14:34 02 March 2013
First space tourist billionaire Dennis Tito has announced his plans to send tested couple to Mars and back in a privately funded mission in January 2018.
In a press conference held in Washington on Wednesday, Tito said: “We have not sent humans beyond the moon in more than 40 years. I’ve been waiting, and a lot of people my age, have been waiting. And I think it’s time to put an end to that lapse.”
The plan involves flying around Mars without landing. The return-by-fly mission is expected to last for about 500 days and it will cost around $1 to $2billion. Tito hopes to fund the mission through television rights and by selling data to NASA.
Tito and his team hope to take middle-aged couple who would be willing to risk the possibility of not having children after the mission. Prolonged exposure to radiation can render them infertile. The chosen couple will be living in a 14ft by 12ft Dragon spacecraft for about a year and a half.
Space historian Prof Christopher Riley likes the idea of sending couple to the moon. He said: "The idea of sending older astronauts on longer duration missions, after they have had children, has been around for a while. The reasoning is that such a long duration mission, outside of the protective magnetosphere of the Earth, could leave them infertile.”
"Married couples have occasionally flown in space before, on short flights, and it seemed to work well, so why not."
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