Inspiration Mars Unveils Architecture for Human Trip to Mars in 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Inspiration Mars PR) –
Dennis Tito, founder and chairman of theInspiration Mars Foundation, testified today before the House Science Subcommittee on Space during a hearing on commercial space. Tito shared the results of a 90-day study undertaken by Inspiration Mars and developed through collaborative efforts with NASA centers and industry partners to define a baseline architecture for a human mission to Mars. The Foundation proposes to send a spacecraft in late 2017 or early 2018 bearing two astronauts, a man and woman, to the far side of Mars and return them to Earth.

Within its Architecture Study Report and through Tito’s testimony today, Inspiration Mars asks Congress and the President to grant an American mission to Mars a place within a launch schedule already set, using rockets and systems already in testing, to meet an objective already set forth.

Speaking to the House subcommittee, Tito recognized that the necessary components for a mission of this magnitude exist, “The work of this subcommittee … gave NASA the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion program, and new commercial capabilities. We propose to combine all these elements, as we have explained in (the) Architecture Study Report.”

Inspiration Mars’ Architecture Study Report describes the proposed mission architecture to enable the voyage of 314 million miles in 501 days, which requires collaboration through a public-private partnership with NASA. The plan calls for two launches to keep crew and cargo separate, an inherent safety feature to the mission architecture. First, the SLS will lift off from Kennedy Space Center with a four-part payload to place cargo into Earth’s orbit, consisting of: an SLS upper-stage rocket to propel spacecraft from Earth’s orbit to Mars; a service module containing electrical power, propulsion and communication systems; a Cygnus-derived habitat module where the astronauts will live for 501 days; and an Earth Reentry Pod derived from Orion. The second launch will take the crew into orbit aboard a commercial transportation vehicle (selected from competing designs under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program). From there, the crew and Inspiration Mars vehicle stack will rendezvous in orbit using docking procedures perfected by more than 130 trips to the International Space Station.

The report also calls for immediate action to ensure the viability of this approaching mission and rebound America’s human spaceflight program: “In recent years, the most notable movements of American spacecraft have been powered by trucks and barges in the direction of museums, as if all we can afford and aspire to is a careful preservation of past glories.”

During today’s testimony, Tito said, “If I may offer a frank word of caution to this subcommittee: The United States will carry out a Mars flyby mission, or we will watch as others do it – leaving us to applaud their skill and their daring.”

Tito noted there is a window for a mission by a different trajectory, a mission longer by 88 days that could be flown in 2021. Tito stated, “Given Russia’s clear recognition of the value and prestige of accomplishments in human space exploration, and their long-time interest in exploring Mars, my personal belief is that in all likelihood the Energia super-heavy rocket revival announcement signals Russian intent to fly this mission in 2021. Their heavy lift rocket, along with their other designs for modules and the Soyuz, can fly this mission with modest upgrades to their systems. China is also developing suitable capabilities and must surely be contemplating this opportunity to be first to Mars. It is our civic duty to bring this to the attention of the executive and legislative government branches. The 2010 NASA authorization has given America the opportunity to be first to Mars, and we believe it should be taken by launching the mission to Mars in 2017.”

Tito concluded his testimony, ““If Congress and the president will give NASA this great mission, we will be able to say in 2019 that two of our countrymen have just traveled the distance of Mars and back – the longest journey ever made – and that they were the first.”

About Inspiration Mars

A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Inspiration Mars Foundation believes in the exploration of space as a catalyst for growth, national prosperity, knowledge and global leadership. The Inspiration Mars mission will showcase American innovation at its best, generating knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration. It represents an unprecedented, long-duration research opportunity that will lead to new, cutting-edge discoveries, and inspires the next generation of explorers to pursue their destiny through STEM education. This mission is the ultimate demonstration of our collective space exploration capabilities to date.

  • dr

    Is this really serious?

  • Douglas Messier

    Oh yeah.

  • dr

    I just don’t get why a manned Mars flyby mission is a big deal. I can see that it is much more than anything we have done before, but I can’t help thinking that if someone did a “man on Phobos/Demos” mission or a “man on Mars” mission, that the flyby mission would be quickly forgotten.
    I mean, people don’t remember Apollo 8, 9 and 10 do they? With all due respect, they remember Apollo 11, and Apollo 13.
    I mean, there is no planned follow on, from this flyby mission is there? Like no second mission to go further. A large amount of money would be spent to do the flyby and then?

  • dr

    I would have thought that there is also a pretty low science value from such a mission. I would think that if a trans-lunar mission was done to an asteroid that brought back samples, it could be marketed as a bold mission, like this Mars flyby will be, but also we would learn something about the formation of our solar system, from the returned rock.

  • therealdmt

    I think people remember Apollo 8. The Big Blue Marble, Earthrise, the Christmas reading from the book of Genesis to the people of the Good Planet Earth. Some say that that view looking back at Earth was what kickstarted the modern environmental movement.

    Here’s someone who agrees with me – “The Mission That Changed Everything” :

    “Changed Everything” — you can’t get much bigger than that…

    Unless you went to friggin’ MARS, maybe. That might top it!


  • Hug Doug

    the science value would be from testing a life support system for ~500 days, observing the human body’s reaction to cosmic rays, the radiation environment in general, the psychological stresses of such a voyage, etc.

    how people will react to the confines of a fairly small living space during an Earth-Mars transit is a major unknown – it’s basically the big question mark that is holding us back from actually going to Mars.

  • Peter

    For some bizarre reason, we (America) can’t make intelligent decisions on this space adventure stuff. At least not when we have a limited budget or are in the lead. So we need crazy rich people to accost our intellect and give all this crazy adventure stuff some sense of purpose. Not that flying to Mars and back for the halibut makes any sense, but what do I know…

    Why we can’t be sensible about this space adventure stuff and just get a moon base observatory rolling? A serious, legitimate W.T.F…

  • Hug Doug

    if the only thing NASA did was focus on Manned space exploration, without any kind of restrictions on what they do or how they do it, we might be there. however, NASA must follow the dictates of Congress, with the expected results of poor management and restrictions and regulations on pretty much everything NASA does, and don’t forget that each new Presidential administration tries to lever NASA into a different direction, with the result that progress towards any one large goal comes in fits and bursts and then tends to be subject to the budget axe of the next president.

  • Peter

    Good point…

  • DougSpace

    This mission really isn’t about science return. For example, I don’t believe that Tito made any mention of science although the impace of GCRs, a bit more hypogravity than anyone has experienced, and the psychology of confinement would be the bit is science, but this could be accomplished by sending crew to L1 for 501 days. Rather, it is explicitly about “inspiration” and certainly there would be some of hat although I doubt it will have much of a discernible impace on SAT score averages nor result in anywhere near the amount of PhD increases with Apollo.

    But it is interesting that Tito is now making a strong nationalism argument — either we do this now or China will beat us to Mars distance. I think that that is a shrthat argument if you are seeking congressional funding.

    But from a space advocate’s perspective, I think that the real value of IM is to once-and-for-all remove the question of the human factors from the table as an insurmountable obstacle in going to Mars. Obama’s delay in going to Mars until the 2030s and the interim steps (e.g. humans to a distant asteroid) are largely due to the perceived uncertainties of GCRs. So Obama’s strategy is a step-wise approach to carefully removing those concerns. Bolden (or was it Garver) said that the reason for the humans to a retrieved asteroid was due to medical concerns about radiation for the humans-to-a-distant-asteroid mission.

    So, a successful IM mission would be the existence proof that humans can safely survive an interplanetary Mars mission. After IM, the public will appropriately expect that the next mission should be humans to Phobos / Deimos. If NASA objects by saying that such a mission would cause NASA astronauts to exceed their lifetime radiation standards then the automatic reply would be, “Then do it like you did IM. NASA money and private astronauts assuming their own risk”.

  • Douglas Messier

    I like the architecture. The vehicle doesn’t require much in terms of new technology development. It does depend on SLS and commercial crew being ready in time.

    My big question is: You do this mission, succeed, and then what? Sending Apollo 8 to the moon was bold, but it made sense from a sequential (LEM not ready) and programmatic view (test CSM/Saturn V on moon flight). But, if NASA had done that and had no term prospects of sending crews to the moon and landing on it, then it would have seemed like a stunt.

    I fear this might turn into a repeat of Apollo in the sense of we sent people to the moon, but had not the money or the long-term interest in setting up any bases there or sending people on to the Red Planet.

    Or would this project accelerate efforts at sending people to Mars, either orbiting it and coming back or landing on the surface? Or are the technologies you need too far off and far too costly? Would it be better to focus on an asteroid mission — as NASA wants to do — or redirect the program to lunar activities (as Congress wants).

    Don’t get me wrong: I like the idea. It’s bold and interesting and inspiring. These are questions that NASA and our political leaders have to answer before committing federal money to supporting the program.

  • Hug Doug

    “it is interesting that Tito is now making a strong nationalism argument” — well, this is a sales pitch to a congressional committee, so play to your audience.

    “I think that the real value of IM is to once-and-for-all remove the question of the human factors from the table as an insurmountable obstacle in going to Mars.” — Yes, it will definitely clear up a lot of unknowns regarding the hazards of a trip to / from Mars. Once the scary question marks are gone, it will be a lot easier for NASA (or anyone else) to plan a manned mission to Mars.

  • ٩๏̯͡๏۶

    So if the two passengers died on this trip, how much of a backlash would there be to the manned explorationcommercial space programs? At this point in time is it worth it?

  • delphinus100

    There is that chance. But then, there’s no other serious plan currently out there to get humans anywhere near Mars. A large ‘traditional’ program also risks fatalities, with several more lives (and much more public money) involved. At what point in time *do* you judge it to be ‘worth it?’ Rather than hope for the mission we might prefer to one day materialize, if this the most for which the necessary support can be had, then this is what we do.

    “The better is the enemy of the good.”
    – Voltaire

    “A good plan executed right now, is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
    – General George S. Patton

  • delphinus100

    But this isn’t primarily about science (neither was Apollo, for that matter). Except perhaps the microgravity survival of the human body over the lengths of time in question, which *will* be relevant to other beyond cisclunar manned missions..

    For many people ‘Bold’ equals ‘Mars.’ If that doesn’t move you, a mission to a NEO won’t, either…

  • Eric Thiel

    I find it hard to believe that congress would want to spend the 700 million. This mission is only 4 years away, that doesn’t seem like enough time.

  • Robert Gishubl

    Nice idea to go to mars but this is just a flyby stunt with unproven equipment that does not contribute to long term exploration.
    I would much prefer an initial cost effective un-manned mission aimed at setting up infrastructure and testing proposed equipment that could be used in a ream mission so you need to land on Mars in something that could take people but in first case is un-manned but has equipment such as prospecting or fuel making experiments. The Habitat needs to be a reasonable size such as a Bigelow module.
    So use several Falcon Heavy Launches (you may even try recovery of first stage) to launch Centaur interplanetary stage, Bigelow Module and a Dragon and assemble in space. Then Launch a Manned Dragon on F9. One Dragon to land on the surface and the other to return to earth and re-enter. Possibly even take a fuel depot to leave in orbit around Mars.
    All components have been designed for this type of mission and flown at the least as prototypes so technology maturity is better and much les costly than the Orion SLS hash up.
    On return you have proven every system needed for a manned mission to Mars except launch from Mars surface.

  • Dennis

    My first thought when I read about this was “And here starts the backing out!”.

    Tito and co. realise they can’t get it together, so now they try to shove the thing down NASA’s throat! So not only do they now want $700M in taxpayers money added to their pet project, they want NASA to test-fly its SLS around the Solar System in a fly-by of Mars. YEAH THATS GONNA HAPPEN! :S

  • Peter

    Everyone is down on it which is interesting.. but if you sleep on it you may realize there’s merit here: we’d pull together everything we have to make long-term space missions possible. Apparently we HAVE everything you need – we just haven’t glue’d it together yet.

    50% of the tech needed to establish a long term base anywhere is getting there. Tito is basically trying to get us focused on that first 50%.

    Regardless, NASA needs a big kick in the pants and a whack upside the head (not necessarily in that order…): Tito is making us talk about this and get some priorities outlined, which is pretty damn important.


    I whole-heartedly support any effort towards furthering manned exploration of the Solar System, however I have to say it was with mixed feeling that I read this. The fact that he had to include a “Plan B” mission architecture (one that actually has a lot of appeal, since involves a Venus fly-by and would mean two ‘firsts’ for the price of one) shows that there has been some drop-off in confidence on his part, as does the implicit admission that this project can’t be entirely self-funding.
    BTW – I see a lot of people talking about how this isn’t going to acheive much in the way of science compared to a manned landing on Mars, but seriously folk, we’ve been waiting 40 years for that to happen, and it hasn’t. This actually holds out the possibility of forcing the hand of government to commit to that. Nothing else seen so far can do that.


    There’s also a Plan B for 2021 in this plan, one which would involve a fly-by of Venus as well as Mars – basically making the mission a “twofer”.