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Huge Interest in Manned Mars Mission
April 16, 2013

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The official application process hasn't begun yet, but many people have expressed strong interest in being part of a crew on the first human mission to Mars.

Dennis Tito, the first space tourist, made another pitch for the Inspiration Mars Foundation and its 501-day flyby mission to the Red Planet, planned for January 2018. The mission, announced in February, would send two crew members, a man and a woman, to Mars and back at a time when the Sun is farthest away, so that solar radiation would be at a minimum.

The spacecraft, which will be the size of a large van, will travel within 100 miles of the surface of Mars but won't touchdown on the surface or even go into orbit because the craft won't be equipped with propulsion systems needed to complete such maneuvers. No spacewalks are planned. Onboard scientific experiments will be minimal. The whole idea is to get there and back, said Tito, speaking at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Tito has vowed to cover all costs himself for the first two years of the projected four-year mission, with donated funds and maybe even Congressional funding picking up the rest of the tab. One possibility is a modification of the SpaceX Dragon capsule, which recently returned from its first successful cargo delivery to the International Space Station.

Applications will open in 2014.

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