From this week's Guardian editorial "Mars or bust: a private mission to the red planet can take risks Nasa can't:"
When I first heard of the proposal, from the Inspiration Mars Foundation, that a human crew might fly to Mars in 2018 it sounded simply ridiculous. But I've begun to think differently. The team – led by millionaire and former space tourist Dennis Tito – has pedigree in the field of human space flight... How could it be done? First you have to thin out the crew – literally. Canonical mission designs propose crews of four to six astronauts. Tito et al would send only two. And the life support and nutrition requirements are based on the base metabolic demands of this pair of intrepid but slender 70kg astronauts. Next, pare back the mission objectives. This is about flags and footprints rather than science. In fact, forget the footprints – no astronaut boots will touch the surface of Mars. Instead the capsule will coast by the red planet, getting to within a few thousand kilometres of its surface before being flung back to Earth, driven by the force of gravity. This so-called "free return" to Mars means the mission can be achieved with maximum efficiency and minimum energy expenditure.The original Guardian article came out last month, "Mars mission plan launched by US millionaire space tourist Dennis Tito:"
A US millionaire who became the first private space tourist has unveiled ambitious plans to send a man and woman – probably a married couple – on a round trip to Mars when planetary alignment allows in 2018. Dennis Tito, 72, a former rocket scientist who made his fortune through investments, said his Mission for America aims to spur a new era of space exploration. Tito, who became the first private space tourist when he paid the Russians $20m (£13m) for a ticket to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001, outlined his plans in Washington DC on Wednesday. He is not intending to fly himself. Speculation over the details of the risky voyage has spread through the space community in recent weeks after the Inspiration Mars Foundation, a non-profit organisation formed by Tito, hinted at a Mars mission. The trip will take advantage of the alignment of heavenly bodies in January 2018 to fly around Mars and return to Earth in the relatively short time of 501 days.Want a novel about human flight to (and colonization of) Mars? Try Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson:
For eons, sandstorms have swept the barren desolate landscape of the red planet. For centuries, Mars has beckoned to mankind to come and conquer its hostile climate. Now, in the year 2026, a group of one hundred colonists is about to fulfill that destiny. John Boone, Maya Toitavna, Frank Chalmers, and Arkady Bogdanov lead a mission whose ultimate goal is the terraforming of Mars. For some, Mars will become a passion driving them to daring acts of courage and madness; for others it offers and opportunity to strip the planet of its riches. And for the genetic "alchemists, " Mars presents a chance to create a biomedical miracle, a breakthrough that could change all we know about life...and death. The colonists place giant satellite mirrors in Martian orbit to reflect light to the planets surface. Black dust sprinkled on the polar caps will capture warmth and melt the ice. And massive tunnels, kilometers in depth, will be drilled into the Martian mantle to create stupendous vents of hot gases. Against this backdrop of epic upheaval, rivalries, loves, and friendships will form and fall to pieces--for there are those who will fight to the death to prevent Mars from ever being changed.