Today Dennis Tito told the world that he will send humans to Mars in 2018, exactly 500 years after Magellan started out to navigate our planet for the very first time. A daring mission that would demonstrate to all human kind that we have reached the technological level to go to Mars. Ofcourse the challenge of landing humans of Mars is another step in that vision, but getting humans to Mars and safely back to Earth again is already a fine example of human engineering.
Dennis Tito will talk about this fly-by of Mars on the Humans to Mars summit from 6-8 May 2013 that Explore Mars is organising. If you want to talk to Dennis about his plan, register for the conference and take advantage of the opportunity to talk to the man behind Inspiration Mars.
If you are wondering what the crew flying over Mars could be seeing, enjoy the below image of Ophir Chasma as seen from a cupola on a spacecraft traveling around Mars. Although as the crew will flying around the dark side of Mars (with no sunlight highlighting the features on the surface, they will have night goggles to be able to see such a sight.
The Inspiration Mars Free return mission is based on the idea of performing free-return lunar double swing-by missions using a modified Dragon spacecraft occupied by three crew members as part of a commercial mission.
This led to the identification of a possible 501-day free-return Mars fly-by in January, 2018 executed by professional astronauts. Financing of this Mars-Flyby would come from philanthropic and possibly some government sources.
This Inspiration Mars free-return mission would be low cost and much simpler than the Apollo and other crewed missions, but it would be reminiscent of the Apollo 8 flyby of the Moon in January 1968. The probability of success would be high but the challenges in meeting the funding and time schedule would be great.
The project team is committed to start the program at the level required to achieve a January 5, 2018 launch date.
2018 is a year where Mars is again on a close approach to Earth (60 milion kilometres) making a 1.4 years duration of this fly-by of Mars possible. To use this opportunity the launch must have occurred by Jan 5, 2018
A 501-day “free-return” Mars flyby passing within a hundred miles of the surface of Mars will done by a single launch with only small correction maneuvers during transit. Having a simple mission architecture lowers the risk as there are no critical manoeuvres needed nor is there a need to enter into Mars atmosphere.
One man and one woman, both United States Citizens, will be selected from professional crew, although they will fly as private citizens. Both will have to be exceptionally hands-on and knowledgeable about spacecraft systems and will have demonstrated the right explorer spirit. Next to that they will have demonstrated their ability to function in isolated/confined environment.
The Falcon 9 Heavy is scheduled to be tested in 2013 for the first time. Falcon 9 Heavy is a man-rated rocked design of bringing 53,000 kg to LEO or 10,000 kg to Mars for this mission. Launch and trajectory to Mars will be achieved with a single burn Earth Departure Energy (C3) of 38.8 km2/s2 feasible with Falcon 9 Heavy. As this mission uses a free-return trajectory the upper stage of the Falcon 9 Heavy can stay attached for shielding the crew. The mission will use an inflatable habitat module deployed after launch and detached prior to re-entry in Earth’s atmosphere. All primary vehicle systems except long-duration Environmental Control and Life Support (ECLSS) have an existence proof
The Environmental Control and Life Support (ECLS) used will be directly derived from NASA state-of-the-art ISS technologies and will be designed in such a way that all components will be easily accessible for maintenance. All water and air will be recycled for re-use.
Over the years a lot of discussions have centered on the radiation risks of a crew en route to Mars. The proposed mission takes advantage of the solar minimum occurring in 2018-19 as this gives lower solar particle events (SPE) frequency, albeight also giving higher galactic cosmic rays (GCR) flux. Mild shielding will mitigate any acute SPE dose.
The expert consensus is that the radiation risk is manageable. To minimise the risk the upper stage & propellant residuals will be used to shield the crew by placing the water storage in such a way as to give maximum protection. The crew will also use dietary measures to counteract any radiation damage and will use pharmaceuticals.
The Inspiration Mars Organization o501(c)(3) non-profit, funded by private donations, is partnering with known experts like Paragon Space Development, Applied Defense Solutions, Space Exploration Engineering Corp. and NASA Ames Research Center
Jon Clark, M.D. will serve in the capacity of Chief Medical Officer
There is already widespread interest in this mission by partners in the public outreach domain. The Challenger Center, with their over 40 Learning Centers located across the USA intent to actively participate in the early ground testing with live broadcasts. National Geographic Society intend to bring this mission to their public. There are partnerships with the National Space Society and with Blue Marble Institute all to bring this mission to as wide an audience as possible.
This mission aims to inspire the American people and put space back on the front page across America, to fortify American dominance in a new space frontier and validate decades of NASA technology investment, using the best of NASA’s skills and infrastructure. The mission embraces the private/public cooperation with the aim to accelerate the President’s mission for NASA