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Thread: Private Sector sending Older Couple to Mars - 2018

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    Default Private Sector sending Older Couple to Mars - 2018

    27 February 2013 Last updated at 13:01 ET US private sector hopes to send older couple to Mars

    By Pallab Ghosh Science correspondent, BBC News
    The mission would loop around Mars, but would not land

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    A team led by millionaire and former space tourist Dennis Tito plans to send a "tested couple" to Mars and back in a privately funded mission.
    The Inspiration Mars Foundation plans to start its one-and-a-half-year mission in January 2018.

    The foundation has carried out a study which it says shows that it is feasible to achieve such a mission using existing technology.
    The group still has to raise funding for their mission.

    “Start Quote
    I can attest from personal experience that having somebody that you really deeply trust and care for was an extraordinary thing to have”
    Jane Poynter Paragon Space Development Corporation

    Among those involved in the project is Jane Poynter, who spent two years locked away in a sealed ecosystem with seven other people in 1991 which she described as a "New Age Garden of Eden".

    She told BBC News that the mission planners wanted the crew to consist of an older couple whose relationship would be able to withstand the stress of living in a confined environment for two years.

    "I can attest from personal experience from living in Biosphere 2 that having somebody that you really deeply trusted and cared for was an extraordinary thing to have," Ms Poynter explained.

    Ms Poynter, who ended up marrying one of those involved in the Biosphere 2 project, Taber Macallum, admitted that it could be "challenging" for the couple. But said that the selection process would attempt to find "resilient people that would be able to maintain a happy upbeat attitude in the face of adversity".

    The plan was to choose a middle-aged couple because their health and fertility would be less affected by the radiation they would be exposed to during such a long space mission.

    Dennis Tito flew to the space station in 2001 as a tourist

    The couple would receive extensive training and would be able to draw on psychological support from mission control throughout the mission.
    Ms Poynter's expectation is that a couple journeying to Mars would be "inspirational".

    "We want the crew of vehicle to represent humanity," she said. "We want the youth of the world to be reflected in this crew and for girls as well as boys to have role models".

    Space historian, Prof Christopher Riley of Lincoln University, believes that sending a couple to Mars might be a good idea.

    "The idea of sending older astronauts on longer duration missions, after they have had children, has been around for a while. The reasoning is that such a long duration mission, outside of the protective magnetosphere of the Earth, could leave them infertile," he said.

    "Married couples have occasionally flown in space before, on short flights, and it seemed to work well, so why not."
    Continue reading the main story “Start Quote

    It takes mavericks like Tito to create pivot points in history where significant things happen”
    Prof Christopher Riley Lincoln University

    However results emerging from the so-called Mars500 project suggests that even carefully screened individuals are likely to suffer from psychological problems from a prolonged space mission.

    The mission will be a straightforward flight to the Red Planet and return without landing. This greatly reduces the cost of the mission. The Mars Inspiration team believe that it is technically possible to launch such a mission in five years' time.

    The Mars Inspiration team is aiming for a January 2018 launch because it coincides with a close alignment of Mars and Earth, such that a round trip would take about a year-and-a half, or 501 days - whereas outside of this window such a trip might take two or three years .

    Many believe that new technologies will need to be developed to deal with the extended periods of radiation such a trip would involve and to cope with supplying food and water for the crew.

    The Mars Inspiration team says that it has carried out a feasibility study for the mission which it plans to release on Sunday. Anu Ojha, from the British National Space Centre in Leicester has seen the study.

    He says that it is theoretically possible to go to Mars and back using the Dragon and Falcon Heavy systems manufactured by California-based firm SpaceX.

    Loo roll crunch

    But conditions would be squeezed and spartan, with no room for pressurised space suits. The report suggests that 1,360kg of dehydrated food will be enough to last the journey and the manifest includes 28kg of toilet paper for a crew of 2 for 500 days.

    But the issue of radiation protection according to Mr Ojha is "glossed over" with the recognition that more work and "creative solutions" need to be explored. More work will also need to done to improve recycling technologies to convert urine into water.

    The man leading the venture is Denis Tito, who paid 20 million dollars to become the first "tourist" in space. He spent six days on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001.

    The millionaire is financing part of the project but much more money needs to be raised. The organisers have not stated how much the mission will cost nor how much they need to raise, saying only that it is much cheaper than one would imagine a Mars mission to be. Ms Poynter did however confirm that a significant amount of money still needed to be raised.

    Anu Ojha believes that unless the venture is 100% underwritten at this stage it won't get off the ground.
    "If a bunch of billionaires have committed the approx $1-2bn required, then we could see history being made in under five years. If (at the) the press conference they say 'we have this fantastic concept but need the money - please give generously' then it's dead in the water," he told BBC News.

    However Prof Riley is more optimistic. "There are lots of big ifs in trying to achieve this epic endeavour, but none which are totally insurmountable given enough money and assistance, and the will to do it," he said.

    "It takes mavericks like Tito to create such pivot points in history where significant things happen, and such a trip would be as significant as Apollo 8's first circumnavigation of the Moon on Christmas Eve 1968, when the world listened in to the reflections of the first human beings to orbit another world.
    "Perhaps fifty years later, on Christmas Eve 2018 we might be all tuning in to a similar broadcast from Mars. I hope so!"

    The effort represents the latest development in private sector companies moving into space exploration. Last December, one of the last men on the Moon, Harrison Schmitt, told BBC News that he believed Nasa and other government run space agencies were "too inefficient" to be able to send astronauts back to the Moon.
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    Default Re: Private Sector sending Older Couple to Mars - 2018

    Millionaire Dennis Tito plans to send woman and man to Mars and back

    Inspiration Mars

    An artist's conception shows how the spacecraft for the Inspiration Mars Foundation's "Mission for America" might be configured — with a crew capsule, an inflatable module similar to the ones built by Bigelow Aerospace, and an attached upper stage that could provide radiation shielding. The actual design has not yet been set.

    By Alan Boyle, Science Editor, NBC News

    Millionaire space tourist Dennis Tito's plan to send two astronauts on a 501-day flight that zooms past Mars and swings back to Earth would set plenty of precedents on the final frontier — but the most intriguing precedent might have to do with the astronauts that are to be sent: one man and one woman, preferably a married couple beyond childbearing years. We're talking about sex in space, folks.

    And if that's not intriguing enough, consider this: There are already a couple of candidates for the job.

    "We'll certainly throw our hat in the ring," said Taber MacCallum, who's a member of the development team for the 2018 mission that Tito has in mind.

    MacCallum and his wife, Jane Poynter, were crew members together in Biosphere 2, the controversial two-year-long experiment in long-term environmental containment. They went on to become co-founders of Paragon Space Development Corp., a company specializing in life-support systems for spacecraft. Their expertise in life support is why they're involved in Tito's "Mission for America," which was officially unveiled on Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington. But it just so happens that they also fit the profile for the trip: Poynter is about 50, and MacCallum will turn 49 on July 20, the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

    The couple won't be the only candidates in the running. "When we tell people we're proposing to send a man and a woman on a mission to Mars, as a married couple, people line up. ... That chord gets struck over and over again," MacCallum said.

    MacCallum explained that Tito wants the crew on humanity's first trip to Mars to be representative of humanity, and because the current concept for the trip calls for two spacefliers, that means a man and a woman. A married couple would be ideal, MacCallum said, because of the "whole issue of companionship." MacCallum didn't refer specifically to sex, but that would presumably be part of the companionship package.

    "When you're out that far, and the Earth is a tiny, blue pinpoint, you're going to need someone you can hug," Tito told During Wednesday's briefing, Tito told reporters that he envisioned Dr. Phil giving the couple "marital advice" during the trip.


    Taber MacCallum and his wife, Jane Poynter, are part of the planning team for a mission to Mars in 2018. They're also potential candidates to take the trip.

    In addition to their experience with life-support systems (and with each other), MacCallum and Poynter can draw upon their experience with life in isolation during the Biosphere 2 experiment in Arizona, which lasted from 1991 to 1993. The isolation inside a two-room spacecraft for 501 days will be even deeper. Even though the Biosphere 2 crew was separated from the outside world, "we could walk out at any time," MacCallum pointed out.

    That's not the only challenge: Even with radiation shielding in place, the round trip to Mars is likely to involve exposure levels higher than NASA's limits, MacCallum said. (That's why the astronauts should be beyond their childbearing years and willing to accept an increased risk of cancer.)

    Then there's the exposure to the health effects of long-term weightlessness, including bone loss and muscle loss. The astronauts who fly past Mars will surpass Soviet cosmonaut Valery Polyakov's 437-day record for continuous time in microgravity, set in 1994-1995 aboard the much roomier Mir space station.

    "We're definitely pushing boundaries," MacCallum said. "It's definitely going to be hard and challenging. But we can rely on elegance and simplicity."

    When, where and how?

    The details of the mission plan have come to light just in the past few days, but MacCallum said that Tito has been mulling over the idea for years. Tito started out as an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, helping to design trajectories for the Mariner missions to Mars in the 1970s. Then he put his math genius to work in the investment world, building California-based Wilshire Associates into a multibillion-dollar powerhouse. In 2001, he spent around $20 million of his fortune for a seat on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft traveling to and from to the International Space Station.

    After his eight-day space tour, Tito got back to business. But he also started working out a trajectory that could send a spaceship directly from Earth to Mars for a fly-by within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of the Red Planet's surface, and then back to the home planet 501 days after launch. Once the spaceship was on its way, only minor course corrections would be needed. There'd be no need for undocking or redocking ... no landing ... no do-or-die engine burn for the return from Mars.

    There's one big catch, though: The trip will have to be started when the planets were aligned just right. One opportunity will come in 2016. Then there's another one in 2018. After that, the next chance won't come around until 2031.
    Planning for a launch in January 2018 looked particularly attractive, and not just because that could plausibly provide enough time to put the mission together. That's also a time frame when solar activity is expected to be at a minimum, reducing the level of radiation exposure. So Tito assembled a team from Paragon as well as NASA's Ames Research Center and other space ventures to flesh out the mission plan.
    The plan calls for launching the two astronauts in a crew capsule with a transfer rocket stage. If the launch vehicle is powerful enough — say, the size of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy — the upper stage and the crew capsule could be launched in one go. If the rocket doesn't have that much oomph, the capsule and the upper stage could be launched separately and then linked up in Earth orbit for the push onward to Mars.
    "We only need to attach the upper stage. There's no need to get rid of it," MacCallum said. In the right configuration, that upper stage could even provide some of the required shielding from solar radiation and heating, he said.
    The crew's 600 cubic feet of living space would include a capsule for launch and re-entry, with a well-shielded sleeping quarters that could provide a safe haven if solar storms erupted. There would be a habitat module — perhaps an inflatable module like the one that Bigelow Aerospace has been working on for NASA's use. The main idea is to keep the crew compartment as simple as possible while providing all the necessary amenities for a 501-day trip. "It's a '55 Chevy," MacCallum said.
    To test the feasibility of the plan, Tito and his colleagues looked at the specifications for the Falcon Heavy as well as a modified version of SpaceX's Dragon capsule. But MacCallum emphasized that the team was not committed to using SpaceX hardware. He said the idea was getting a "great response" from a variety of aerospace companies. "If this mission is going to happen, they want 'their vehicle' to do it," McCallum said.
    How much? And why?
    MacCallum characterized the mission as "purely philanthropic," with the aim of inspiring future scientists and engineers as well as bridging the gap in NASA's plans for exploration beyond Earth orbit. NASA's current timetable calls for astronauts to go no farther than the International Space Station until 2021 at the earliest. Even though the Mars-and-back mission wouldn't make any stops, the trip could produce useful scientific data — and an adventure as grand as the Apollo moonshots of the '60s and '70s.
    "I think we really need what Apollo did for America, but we didn't realize it while we were doing Apollo," MacCallum said.
    Toward that end, Tito set up the Inspiration Mars Foundation. "He has committed to funding the first two years of this development, and he is committed to finding the rest of the money," MacCallum said. "Dennis is already getting tremendous interest in this mission from people of means."
    The foundation is also looking into media deals and sponsorships. "Farmers Insurance cut a $700 million deal for the naming rights for a stadium," MacCallum noted. "Wow ... that's a not-insubstantial part of the money that we're talking about."
    How much money are we talking about? MacCallum quoted Tito as saying "it's a fraction of what Curiosity cost," with reference to NASA's $2.5 billion robotic mission to Mars. Other reports have put the cost in the range of $1 billion or so — which is far less than the projected price tag for the crewed missions NASA plans to send to Mars in the 2030s.
    MacCallum emphasized that Tito's "Mission for America" was meant to support America's space agency, not compete with it. "This mission is only even remotely contemplatable because of all the work that NASA has done on the International Space Station," he said. And NASA is getting something in return: MacCallum said Inspiration Mars is paying NASA for access to thermal protection technologies developed by the space agency.
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    Even if MacCallum and Poynter aren't picked to go on the flight, it sounds as if they'll be having the adventure of their lives over the next five years. "I feel so thrilled every day to be working with these people," MacCallum said. "It's just fabulous."
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    Default Re: Private Sector sending Older Couple to Mars - 2018

    Paragon Space Development Corp. Mars mission: NASA not being asked for funds in 2018 two-man mission

    Taber MacCallum, CEO of Paragon Space Development Corp. and millionaire Dennis Tito are set to announce plans Wednesday to send a couple of earthlings on a 501-day trip in a spacecraft that would fly by the red planet.

    Posted: 1:28 PM
    Last Updated: 47 minutes ago

    By: John Zarrella, CNN

    If soon-to-be-unveiled plans pan out, a man and a woman may represent humanity on one journey that has never been attempted before: a mission to Mars.

    "It's incredibly feasible. It's not crazy talk," said Taber MacCallum, CEO of Paragon Space Development Corp.

    MacCallum and millionaire Dennis Tito are set to announce plans Wednesday to send a couple of earthlings on a 501-day trip in a spacecraft that would fly by the red planet. The proposal is to be unveiled at the National Press Club in Washington.

    The mission would lift off in 2018. It would not involve landing on Mars, making the proposed journey infinitely easier than putting people on the planet's surface, which NASA wants to do later this century.

    Tito has founded the Inspiration Mars Foundation, a nonprofit organization spearheading this effort. No stranger to space, the one-time NASA engineer became in 2001 the first space tourist flying on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station.

    The public-private initiative could, according to MacCallum, use an existing rocket and capsule.

    "If you take existing chemistry and technology and add some improved technologies," he said, "you can get a mission together." A life support system also would have to be developed.

    The group is not asking NASA for money, he said.

    "This is a philanthropic effort to be done for America," MacCallum said. It could be accomplished for under $1 billion, he said, a figure that's cheap compared with the tens of billions of dollars a NASA landing on Mars would cost.

    Despite MacCallum's optimism, pulling off such a feat within five years is no small task.

    Besides life support for the crew, one of the biggest challenges would be the return into the Earth's atmosphere. Heat shielding for a high speed re-entry hasn't been tested. NASA isn't even testing its new system on the Orion spacecraft until next year at the earliest. Orion is in development to take astronauts back to the moon and on to Mars.

    And there's also concern about radiation exposure. The man and woman whom MacCallum and Tito want to send would likely be a married couple. Because of the radiation risk, MacCallum said, they'd be older and "out of the childbearing years."

    The year for the mission was chosen because Mars will be 36 million miles away, about as close as it ever gets to Earth.

    But consider: The humans who have traveled the farthest from Earth were the Apollo astronauts -- nearly a quarter-million miles to the moon. Next to the Mars journey, that's like a walk around the block.
    - See more at:
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    Default Re: Private Sector sending Older Couple to Mars - 2018

    A billion ain't enough.

    A billion might get you to orbit.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt

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    Default Re: Private Sector sending Older Couple to Mars - 2018

    I don't know. I think they can do it. I'm not donating anything.... but good luck to them. lol
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