flight 'an Apollo 8 moment for the next generation.'"
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Dennis Tito's 2018 Mars Mission To Be Manned

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  • by nweaver (113078) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @10:53PM (#43030783) Homepage

    Whats the point? You're shoving many extra tons (between person and life support), and you have to put it on an orbit that brings it back home, and for a payload that can do little more than look out the window and go "ohh, pretty" while being irradiated for years outside of the protection of the Earth's magnetic field.

    Even if the mission goes 100% to plan, the cancer risk alone is probably a death sentence for the two passengers.

    • by fufufang (2603203) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @11:08PM (#43030879)

      Whats the point? You're shoving many extra tons (between person and life support), and you have to put it on an orbit that brings it back home, and for a payload that can do little more than look out the window and go "ohh, pretty" while being irradiated for years outside of the protection of the Earth's magnetic field.

      Even if the mission goes 100% to plan, the cancer risk alone is probably a death sentence for the two passengers.

      Q: "Why climb Mount Everest?"
      A: "Because it is there."

      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @11:25PM (#43031001)

        Q: "Why climb Mount Everest?"
        A: "Because it is there."

        That was a reason to climb the mountain, not walk around it. Landing people on Mars would enable them to do a lot of scientific exploration. A fly-by is pointless. We would learn nothing about Mars that couldn't be done with an unmanned orbiter. We would learn nothing about humans in space that we couldn't learn in Earth orbit.

        • by Smallpond (221300)

          Consider it the Apollo 10 of Mars exploration.

        • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:05AM (#43031467)

          We would learn nothing about Mars that couldn't be done with an unmanned orbiter. We would learn nothing about humans in space that we couldn't learn in Earth orbit.

          We will learn that in 2018 you can buy, privately, enough hardware to fly to Mars.

          Around the same time, there will be a company selling private space stations for less than some people spend on second homes. (Or on racing yachts. Or unstable private artificial islands.) Some billionaires gamble (ie, lose) more each year (for fun) than it will cost to orbit the moon, in a couple of years.

          Tito will spend less than one third of one year's worth of the ISS budget. Or 1/70th of the estimated development cost of the SLS. Or about the same cost as a Shuttle mission (depending on what you count.)

          To fly past Mars. Just because he feels like it.

          Double the cost of this Mars flyby and you could put human boots on Phobos. That's well within the spending power of any modest developing nation. From hardware purchased privately and available to anyone. A basic lunar base for a couple of billion. A flyby of Jupiter for $3-5b.

          The world changed, and the world's national space agencies are still playing with dead rats in the gutter pretending they have a space program.

          • We will learn that in 2018 you can buy, privately, enough hardware to fly to Mars.

            That's an assumption (one of many in your post) not a fact (notably absent in your post) - there is a difference between the two.

        • by fufufang (2603203) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:11AM (#43031485)

          Q: "Why climb Mount Everest?"
          A: "Because it is there."

          That was a reason to climb the mountain, not walk around it. Landing people on Mars would enable them to do a lot of scientific exploration. A fly-by is pointless. We would learn nothing about Mars that couldn't be done with an unmanned orbiter. We would learn nothing about humans in space that we couldn't learn in Earth orbit.

          Well, people don't live on top of Mount Everest. They come back home. Dismissing the significance of this mission is like dismissing the significance of Apollo 8.

        • We would learn nothing about humans in space that we couldn't learn in Earth orbit.

          I would not be so certain of that.

        • by gsslay (807818)

          We would learn nothing about Mars that couldn't be done with an unmanned orbiter. We would learn nothing about humans in space that we couldn't learn in Earth orbit.

          So I guess humanity should just stop doing stuff that we already think we know the answers to. You have absolutely no idea what might be learned, and nor does anyone else until it's tried.

      • by TedRiot (899157)

        Q: "Why climb Mount Everest?" A: "Because it is there."

        Sometimes also in form of "Because I can", which is almost equivalent

    • Sure, except most people don't seem to care much for the Mars missions that curently do take place. However, sending a human there might well be enough of an "Apollo 8" moment to reignite peoples interest in going to Mars - possibly even enough to fire up another space race.

      Also, if we're ever to colonise Mars, we must start sometime to work out those logistics problems that you mentioned. So why not now?

      • Also, if we're ever to colonise Mars, we must start sometime to work out those logistics problems that you mentioned. So why not now?

        Efficiency, mostly. All medical research must eventually have human(or sometimes veterinary) application to count as useful; but humans are lousy enough research subjects(ethical whining, long lifespans, tendency to wander off and introduce uncontrolled variables, etc.) so we generally start with something simpler and cheaper, that can be run on a much vaster scale with the same money.

        In the same vein, if we were serious about confronting the challenges of building self-sustaining colony type environments,

        • by dbIII (701233)

          we could probably run 100 sealed-building experiments in parallel on earth

          There's been quite a few of those done, including a Russian one where Xeon was used as a filler gas instead of Nitrogen with the Mars atmosphere in mind. It would be very difficult to make a perfect copy of Earth air from the gas available on Mars so that's why they were looking into the long term effects of something that would be a bit easier to put together.

      • If we're ever to colonize mars, we're going to need to find a way to restart its magnetic field. Whole process is moot without it, the magnetic field is what keeps solar wind/radiation from stripping the atmosphere off of earth, and the lack thereof is why mars atmosphere is so thin and useless.
      • by Jeremi (14640)

        However, sending a human there might well be enough of an "Apollo 8" moment to reignite peoples interest in going to Mars - possibly even enough to fire up another space race.

        Contrariwise, it might well end up as more of a "Challenger disaster" moment, with all hands lost and a corresponding loss of public confidence in the feasibility of manned space exploration. But I guess that's the risk you gotta take...

    • by SpeedBump0619 (324581) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @11:13PM (#43030929)

      Yeah, you know we should have saved all the money on the whole Gemini program and Apollos 1-10 and just gone straight to the moon. This iterative approach to new discovery is for the birds.

    • by sconeu (64226) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @11:16PM (#43030941) Homepage Journal

      A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?

      -- Robert Browning

    • by CRCulver (715279)
      Agreed. It's wasteful to try to develop all this tech for biological organisms to survive in space, when in a few decades the human race will reach the Singularity and then will be able explore space considerably more easily in machine bodies.
    • by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @11:37PM (#43031047)

      Even if the mission goes 100% to plan, the cancer risk alone is probably a death sentence for the two passengers.

      It's right there in the article:

      The expected total radiation exposure is below NASA’s accepted lifetime limit for a middle-aged crew, Dr. Clark said. Clark expects that radiation exposure would result in a 3% excess cancer risk over the crew’s lifetime.

      You may dispute the numbers (but I don't see how you could, given that the details of the spacecraft aren't known), but I think many people would be willing to take that risk - smokers probably face worse cancer odds than that.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        They're in very risky territory. Outside the earth's magnetosphere, things are much much worse than LEO.(where pretty much every astronaut except the Apollo ones spend all their time.)

        There is a good paper on it here:
        http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20070010704_2007005310.pdf

        They estimate a dose of 1.03 Sv for a 600 d mars flyby, which would be just over the lifetime limit for most space agencies.

        Also:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_threat_from_cosmic_rays

        5% brain death seems like a

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      What's the point?

      Not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

      Also, we might find out how is space babby formed.

  • Pissed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @10:54PM (#43030803) Homepage

    Stories like this sort of pisses me off. There are a lot cool things we could be doing if, as a nation, America used it's wealth for good instead of evil. But we'd rather spend trillions enriching the very few via wars/police state crap to prevent fewer deaths than dog bites cause (*), or on bailouts for the very rich and unscrupulous. What a fucking waste.

    * http://thinkprogress.org/security/2011/08/25/304113/chart-only-15-americans-died-from-terrorism-last-year-less-than-from-dog-bites-or-lightning-strikes/?mobile=nc [thinkprogress.org]

    • by Jeremi (14640)

      But we'd rather spend trillions enriching the very few via wars/police state crap to prevent fewer deaths than dog bites cause (*)

      If only 15 Americans died from terrorism last year, doesn't that mean the prevention is working? ;^)

      • by anagama (611277)

        I know your comment is tongue in cheek, but it won't be seen that way by many. The fact is, there is no amount of money that can be spent to prevent all terrorism. There is certainly some amount that it is wise to spend, but the edge cases will always make it through. I'm thinking of Breivik or McVeigh/Nichols -- Lone Wolf types. We should just accept that within reason, like how we wear seat belts and have airbags in cars. The utility of vehicles causes to accept some rational risk despite the fact th

    • Going to Mars is evil? Sign me up.
  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @10:56PM (#43030817) Journal

    The ship comes back with an extra passenger or two..

    • It will probably come back with a few micrometerites embedded in its hull.

    • by serbanp (139486)

      giving birth in space? they better stock up on baby formula too when planning the life support cargo...

      • by 0dugo0 (735093)

        Don't let the breastapo hear this. The breast milk mafia has enough political clout to ban spaceflight with an insufficient stock of breasts.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Um, how much do you know about the female body?
    • The ship comes back with an extra passenger or two..

      It's a good thing that flippers might actually work in low-density fluids at zero G; because fetuses are total wimps about radiation...

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      The ship comes back with an extra passenger or two..

      I don't think any responsible parent would attempt to conceive a child in high-radiation conditions. They'll probably use implantable birth control to prevent any unwanted "accidents".

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @11:06PM (#43030859) Homepage Journal

    Landing and living on Mars might actually be safer than a cruise back to Earth and a 10g landing, after two years of microgravity. A better idea would be to send older people, land them on Mars and schedule resupply missions.

    • Given the cost of sending somebody, sending an old person seems like a very unwise investment in terms of expected mission years per dollar...

      You'd pretty much want the youngest you could get, subject to the restriction that they be old enough to exhibit basic human competence and keep the ethicists off your back... The communications delay is short enough that subject matter experts can be consulted from earth, and RF is much cheaper than meat when it comes to shipping 'wisdom and experience' across interp

      • You'd pretty much want the youngest you could get

        Yeah but then you have to commit to keeping them alive for longer, in this scenario.

        • Or just make sure that they don't find the 'tragic accident circuit' or die in some particularly low-PR way before you have need to trigger said circuit.

          It wouldn't do at all to have hours of increasingly labored gasping, crying, and inchoate begging broadcast across the globe; but some young explorers with stars in their eyes becoming the first humans to (as aseptically and off-stage as possible) lay down their lives in the noble cause of Space Exploration? Bring on the hagiographic documentaries...

        • old people are harder to keep alive. Ever try to do tech support for your grandmother over the phone? now imagine trying to walk her through a medical procedure like a heart stint with a 20 minute communication delay. The elderly (age 65 and over) made up around 13 percent of the U.S. population in 2002, but they consumed 36 percent of total U.S. personal health care expenses. That number has only gone up in the last 11 years, thanks to an aging baby boomer generation. And you want to send them to mars?
          • old people are harder to keep alive

            But they will have less time for the long term consequences of radiation exposure to be an issue. I agree with your arguments about health though. The right people would need to be sent.

            • by CAIMLAS (41445)

              Radiation?

              Dude, it's going to take them 2 years in hermetically sealed microgravity to get there! I'm 30, and I've not had the need for a doctor in over a decade. My grandmother has been going to the doctor almost every month since she was 60 for one reason or another (and she's 80 now), and she's a healthy old person, comparably.

              Dying from radiation poisoning is the least of their concerns for something like this. Simply dying of what would amount to 'exposure' is probably pretty high on the list. Sending

          • by Panoramix (31263)

            I think the point is, if you're going to put people on a rocket and shoot them to Mars, in the understanding that, no matter what happens, they're going to die there, won't ever see Earth again, it might just be easier to find takers, and generally to sell this idea to the public, if you aim for 60+ aged who already lived their lives here.

            I know people that age who are still in great shape, and maybe some would be willing to set off for one last adventure. Who knows. Tough one, that.

            • by tftp (111690)

              if you're going to put people on a rocket and shoot them to Mars, in the understanding that, no matter what happens, they're going to die there, won't ever see Earth again

              Then your best choice would be dead people. They don't need any life support, and they won't die again in the middle of the mission. They will do just as good as anyone else, after being confined to a small tin can for a year. A flyby? They are ideal for that, considering how much work they need to do on the way there and back.

              • by Panoramix (31263)

                Yes, but if the whole point is to learn how to keep people alive up there, the dead are rather limited use. Not very photogenic either, for the obligatory shot of some guy planting a flag.

                • by tftp (111690)

                  Yes, but if the whole point is to learn how to keep people alive up there

                  There is very little to learn. We already had ground simulations of the flight, and they were generally unsatisfactory. Humans cannot sit in a tin can for two years and retain sanity. That alone overwhelms all the other issues, of which there are many. The best solution for keeping humans alive during the flight to Mars is to make the flight short - say, a day, or two. Until that happens nobody in his right mind should spend years o

                  • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:55AM (#43031677)

                    There is very little to learn. We already had ground simulations of the flight, and they were generally unsatisfactory. Humans cannot sit in a tin can for two years and retain sanity. That alone overwhelms all the other issues, of which there are many

                    Russia, the EU and China conducted a joint simulation with mission lengths of 15, 105 and 520 day durations. After the 520 day mission:

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MARS-500#Experiment_stages [wikipedia.org]

                    The 520-day final stage of the experiment, which was intended to simulate a full-length manned mission, began in 3 June 2010 and ended on 4 November 2011.[8][9][10] This stage was conducted by a six-man international crew, consisting of three Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian/ Colombian and a Chinese citizen.[10] The stage included a simulation of a manned Mars landing, with three simulated Mars-walks carried out on 14, 18 and 22February 2011.[11][12] The experiment ended on 4 November 2011, with all the participants reportedly in optimal physical and psychological condition.[10]

                    In January 2013, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that four of the six crew members had considerable problems sleeping, and some avoided exercise and would hide away from the others, in behaviour compared to animal hibernation.[13]

                    Insomnia and exercise avoidance doesn't sound all that unsatisfactory. Though I don't think it's possible to truly simulate a mission to Mars here on Earth when the participants know that if things go very bad, they are just an escape hatch away from help. I think the only way to do a true simulation would be if the participants really thought that they were in a space capsule, which is pretty hard to do when gravity gives it away.

                    They had 6000 volunteers for the long mission - I suspect that an actual mission to mars will result in many more volunteers, despite the risks.

                    • by tftp (111690)

                      Yes, I was referring to that experiment, and I was aware of the outcome. IMO it is "generally unsatisfactory" because you cannot have astronauts in such psychological condition anywhere. One angry or suicidal man can kill everyone. Even if he kills himself, what to do with his body? Stuff him into a spacesuit and hope that it is airtight for a year? What nerves of carbon nanotubes you must have to eat, live and relax a foot or two away from a decomposed body?

                      There were other experiments as well, also on

                  • by Panoramix (31263)

                    Um. Alright. I wasn't really commenting on Tito's plan, but rather on MichaelSmith's notion of a one-way trip, at the start of this thread (which, btw, has been proposed, seriously). But sure, let's get serious if you want.

                    I do see a point in sending meatbags to Mars. Not for the sake of a flyby, or that joke about the flag, but ultimately to attempt to live in Mars for extended periods of time. Staying in Mars, in some sort of habitat, establish a permanent presence in another planet. I think achieving thi

                    • by tftp (111690)

                      I wasn't really commenting on Tito's plan, but rather on MichaelSmith's notion of a one-way trip, at the start of this thread (which, btw, has been proposed, seriously)

                      I remember seeing that, but that is even more ridiculous :-)

                      So I'm not quite sure, when you say "Humans cannot sit in a tin can for two years and retain sanity", what are you basing this opinion on?

                      Mir and ISS operators were always, at all times, 1 hour away from Earth. They could always jump into Soyuz, press a button and within an h

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        No, for something like this, you'd probably want a young adult at the youngest. Hopefully you can find those who are either biologically or culturally unable/unwilling to have children, as such drives are somewhat disruptive to plans. Eunices or priests, maybe? Or just common IT types and a hooker or two...

        If you send old people, they will lack the drive and creativity young people do. For this specific case, 35 might as well be "old".

        If you send people much younger than 18, you're going to run into a probl

  • How about instead of people, we send a few robots and some self-contained factories with which to build more. Once things are up and running, we can start constructing a base via remote control.

    • by tftp (111690)

      How about instead of people, we send a few robots and some self-contained factories with which to build more.

      Do that here, on Earth, first. It would be even easier, given that we know a lot about this planet. Make a robot that, once dropped off in, say, Himalayas, will do whatever is necessary to assemble another one. When that happens we will discuss flying such a robot to Mars.

      IMO, it would be a challenge to even find one human - or one group of humans - who'd be able to pull that off. Many alternati

  • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @11:36PM (#43031039) Journal

    The problem is that Earthrise [wikipedia.org] is going to be kinda lame [blogspot.com].

    • Plenty more great views to share though. The crew of this vehicle will be the first to see the solar system from a totally different perspective.

    • The problem is that Earthrise [wikipedia.org] is going to be kinda lame [blogspot.com].

      At least you get an 'Earthrise' on Mars, you can't do that s*** on the Moon.

      • by Jeremi (14640)

        At least you get an 'Earthrise' on Mars, you can't do that s*** on the Moon.

        Sure you can. Start on the "dark side" of the moon and start walking in a straight line. Eventually you will see the Earth rise. (As an added bonus, you can make the Earth sink back down again simply by retracing your steps -- what power!)

  • I hope this gets actually done soon, so we can call it a day and get back to more interesting concepts like building a base in the south pole of the moon (using robot), or trying to build space elevators, or placing shades in the L1 point to regulate global warming, or, you know, maybe funding actual science (e.g. gravitational wave detectors, and plenty of other very cool missions).

  • Where does one sign up?

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:53AM (#43031663) Journal

    Have they done a similar study for a Venus flyby? The launch dates might be more forgiving, the target a bit closer, the trip length might be a shorter and the delta-V requirements a bit less. Most important maybe the earth re-entry requirements would be a little less extreme. It is a 14km/sec aero-capture maneuver prior to re-entry that would, in some scenarios, put the vehicle in an elliptical, battery power only, 10-day trajectory beyond the moon (not to mention abusing the heat shield TWICE) just to reduce G-forces!. And there's only a 6km entry "window" between burn-up and bouncing off the atmosphere on an escape trajectory!

    I mean since this trip is mainly a (very useful) test of long duration deep space flight with very limited "observation" of an already well-studied planet (there are currently three orbiters and two rovers on Mars), does it really matter which planet we flyby? Since the trajectory for this mission already takes it inward almost to Venus' orbit, they will be exposed to the same levels of solar heat (and radiation). Mars is, of course, more relevant for future long term exploration but other than the P.R. value there is not much more that would be gained over going to it versus Venus.

    On the other hand, if somebody forks up the money for this tomorrow, please ignore everything I said. Mars or bust!

  • Seriously. On a 501-day trip, intercourse will happen at some point. If it gets too wild, she could get pregnant. And having a baby in the middle of such a mission will be a major catastrophee. They should really make sure that the two humans in this mission are sterile. I don't see it worth of taking any chances.

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