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Want to go to Mars? Dennis Tito will take you there…

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…as long as you’re part of an older, married couple with amazing mechanical skills, great long term resilience, and relaxed attitude towards being exposed to high levels of radiation. Storify of today’s Inspiration Mars press conference:

Want to go to Mars? Dennis Tito will take you there

… as long as you’re an older, married couple. A selection of tweets and thoughts about the Inspiration Mars mission, announced today.

Storified by Kelly Oakes· Wed, Feb 27 2013 17:07:31

Today Dennis Tito and Inspiration Mars announced a 2018 crewed mission to Mars. Two people – a man and a woman – will start their journey on January 5 2018. They will return 501 days later having flown by, but not landed on, Mars. Here’s how it happened:
#InspirationMars press conference started a few minutes early! Dennis Tito up now.Kelly Oakes
Plan is to send two people – a man (not Tito) and a woman – to Mars in 2018. Will say why later… #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
A man and a woman. Going to Mars. A year and a half in a capsule. Coronal Mass Ejections are the least of their worries. #inspirationmarsIan Sample
Dennis Tito: "we’ve not sent humans beyond the moon for 40 years … I think its time to get beyond that lapse"Tom Clarke
While Tito was speaking a feasibility study for the mission appeared on the mission’s website, and some mock ups of what the spacecraft will look like were presented.
Paper up at #InspirationMars: Feasibility Analysis for a Manned Mars Free-Return Mission in 2018 Oakes
Unsurprised that #InspirationMars’ main crew capsule is a dead ringer for Apollo CSM! Shira Teitel
Bu first things first: money. How much will it cost? How will they finance the trip? 
"Can’t come up with a number" for cost, but will be much lower than what you’d think for Mars mission, comparable to LEO. #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
Tito: cost will be much much lower than you’d expect for a Mars mission – in the dollar range that we can raise money. #inspirationmarsNASA Watch
Dennis Tito will help fund #InspirationMars mission for next two years – funding secured until end of 2014.Inspiration Mars
#InspirationMars to demonstrate low-cost, collaborative, nonprofit approach to achieving a once-in-a-generation opportunity.Inspiration Mars
"NASA had amazing can do attitude when we came to them" to partner on developing tech for space exploration. #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
After it became obvious Tito was in fact talking about “media rights” as opposed to “meteorites”, the financial reality of an inspiring Mars mission came crashing back down to Earth.
Tito: "The media rights are going to be phenomenal. I can imagine Dr. Phil talking to this couple and solving problems." #InspirationMarsNew Scientist
Tito mentions media rights – wonder if he’s planning reality show (like Mars One)? Not sure I like this kind of future… #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
If only way to go to Mars is to sell media rights and "imagine Dr. Phil counseling the couple during the flight," I fold. #InspirationMarsHeather Goss
And then some of the daily realities of spending that long on a spacecraft turned out not to be hugely appealing (though not all specific to Inspiration Mars!)
Crew will drink same water and breathe same oxygen over and over again (after filtration!) #inspirationmarsKelly Oakes
No extravehicular activity for #InspirationMars crew and just 600 cubic feet of living space. That’s going to be a long 501 days.Kelly Oakes
The feasibility study for Tito’s Mars flyby calculates a need for one toilet roll per three days. Just so you know. #inspirationmarsIan Sample
We interrupt this Storify for a Public Service Announcement:
So, is now a good time to point out that the word "crewed" is no longer or clunky than "manned"? Seriously, no excuse. #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
Jonathan Clark is chief medical officer for Inspiration Mars. He looked after the health of Felix Baumgartner too, during his jump from not-quite-the-edge-of-space.
Jonathan Clark (worked on Felix Baumgartner’s jump) up now: "Someday we might see free fall from Mars upper atmosphere" #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
(Let’s hope he was joking about that)
Clark: "This is going to be the Apollo 8 moment for our next generation" #InspirationMarsNew Scientist
Spenidng a long time in space presents many medical challenges. Weightlessness causes all kinds of problems: bone and muscle loss, vision impairment and even changing the taste of food.
Astronauts currently limited to 6 months on ISS. Interested to hear how #InspirationMars will make leap to 501d. (Two very brave people?!)Kelly Oakes
But radiation is the big problem.
"Going to be using novel approaches to protect crew from radiation" – Jon Clark #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
Jon Clark: "Radiation is certainly a concern but not a showshopper" #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
Dr Clark: Analyzed radiation exposure from Curiosity transit to mars, found within NASA’s career limits #InspirationMarsDaniel M.N. Turner
Clark: For radiation, NASA limit is 3% excess cancer risk. #InspirationMars would have different criteria.Kelly Oakes
Clark: Main thing is that radiation doesn’t affect crew performance. If come back & get cancer, can deal with that on Earth #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
But radiation, as the Mars 500 project and other isolation experiments have shown in the past, is not the only thing you have to worry about if you’re a human wanting to spend a long time in space. Jane Poynter would know: she spent two years living inside Biosphere 2.
Poynter: Constellation of symptoms tend to emerge when ppl in confined space for long time: mood swings, warring factions #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
Poynter: Mood swings, depression and warring factions. Symptoms seen in Biosphere 2. #InspirationMarsNew Scientist
In Biosphere2 was important for Poynter to have someone she trusted and someone to share experience with – now her husband! #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
#InspirationMars crew will get psychological help during trip and training beforehand. Crew selection will also be important.Kelly Oakes
Finally, too, we got an explanation of why it would be one man and one woman – a married couple – going on the mission.
Poynter: "Important to have a man and a woman because they will represent humanity." #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
"These two astronauts will be able to take the world along with them for the ride" – Poynter #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
Poynter: Important that it’s a man and woman, so girls and boys see themselves reflected in that crew #InspirationMarsNew Scientist
Poynter: "No event in our foreseeable future will have more of an inspirational effect on our children than #InspirationMars."Alan Boyle
And then the reality checked flooded in as the questions began…
The @InspirationMars irony: for 501-days 1 couple will be so alone on Mars fly-by & then return to public eye with no privacy ever again.Ryan L. Kobrick, PhD
#InspirationMars gets a heavy-duty reality check from @BorenBears: What kind of magic wiill get this done by 2018?Alan Boyle
Oh, bring down the hammer on the first question @borenbears. "Are you guys fucking kidding me with this?" #inspirationmarsHeather Goss
Sounds like Tito more concerned about life support, radiation, re-entry than other tech leaps required between now and 2018. #InspiratonMarsKelly Oakes
Crew will need to have "amazing mechanical skill" and be resilient over a long duration mission. #InspirationMarsKelly Oakes
We learnt that, though they are supposed to represent humanity, the crew will definitely be American. Well.
Sad to learn the mission will be limited to US. Aren’t we moving beyond these fake borders yet? Get the world involved! #inspirationmarsMathieu Isidro
And that was it: press conference over. By the end of it there was no shortage of couples queueing up to join the mission. Including Jane Poynter and her husband Taber MacCallum…
Jane Poynter just told me that she and Taber will be "throwing their hat in the ring" as crew for #inspirationmarsHal
Millionaire Dennis Tito plans to send woman and man to Mars and backMillionaire space tourist Dennis Tito’s plan to send two astronauts on a 501-day flight that zooms past Mars and swings back to Earth wou…
There are still a lot of unanswered questions hanging over it, not least the question of whether the technology will really be ready by 2018. And I wouldn’t want to go without their being significant advances in radiation protection, vision impairment and all those medical issues that are sure to plague long haul space flights.
But let’s put all that aside for a moment. I just wanted to leave you with this image…
YES! :-) RT @Alex_Parker: @PlanetDr Indeed. Mack

Kelly Oakes About the Author: Kelly Oakes has a master's in science communication and a physics degree, both from Imperial College London. Now she spends her days writing about science. Follow on Twitter @kahoakes.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. gizmowiz 12:55 pm 02/28/2013

    We may never get the chance if Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) impacts Mars on October 19th, 2014. That’s because the impact would coat the entire planet with over 10 feet of Martian dust and the rocks thrown out of orbit could potentially destroy life on Earth. This comet is that big and going that fast (400 times more energy than the dinosaur killer of 65 million years ago). It’s probability cone has Mars within it’s calculated trajectory although it should pass further than 100,000 miles with only 74 days of data it’s now known yet with enough precision to be worried just yet. It’s so big and so energetic it could bust Mars up into another asteroid belt.

    Link to this
  2. 2. lyle918 4:24 pm 02/28/2013

    Maybe Mars people should take a lesson from NASA…send a manned (or womanned) spacecraft to Mars, not to land but to orbit the planet and gather visual info about it’s surface. Would save money and maybe if they got back safely it would unloosed the pursestrings from not just the USA but from other countries as well! L, L & P

    Link to this
  3. 3. dwbd 8:34 pm 02/28/2013

    @gizmowiz, Interesting, but observations show the probability to be very low, but not zero.

    On the bright side, 20 billion megatons, if it hit the South Pole would vaporize vast quantities of Water Vapor and frozen CO2 warming and thickening the atmosphere considerably.

    Link to this
  4. 4. TheGeorgeWaters 3:11 pm 03/3/2013

    Kelly, really interesting stuff. For my weekly humor column, I wrote this riff on the Mars trip which I bet you’ll appreciate. :-)



    Link to this
  5. 5. santoso 12:58 am 05/1/2013

    Dear MR. Dennis Tito glorious and happy, you are very wise to send a pair of young monks and senior monks (Buddhist monks) to travel to Mars. to further promote the planet Mars to the world and for the peace of the universe. greetings of peace to all beings in this universe.

    Link to this

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