"Send Two People, Take Everyone"
|Founded||January 25, 2013|
|Type||501(c)(3) (pending, as of April 2013[update])|
Dennis Tito |
Inspiration Mars Foundation is an American nonprofit organization founded by Dennis Tito that proposed to launch a manned mission to flyby Mars in January 2018, or 2021 if they missed the first deadline. Their website became defunct by late 2015 but it is archived by the Internet Archive. The Foundation's future plans are unclear.
On 27 February 2013, the Inspiration Mars Foundation held a press conference in the National Press Club to announce their plan to procure space hardware, launch vehicle services, and select a two-person married couple as crew, and then attempt to raise the funding necessary to launch a mission to Mars in 2018. Dennis Tito said he was going to fund the foundation with $100 million for the first years of operation.
At the 2013 conference, however, Dennis Tito indicated that the plan was impossible without significant investment from NASA and the use of NASA spacecraft. NASA, however, was an unwilling partner.
The total cost of the mission was projected to be between US$1 and US$2 billion. Tito planned to fund the foundation's cost for the first two years. Then, the foundation planned to raise funds from industry and individuals.
However, in testimony before congress in November 2013, Tito indicated that he expected private donors to only provide around $300 million, leaving the need for an additional investment of $700 million from the US government. NASA responded that whilst they were willing to share technical and programmatic expertise with Inspiration Mars, they were unable to commit to sharing expenses with them. The foundation's funding model, dependent on an unwilling partner, was broken.
In March 2014, SpaceX indicated that they had also been contacted by Inspiration Mars, but that accommodating such requirements would require some additional work and that such work was not a part of the current focus of SpaceX.
The plans that were never funded, were based on free-return and would allow the spacecraft to use the smallest possible amount of fuel to get it to Mars and return to Earth. Leaders of the Foundation stated that In 2018, the planets would align, offering a rare orbit opportunity to travel to Mars and return to Earth in 501 days. Before their presence disappeared from the web, they had set the first mission target launch for January 5, 2018.
Their backup plan in case the first plan failed was called "Plan B" and involved a mission that would begin in 2021 but be 88 days longer in duration. They stated it would require both a fly-by of Venus and a fly-by of Mars. They promised the flight would take the craft to within 800 kilometres of the surface of Venus, using the planet in a Gravity assist to speed the onward travel to Mars.
According to a peer-reviewed paper written by Dennis Tito Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), "the mission would require no maneuvers except small course corrections after a trans-Martian injection burn, [and] would allow no aborts. ... [It will] use low-Earth-orbit launch and human-spacecraft technology, outfitted for the long duration of a flight to Mars."
They speculated that when the spacecraft returned to Earth it would enter the atmosphere at 50 000 km per hour (ca 13.9 km/s), which was faster than any previous return.
During the 16th Annual International Mars Society Convention, the Mars Society announced the launch of an international engineering competition for student teams to propose design concepts for the architecture of the Inspiration Mars mission. The contest was open to university engineering student teams. The design contest took place on August 9, 2014, and was won by an international team from Purdue and Keio University.
A spokesman for NASA stated that "Inspiration Mars's proposed schedule is a significant challenge due to life support systems, space radiation response, habitats and the human psychology of being in a small spacecraft for over 500 days", but that "we remain open to further collaboration as their proposal and plans for a later mission develop". John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University's Space Policy Institute, also found the short preparation time-frame wanting, saying that it is "totally implausible" for a mission to be launched in 2018, although the"Plan B" mission might be possible "if the stars align".
It is unclear whether the Foundation is still in operation as their website is now defunct.
At a news conference in Washington, D.C., Tito said he's tired of waiting for NASA to send humans to Mars, and that he'd help finance the between $1 and $2 billion needed to complete the mission.
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