Dennis Tito, an American millionaire, announced plans earlier today at the National Press Club to send a married couple on a flyby trip past Mars. This will be done as part of his newly created Inspiration Mars Foundation organization, which was also announced today. As part of the mission, which is set to take well over a year at 501 days, two individuals will be selected - one man and one woman - who Tito prefers to be a married couple.
By sending a married couple, Tito hopes to help avoid the inherent loneliness that would result from such a long trip. This would be a first for space exploration. Said Tito: "When you're out that far and the Earth is a tiny, blue pinpoint, you're going to need to someone you can hug. What better solution to the psychological problems you're going to encounter with that isolation?"
If all goes as planned, the non-profit organization will send the married couple into space in 2018 during a time when the planets will align in such a way that the trip will be shorter than at other times. Current plans include using a rocket and space capsule that is already available on the market, adjusting them as is necessary to accommodate the two individuals, with such adjustments hopefully including ample forms of entertainment.
Although the trip sounds extremely long, it is short in terms of space travel. Such a duration - 501 days - is a rarity, and so missing this opportunity will be missing a chance to do something that can't be done often. "If one misses those opportunities, then typical flight times would be two to three years." Despite many challenges that the mission will present, Tito remains optimistic that it will happen. His optimism isn't simply hopeful wishing, however, with the millionaire having had consulted engineers and scientists about his plans before ever forming the nonprofit organization.