Married Couple Eyed for 2018 Trip to Mars

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The purpose of the voyage is to “show the world that the human race has the vision and the means to become a multi-planet species,” Tito wrote in a paper to be presented Sunday at the IEEE Aerospace Conference in Montana.

“The mission will address one of the most fundamental technical challenges facing human exploration of space, keeping the humans alive and productive in deep space,” said Tito, who runs a California-based investment management and consulting firm.

The former aerospace engineer was researching lunar flyby flight paths when he came up a paper published in the mid-90s describing the Mars free-return. To make the trip, launch would have to take place around January 2018. The next opportunity isn’t until 2031.

“If we don’t make 2018, we’re going to have some competition in 2031,” Tito told Discovery News. “By that time, there will be many others that will be reaching for this low-hanging fruit -- and it really is low-hanging fruit.”

“I was looking for something to fill in the blanks in our human spaceflight program. Forty years ago, we went to the moon and we haven’t done anything (beyond low-Earth orbit) since.

“I’ve reach this age and I say ‘Look, I’m not happy with this.’ We’ve done some great stuff with robotic exploration of Mars and the rovers, but what have we done in human spaceflight? Nothing much, and nothing at all beyond the moon. This (Mars mission) is really the answer, no question,” Tito said.