Married Couple? Mars Could be Your Ultimate Couples Adventure

Thursday, 28 Feb 2013 11:06 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A millionaire tycoon and former space tourist announced his intention to send a middle-aged couple on a round-trip voyage to Mars in the next five years via a private spaceship that has yet to be built.

Dennis Tito, the man behind a non-profit project called "Inspiration Mars," said on Wednesday that he will provide a portion of the funding for the project. Donations from advertising and media partnerships will cover the remainder of the cost.

The voyage will take an estimated 501 days and involves encapsulating the married couple in a cramped container approximately half the size of an RV, which would slingshot around the red planet, passing within 100 miles of its surface, before coming back to Earth, according to the Associated Press. There would be no landing.

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Though Tito hasn't disclosed how much the project will cost, observers estimate the entire venture would amount to more than $1 billion.

Tito said  he has assembled a team of space veterans to construct the rocket-propelled spaceship and map out the project, the technical details of which have yet to be explained.

"This is not going to be an easy mission," chief technical officer and potential crew member Taber MacCallum said. "We called it the Lewis and Clark trip to Mars."

Some of the challenges the married couple would face on their 16-month voyage include no showers and limits on toilet paper and clothing. Drinking water is made from the crew members' recycled urine and sweat. Crew members also have limited personal space.

The cons are a tradeoff for never-before-seen perspectives of Mars and "ample time for zero-gravity sex in space," the AP reported.

According to MacCallum, the reason a man and woman were selected for the virgin voyage is because, "this is very symbolic and we really need it to represent humanity."

MacCallum added that a married couple can better provide emotional support to each other than a pair with no connection. They will watch the Earth get smaller and smaller through their spacecraft's window together, saying "If that's not scary, I don't know what is."

NASA will not be involved in the project, though experts have discussed sending astronauts into space to orbit Mars by the mid-2030s.

Tito, 72, a New York City native and engineer who was a former scientist for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is known for being the first space tourist, having spent nearly eight days in orbit in 2001 as a civilian crew member of NASA's ISS EP-1 Mission.

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The aerospace engineer-turned investor made his fortune through launching the investment firm Wilshire Associates after leaving NASA in 1972. The firm currently manages $8 trillion of capital for more than 600 institutional investors globally.

Even though some of the hardware hasn't even been built, Tito says he is confident everything will come together by 2018 with no test flights, the AP reported.

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