Back in February, Dennis Tito revealed his ambitious plan to send a married couple on a flyby mission to Mars, something he has detailed today to members of Congress in a push to get the US government on board (figuratively speaking). Despite the science fiction-esque sound of it all, Tito says that the project can take place within the next couple of years rather than decades, and that he is aiming for December 2017.
The idea behind the flyby mission is tricky, in that it relies on an alignment of the Earth and Mars that doesn't happen very often, and that would aid in the mission by reducing the amount of time it would take to get to the Red Planet and back. To take advantage of the next alignment, the two astronauts (who would ideally be married to reduce social issues) would need to be launched in late 2017. Otherwise, the next event won't take place until 2021, and would add 80 days to the travel duration.
The delayed date would give the team another four years of working out the details, said Tito, but would also send the astronauts closer to the sun and within the orbit of Venus, both of which would drastically increase the amount of radiation exposure. Though originally Tito planned on using private rockets, he now considers it ideal to use NASA's Space Launch System rocket if possible.
Said Tito today in a conference with the House subcommittee on space, "It would be a voyage of around 800 million miles around the sun in 501 days. No longer is a Mars flyby mission just one more theoretical idea. It can be done. Not in a matter of decades, but in a few years." Delaying too long could see a different nation pull off the mission first.
SOURCE: Washington Post