Privately Funded Mars Mission from Dennis Tito – Not so Private

Inspiration MarsNot that long ago a fellow by the name of Dennis Tito proposed a privately financed mission to send a pair of travelers to Mars and back. I was opposed to the project in principle because I prefer robotic missions to manned missions for a number of reason.

My opposition stopped short of saying he shouldn’t go ahead with the project. I felt that if Tito wanted to spend his own money or raise said money from Crowd Sourcing then it was his to spend. That the publicity of the mission might do some good.

Well, the truth comes out. Tito now admits without NASA technology and government money the mission will not go forward. He tries to shame the government into funding his mission and pretty much tries to shift any blame for the mission not taking place to a reluctance by the government to spend your tax dollars.

Tito claims that without the government money he will go ahead with another plan that will launch in 2021. I’m not holding my breath.

The reason I’m posting this update is for those who were greatly enthusiastic about the original story but will not have followed subsequent events closely. It’s a good lesson for all of us. When we hear grandiose schemes we are naturally excited. The idea of doing great things, of participating in such events, is very attractive. I’m not opposed to dreamers and those who support them.

That being said, I’m a pragmatist at heart. It’s great to dream big but it’s vital to work out the details.

A vast quantity of our tax dollars were wasted when President George W. Bush laid out a scheme for a manned mission to Mars and a Lunar Base that was completely unrealistic. At least in this case it’s Tito’s money, not mine.

It seems to me that one of the major problems that we face in the United States is not lack of dreamers, we have more of those than ever, but lack of practical doers. Everyone offers up amazing plans to fix everything and no one does any of the real work necessary to make them happen, or even takes the time to come up with a realistic plan of action. It’s enough merely to promulgate an idea. If that idea doesn’t come to fruition then it’s easy enough to blame someone else.

The next time you hear some amazing story from Tito, Elon Musk, your neighbor, your representative in Congress, or your favorite talking news head, well, take a few minutes to do some research and find out what it will take to make such a plan become reality.

Just a suggestion.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

2018 Mission to Mars – Crazy or not?

MarsA fellow by the name of Dennis Tito is making news in my little corner of the space-geek world with a plan to send a manned mission to Mars. One of my favorite bloggers, Alan Boyle of Cosmic Blog, wrote up an interesting summation of events so far.

I’ve long been a proponent of robotic missions over manned missions for a variety of reasons that I don’t want to get into today. What I do want to discuss is the nature of this particular plan and whether it is sheer madness, a great idea, or something in-between.

The broad plan itself is simply to send two astronauts to Mars on a trip that would circle the red planet and return to earth in a total of 501 days. As Earth and Mars rotate around the sun there are only certain times when the round-trip can be accomplished so quickly. The next such alignment occurs in January of 2018. This means the technology has to be ready to launch at that time. Five years is a remarkably short period to make this happen.

The detailed plan is extremely sketchy but the basic technology is understood and certainly not impossible. They would have to use a rocket that is currently incomplete but scheduled to be finished by that time. A major stumbling block is the speed at which the returning vessel would enter Earth’s atmosphere. There are other pressing problems that currently have no solution but the entire concept is possible.

The funding for the operation is to come largely from donations and Tito’s own personal wealth.

Is the plan a worthwhile endeavor?

As I stated earlier, I’m of the fairly strong opinion that robotic exploration is the most useful method for finding out information from Mars, the moon, and other places within the solar system. Humans are just too frail and concerns about radiation exposure, food and water, waste disposal and other barriers make human space exploration a waste of time and money. We’ve already sent plenty of robots into orbit of Mars. Landed them on Mars. In this case we’d be spending billions of dollars to send two people on a round trip to Mars for no good scientific purpose.

So, at this point you probably think you’ve got my final conclusion all figured out. You’d be wrong.

If Tito wants to raise the money and make this a reality, I say go for it. It’s his money and his donor’s money. The astounding publicity of the event will certainly make millions of people as big a proponent of space exploration as am I. In the end it might create more money and science dedicated to robotic exploration.

Personally, I’d prefer that he use his considerable charisma and effort to help NASA fund missions that have been cancelled because of lack of funds. To that Tito might tell me to do what I want when I’ve made a few billion of my own, and he’d be right!

I applaud Tito’s spirit and wish him well. Although I would offer one major criticism. Don’t say The Right Stuff times ten ever again. Such a thing is impossible. Thank you for your courage and sacrifice Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper, and Deke Slayton.

Now, if only I could get a few million people to purchase my books maybe I could fund one of those cancelled missions!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt