Inspiration Mars Foundation

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Inspiration Mars Foundation
Inspiration Mars Banner Graphic jpeg.jpg
"Send Two People, Take Everyone"
Motto "Now is the Time"
Founded January 25, 2013 (2013-01-25)[1]
Founder Dennis Tito
Type 501(c)(3) (pending, as of April 2013)[1]
Area served
Key people
Dennis Tito
Jane Poynter
Taber MacCallum
Joe Rothenberg
Miles O'Brien
Jonathan Clark
Thomas Squire
Mission 2018 Manned Mars Flyby, or alternatively a 2021 Venus flyby followed by a Mars flyby

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,[2][3][4][5][6] or, if the 2018 date is missed, 2021.[7]

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.[3][4][5][6]

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[8] (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. Dennis Tito is going to fund the foundation on the order of $100 million for its first couple of years of operation.[9]

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.[10]


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"[11] The total cost of the mission was projected to be between US$1 and US$2 billion,[12] 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".[11]

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 in funding, leaving a requirement for an additional investment of $700 million 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.[13]

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."[14]


Approximate Inspiration Mars Trajectory (not to scale)
Artist's Concept of Inspiration Mars Capsule and Hab.
Inspiration Mars Periapsis.

The planned mission[9] 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."[15]

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.[11]

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.[15]

An alternate plan, called "Plan B" by Tito, involves a mission that would begin in 2021 but be 88 days longer in duration. It would require both a fly-by of Venus and 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 Gravity assist to speed the onward travel to Mars.[16] 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".[16] However, Tito also noted that by 2021 other countries may have over-taken the US in the race to get to Mars first.[7]

The flyby architecture of either plan lowers risk, with few critical propulsive maneuvers, no entry into the Mars atmosphere, and no rendezvous and docking near Mars. The 2018 plan also represents the shortest duration round-trip 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.

When the spacecraft returns to Earth it will enter the atmosphere at 50 000 km per hour (ca 13.9 km/s), faster than any previous return.[17] In its initial (or only) contact with the atmosphere it must decrease its speed to less than the escape velocity of Earth, 11.2 km/s.

Mission technical details[edit]

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."[11]

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,[16] the cargo vessel and crew would be launched into Earth orbit separately, and rendezvous in orbit before continuing on to Mars.[18] According to Inspiration Mars' chief technology officer, 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 2018 launch date.[16]

In March 2014, SpaceX indicated that they had been contacted by Inspiration Mars, and were in discussions, but that accommodating such requirements would require some additional work and that such work was not a part of the current focus of SpaceX.[19]

Student design competition[edit]

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 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." [20] The design contest took place on August 9th, 2014, and was won by an international team from Purdue and Keio University.[21]

Crew selection[edit]

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.[8]

As of April 2013, hundreds of "couples who have qualifications that would put them in the running" have offered their services for the mission.[22] 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.[22]


A spokesman 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".[23] 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 2018, although the later "Plan B" mission might be possible "if the stars align".[18]

The January 2018 launch window is especially likely to be missed because the first launch of the SLS has been delayed by NASA until a likely date of November 2018 or later due to budget concerns.[24]

Foundation management team[edit]

  • Jonathan Clark, chief medical officer[25]
  • Taber MacCallum, chief technical officer[25]
  • Jane Poynter, developer of the crew and life-support systems[25]
  • Joe Rothenberg, chairman of the advisory and review boards[25]
  • John Carrico, Jr., flight dynamics and trajectory design.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Inspiration Mars Wants To Use ISS, NASAwatch, 15 April 2013
  2. ^ Borenstein, Seth (27 February 2013). "Tycoon wants to send married couple on Mars flyby". Excite. Associated Press. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Boucher, Marc (20 February 2013). "The First Human Mission to Mars in 2018 (Updated)". SpaceRef. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Boyle, Alan. "How a millionaire spaceflier intends to send astronauts past Mars in 2018". Cosmic Log ( Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Mann, Adam (20 February 2013). "Space Tourist to Announce Daring Manned Mars Voyage for 2018". Wired. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Sonnenberg, Max (23 February 2013). "Millionaire space tourist planning ‘historic journey’ to Mars in 2018". The Space Reporter. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "Dennis Tito’s Prepared Remarks Before Congress on Human Mars Mission at Parabolic Arc". 2013-11-20. Retrieved 2013-12-07. 
  8. ^ a b Moskowitz, Clara (28 February 2013). "Private Mission to Mars in 2018: Who Should Go?". Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Belfiore, Michael (27 February 2013). "The Crazy Plan to Fly Two Humans to Mars in 2018". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  10. ^ "Ambitious Mars joy-ride cannot succeed without NASA - space - 21 November 2013". New Scientist. 2013-11-21. Retrieved 2013-12-07. 
  11. ^ a b c d Morring, Frank, Jr. (2013-03-04). "Serious Intent About 2018 Human Mars Mission". Aviation Week and Space Technology. Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ "Dennis Tito: It will take "less than $1 billion" to make Mars mission happen". 2013-11-20. Retrieved 2013-12-07. 
  14. ^ "Clock Ticking for 2018 Private Manned Mars Mission". 2013-11-21. Retrieved 2013-12-07. 
  15. ^ a b Connor, Steve (26 February 2013). "The millionaire Dennis Tito and his mission to Mars". The Independent. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  16. ^ a b c d "Ambitious Mars joy-ride cannot succeed without NASA - space - 21 November 2013". New Scientist. 2013-11-21. Retrieved 2013-12-07. 
  17. ^ Nigel Henbest (13 July 2013). "Race to Mars: Who will be first to the Red Planet?". New Scientist: 42–45. 
  18. ^ a b "Going to Mars: Billionaire Dennis Tito plans manned mission with possible 2017 launch". The Washington Post. 2013-06-20. Retrieved 2013-12-07. 
  19. ^ Gwynne Shotwell (2014-03-21). Broadcast 2212: Special Edition, interview with Gwynne Shotwell (audio file). The Space Show. Event occurs at 11:20–12:10. 2212. Archived from the original (mp3) on 2014-03-22. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  20. ^ "Rules". The Mars Society. Retrieved 2013-12-07. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b Morring, Frank (2013-04-12). "Volunteers Line Up For Tito's Mars Flyaround". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  23. ^ Achenbach, Joel (2011-02-24). "Going to Mars: Billionaire Dennis Tito plans manned mission with possible 2017 launch". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-12-07. 
  24. ^ Nowakowski, Tomasz. "CHALLENGES FOR ORION AND SLS: AN INTERVIEW WITH GAO DIRECTOR CRISTINA CHAPLAIN". Spaceflight Insider. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  25. ^ a b c d e Kaufman, Marc (27 February 2013). "Manned Mars Mission Announced by Dennis Tito Group". National Geographic News. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 

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