Inspiration Mars Foundation
"Send Two People, Take Everyone"
|Type||501(c)(3) (pending, as of April 2013[update])|
|Founded||January 25, 2013|
|Key people||Dennis Tito
|Mission||2018 Manned Mars Flyby, or alternatively a 2021 Venus flyby followed by a Mars flyby|
|Motto||"Now is the Time"|
Inspiration Mars Foundation is an American non-profit organization founded by Dennis Tito which aims to launch a manned mission to flyby Mars in January 2018, or, if the 2018 date is missed, 2021.
The foundation claims that space exploration provides a catalyst for growth, national prosperity, knowledge and global leadership. By taking advantage of this window of opportunity, the Inspiration Mars Foundation intends to revitalize interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
Some time before the press conference to publicly announce the venture on 27 February 2013, a number of space industry insiders and journalists were given access to some information about the IEEE research paper that would be presented in early March to provide technical details on the feasibility study behind a human crewed free-return mission of 501 days duration in the Mars transfer window of 2018.
On 27 February 2013, the Inspiration Mars Foundation held a press conference in the National Press Club to announce the plan of the foundation to procure space hardware, buy launch vehicle services, select a two-person crew of a married couple (explicitly one man and one woman to represent all of humanity and inspire young persons of both sexes to dream big and pursue science and technology in their schooling), and then attempt to raise the rest of the funding necessary to actually launch a mission in 2018. Philanthropist Dennis Tito is going to fund the foundation on the order of $100 million for its first couple of years of operation.
In comments in November 2013, however, Dennis Tito and others involved with Mars Inspiration indicated that their plan was essentially impossible without significant investment from NASA as well as use of NASA spacecraft.
The original mission plan was for the mission to be funded entirely through the non-profit foundation that Inspiration Mars has in the United States. Dennis Tito planned to fund the foundation's cost for the first "two years from his own deep pockets" The total cost of the mission was projected to be between US$1 and US$2 billion, less than the US$2.5 billion that NASA is spending on the Mars Science Laboratory robotic rover mission to Mars, including the two years of surface operations via Earth-control of the Curiosity rover. The foundation planned to "raise funds from industry, individuals and others willing to make philanthropic donations".
However, in testimony before congress in November 2013, Dennis Tito indicated that he expected private donors to be only able to provide around 300 million US dollars in funding, leaving a requirement for an additional investment of 700 million US dollars from the US government if the mission was to be feasible. In response NASA stated that whilst they were willing to share technical and programmatic expertise with Inspiration Mars, they are unable to commit to sharing expenses with them
Tito has also indicated that he is unwilling to solicit donations until the mission is in place, saying that "We can't raise money from other donors, and I wouldn't even crowdfund – even from small donors — until we can legitimately say there is a mission on the books . . . And there isn't a mission on the books. We're trying to make that happen."
The planned mission is a 501-day free-return mission which would allow the spacecraft to use the smallest possible amount of fuel to get it to Mars and back to Earth. "If anything goes wrong, the spacecraft should make its own way back to Earth—but with no possibility of any short-cuts home."
In 2018, the planets will align, offering a rare orbit opportunity to travel to Mars and back to Earth in only 501 days. Inspiration Mars intends to send a two-person American crew—a man and a woman—on a journey to within 100 miles of Mars and return them to Earth safely.
The mission's first target launch date is 5 January 2018. This quick, free-return orbit opportunity occurs twice every 15 years. After 2018, the next opportunity for such a direct trip will not occur again until 2031. By using state-of-the-art technologies derived from NASA and the International Space Station, Inspiration Mars intends to use this opportunity as a unique platform for science, engineering and STEM education. The science objectives of the mission focus on human endurance and psychology where the mission would set new precedents in human space exploration.
An alternate plan, called "Plan B" by Tito, involves a mission 88 days longer beginning in 2021, would require a fly-by of Venus as well as a fly-by of Mars. This flight would take the craft to within 800 kilometres of the surface of Venus, using the planet in a gravitational slingshot to speed the onward travel to Mars. In comments before congress, Tito described this plan as a "unique trajectory", that would "gives us more time to build the system, and would pass by two planets, Mars and Venus, rather than one". However, Tito also noted that by 2021 other countries may have over-taken the US in the race to get to Mars first.
The 2018 Mars flyby architecture lowers risk, with few critical propulsive maneuvers, and no entry into the Mars atmosphere. It also represents the shortest duration roundtrip mission to Mars. The 2018 launch opportunity coincides with the 11-year solar minimum providing the lowest solar radiation exposure. The next launch opportunity for a direct mission (2031) will not have the advantage of being at the solar minimum, and the 2021 "Plan B" mission would also miss the solar minimum.
Mission technical details
According to a peer-reviewed paper prepared by Dennis Tito and a group of coauthors for the 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. The 10-ton crew vehicle—a capsule to best handle the reentry heat and an inflatable or rigid habitat—would contain all of the [life support system or ECLSS] and other gear the crew would need to stay alive. That would include 3,000 pounds (1,400 kg) of dehydrated food, exercise equipment to mitigate the effects of long-term weightlessness, and compact equipment derived from International Space Station gear to recycle water and maintain the atmosphere. There would be no spacesuits or airlock, and the crew would have to endure the travel in about 600 cubic feet (17 m3) of volume."
As part of the safety requirements of the mission, and the lack of any space-craft capable of taking everything into orbit in one go, the cargo vessel and crew would be launched into Earth orbit separately, and rendezvous in orbit before continuing on to Mars. According to Inspiration Mars' chief technology oficer, Taber Mcallum, since no commercial rocket is capable of lifting the required mass into orbit in only two launches, this means that use of NASA's Space Launch System is required. However, the SLS is unlikely to be ready for the 2017 launch date.
Student design competition
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 is open to university engineering student teams from anywhere in the world. "Inspiration Mars is looking for the most creative ideas from engineers all over the world," according to Tito. "Furthermore, we want to engage the explorers of tomorrow with a real and exciting mission, and demonstrate what a powerful force space exploration can be in inspiring young people to develop their talent. This contest will accomplish both of those objectives."
The foundation is expecting a large number of applications to be the crew for the mission. The mission would likely be record-setting in terms of traveling farther into space than any human has before, and remain in space longer than anyone before. The married couple who is selected will need to "be resilient, even-keel, and able to maintain a happy attitude in the face of adversity", as well as face some health challenges. The year and a half of microgravity will weaken their bodies, and there will be a strong dose of radiation which is not expected to add more than three percent additional risk for fatal cancer, a risk individuals would have to voluntarily accept.
As of April 2013[update], hundreds of "couples who have qualifications that would put them in the running" have offered their services for the mission. Much of the initial development work in the early months of the project will be "going to experts in space medicine, life support and thermal protection systems as the team defines the mission. The process includes devising medical, crew-selection and crew-training protocols." The formal call for crew applicants will go out no earlier than 2014.
Critics, including the science correspondent of The Economist, have questioned the viability of the plan given the problems of dealing with radiation exposure, and ensuring the safe return of the astronauts given the high re-entry speed required by the flight profile. Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, said that although he thought the mission was "doable" with today's technologies, the funding necessary to complete the mission was unlikely to be forthcoming: "I give them a 1-in-3 chance, but not for the technical reasons. It's a question of can they raise the money".
A spokeman for NASA has 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, has criticised the short time-frame for preparation of the mission, saying that it is "totally implausible" for a mission to be launched in 2017, although the later "Plan B" mission might be possible "if the stars align".
Foundation management team
- Jonathan Clark, chief medical officer
- Taber MacCallum, chief technical officer
- Jane Poynter, developer of the crew and life-support systems
- Joe Rothenberg, chairman of the advisory and review boards
- John Carrico, Jr., flight dynamics and trajectory design.
- Inspiration Mars Wants To Use ISS, NASAwatch, 15 April 2013
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- Koebler, Jason (2013-03-01). "Expert: Dennis Tito's Mars Flyby Has '1-in-3' Chance of Succeeding". US News. Retrieved 2013-03-07. "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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- "Rules". The Mars Society. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
- Morring, Frank (2013-04-12). "Volunteers Line Up For Tito's Mars Flyaround". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
- TC (Feb 27th 2013). ": Dennis Tito's mission to Mars: Martian dreams". The Economist. Retrieved 2013-04-30. "there is a host of unresolved questions. Radiation is one"
- Joel Achenbach (2011-02-24). "Going to Mars: Billionaire Dennis Tito plans manned mission with possible 2017 launch". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
- Kaufman, Marc (27 February 2013). "Manned Mars Mission Announced by Dennis Tito Group". National Geographic News. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Inspiration Mars.|
- Official website
- Facebook: 'Inspiration Mars' page
- Twitter: @InspirationMars
- Flickr: Inspiration Mars photo stream
- Earth/Mars/IM capsule 501-day mission orbital position animation, Inspiration Mars Foundation, February 2013.
- Feasibility Analysis
- Introductory Press Conference, 27 February 2013
- Inspiration Mars: 29th National Space Symposium: panel discussion, Dennis Tito, Taber MacCallum, Jonathan Clark, and Jane Poynter, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 11 April 2013.