Millionaire Space Tourist Tito Plans Mission to Mars in 2018

First Posted: Feb 21, 2013 10:54 AM EST

We may be closer to sending a man to Mars than NASA would have us believe. The world's first space tourist, millionaire Dennis Tito, is planning to launch a potentially manned mission to Mars in January 2018 in a round-trip journey that will last approximately 501 days.

Even though he made his fortune as the founder of Wilshire Associates, a multibillion-dollar investment firm in California, Tito is also a former rocket engineer and has a longtime interest in space.

He made his first trip to the International Space Station in 2001 for the price tag of $20 million. At the time, the eight-day trip itself was highly controversial. Policies governing operations at the space station had to be changed in order to accommodate Tito. Even so, his trip came relatively cheaply in comparison to other flights. The current published price for such flights is upwards of $40 million, according to NBC News.

Since his flight, Tito has kept a low profile in the private sector of spaceflight industry. This new mission, though, is sure to put him back in the public eye. Known as Inspiration Mars Foundation, the non-profit organization that is potentially sending someone to Mars in 2018 will be involved in news briefing next week on Feb. 27. Other participants will include notable individuals involved in space travel, including Taber McCallum and Jane Pynter, who were both members of the Biosphere-2 project that attempted to build a completely isolated environment inside a giant structure in the 1990s, and Jonathan Clark, a medical research at the National Space Biomedical Research institute.

While numerous reports seem to suggest that the 2018 mission will be manned, the media advisory that was released doesn't specify whether or not astronauts will fly along. Since there are extensive risks involved, it's possible that this particular mission will act as a precursor for human flight.

Even if this flight isn't manned, though, it could be a step in the right direction when it comes to sending humans to Mars.

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