back to article Is world's first space tourist Dennis Tito planning a trip to Mars?

The internet is aflutter with rumours that millionaire Dennis Tito, the world's first space tourist, is planning a private manned mission to Mars in just five years' time. Artist's impression of a manned mission to Mars The wires were set jangling by a press release announcing a "once-in-a-generation space journey", …


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  1. LordHighFixer

    This is great news

    I am look forward to seeing a test of the falcon heavy lift vehicle and dragon capsule travel to mars before I go. Hopefully this will help fuel interest in the Mars One project.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is great news

      But it will be a one way trip.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        He could cure all known illnesses with the money needed for this jolly.

        Sorry but what does he want to be remembered for?

        The worlds greatest beneficiary


        The prat who didn't get back from Mars?

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          > He could cure all known illnesses with the money needed for this jolly.

          By building a time machine to get info from the future?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            By massively increasing funding into research.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "He could cure all known illnesses with the money needed for this jolly."

          And so could you.

          However he decides to spend it, first step is to amass that fortune in the first place. Exactly how far ahead from him are you on this respect?

        3. Don Jefe


          No. His money probably wouldn't be enough to 'cure' anything.

          Besides, if his interests lie in space it is his right to spend it where he wishes.

        4. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          @Incredibly cowardly AC

          "He could cure all known illnesses with the money needed for this jolly.

          Sorry but what does he want to be remembered for?"

          First of all, he may not want to be remembered for anything (unlikely, but possible).

          More likely, and certainly what I would want to be remembered for, he has the aim of going down in history as one of several that: a) reduced the importance of individual state activity in space exploration; and b) looked into the future and made possible the diaspora of humanity from one poxy planet to ... well, where could the species go?

          Curing disease saves only the individual - what he is doing might save the species. Let Bill and Melinda use their money on "humanitarian" projects that keep the "what about the Third World?" advocates happy - I'll cheer on the truly great projects, thanks.

          1. Kharkov

            Re: @Incredibly cowardly AC

            Wherever you spend your money, you're going to annoy someone who feels it should have gone here instead of there, regardless of where you put the money. So people who put money somewhere should ignore the people who complain.

            That said, it's worth looking at one aspect - the difference between research and engineering.

            Spend one billion dollars on cancer research and it's quite possible that when you come to the end of the money, you still won't have a cure for cancer. You'll have helped, no doubt, but money-in does not equal answer-out.

            Now spend one billion dollars on putting stuff into space, sending it to Mars etc and, wow, you end up with a billion dollars worth of stuff in space or on the way to Mars etc.

            In short, let the man put his money where he wants and people who disagree can put their money where they want and neither side should listen to people complaining about spending their money on this instead of that.

      2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        " will be a one way trip."

        No something that would discourage me. Why should it discourage him?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is great news

        If he takes a few other rich nobheads with him the world will be a better place.

  2. Thomas 4

    The whole idea is absolutely barking...

    ...if the notes about the equipment not being ready are correct. Yet despite all this, I am hoping and praying that the launch goes ahead and that this madman gets his dream of walking on Mars. Godspeed, righteous fruitcake. o7

    1. Beachrider

      He isn't walking on Mars...

      This is a flyby. They won't even be orbiting Mars, if the initial info is correct.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: He isn't walking on Mars...

        I don't get it, if your that rich and could even contemplate getting to mars, why not just land there and be the first colonist! free return? ha, no return missions is what we need to do!

        1. Fatman

          Re: NO return missions is what we need to do!

          I would quickly nominate a whole bunch of politicians and bankers wankers for the first trip.

          1. Thomas 4

            Re: NO return missions is what we need to do!

            Screw that, even if it was a one way trip, to walk on another world in our lifetime is a priviledge that no banker or politician in the world is deserving of.

          2. Smallbrainfield

            Re: NO return missions is what we need to do!

            Just what we need, a planet inhabited entirely by politicians and bankers.

            1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              Re: NO return missions is what we need to do!

              "Just what we need, a planet inhabited entirely by politicians and bankers." It wouldn't exist. Without people to do the actual work, all that would be left in short order would be a pile of bones, all of them gnawed by the "top dogs", the "survivors" who were better at stabbing others in the back. Eventually even the most skilled back-stabber will end up dead, with nothing to show for it but a lonely end. It would be a great example of the modern capitalist dream.

      2. hplasm Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: He isn't walking on Mars...

        Mars 8

        Get your mission patch.

        Mars 11, July 2019.......

      3. harmjschoonhoven

        Re: He isn't walking on Mars...

        Why not just send a couple of radiationhardened ants on a flyby around Mars?

        They 'll inherit the earth anyway.

  3. Beachrider

    Falcon Heavy will freeze in deepspace...

    I can see the effectiveness of FH as an LEO lifter, but its useful life on a Mars mission will be only an hour or two. Its kerosene fuel will freeze quickly.

    Perhaps they can do interplanetary injection by that time, but they will need some big-ass LH2 or Hydrazine if they intend to control their direction and speed for most of those 502 days.

    1. Vulch

      Re: Falcon Heavy will freeze in deepspace...

      LH2 is generally a no-no for a Mars mission, even earth orbit missions using the Centaur upper stage (LH2/LOX) need very careful planning so it doesn't boil away in the first couple of hours. Shedding heat is the problem for missions betwen Earth and Mars orbits, not trying to stay warm, so you'd probably want to use hydrogen peroxide as the oxidiser with kerosene rather than the usual LOX for long duration.

      1. Beachrider

        Re: Falcon Heavy will freeze in deepspace...

        You are not getting any Kerosene through any pumps below -60c. Deepspace between Earth and Mars would cause the rocket to drop below -150c.

        Curiousity used a Centaur LH2 upper stage augmented with hydrazine and most people called that a yes-yes.

        1. Vulch

          Re: Falcon Heavy will freeze in deepspace...

          Would you care to explain "Augmented by hydrazine"?

          Curiosity separated from the Centaur less than an hour after launch, there was no reason to try and store fuel for use later. And if your claims of the temperatures expected had any basis in fact, why would hydrazine be any use? It's got a freezing point of 2C.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: Falcon Heavy will freeze in deepspace...


            Are you DONE with your caveman tech yet?

            Where's the fracking NUCULAR ENGINE?

            1. Beachrider

              Re: Falcon Heavy will freeze in deepspace...

              Nuclear engines, if you mean something besides nuclear ion propulsion, hasn't tested well so far. Ion engines have worked for unmanned probes with very-long timelines. They have done well, there.

              As to hydrazine, so far it has been THE most reliable deepspace fuel. Curiousity is just the latest of a dozen NASA probes to 'augment' with hydrazine engines. If only the stuff weren't so toxic, support for its use in more roles would enhance its reputation. But it evil stuff...

              1. Yag

                Re: Falcon Heavy will freeze in deepspace...

                I heard that Nuclear Thermal Engines were functional, but were abandonned due to the atmospheric nuclear test ban and further treaties... Am I wrong?

                PS : If you want to learn more on those stuff, the old book "Ignition!" is very interesting - even if sometime heavy on the science side. The horror stories are still something anyone can enjoy.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If Mr. Tito ever gets on a trip to Mars, he may be the first to be buried on Mars. I don't believe anyone has died in space yet. Maybe he will be the first.

    1. Swarthy

      Buried on Mars

      That would be one way to kick-start a biosphere on Mars - and completely roger any future claims of (native) life found on Mars.

      And, truth be told, not a fate that I would regret. being in my late 70s and being the first person buried on a world other than Earth.. Not a bad legacy.

      1. hplasm Silver badge

        Re: Buried on Mars

        @Swarthy= Are you Mr Burns ? :)

      2. Aldous
        Thumb Up

        Re: Buried on Mars

        even if he dies on this initial mission would you care if you were 77? you can't take the money with you and you could see something that no one else has seen and progress mankinds reach into space (something he is passionate about)

        If i was in the same position i'd take the chance of it being a one way trip over a possible extra 5-10 years on earth

      3. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Buried on Mars

        He sounds like Robert Heinlein's D.D. Harriman - all he wanted to do was go into space.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe he will be the first

      I hope so too, but I have to wonder about your age.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sing it to Eleanor Rigby "Dennis Tito, flew to Mars and was buried"

  5. Lars Silver badge

    Just what you need

    "the mission "is intended to encourage all Americans to believe again, in doing the hard things that make our nation great".

    What about trying to do something about the great American divide first. You make me weep.

    1. Joe Cooper

      Re: Just what you need

      Ahh, that special indignance that only ever appears in the presence of space or science. I assume the untold billions spent around the world on other luxuries are of course perfectly legit and far more noble, since this topic is literally the only one where people spam the threads with this drivel.

      Now if he spends his money on a private jet fleet to carry his furniture while he travels like the Saudi monarchs, nobody would say shit. You know it's true.

      1. cordwainer 1

        Re: Just what you need

        No, it's not true. Yours is that special contempt that appears whenever people rightly point out there is certainly a place for spending on exploration and pure curiosity, scientific or otherwise - but there is a moral problem with allocating funds to research another planet when too many people are actually dying from lack of life's necessities, such as sufficient food, basic housing, even minimal medical care, etc.

        Plenty of people are indignant at obscene spending on private jet fleets too, or blowing $500,000 on a necklace yet never giving a dime to charity, etc., etc.

        Many poor people, by the way, are also excited about scientific discovery and space exploration . . . but not if it turns out the funding for those was increased while funding for food, education, health care, and so on, was decreased.

        We simply can't keep robbing from basic needs to fund desires - and it doesn't matter if the ones stealing are the rich or the government or the guy next door who connects his hose to your outdoor faucet to water his desert-climate perfect green grass lawn. Anyone would be indignant at going thirsty for the sake of grass - ditto for starving while Curiosity snaps photos.

        And, no, that "indignance" is not special or specific to science. It's your average humane indignance at warped priorities.

        Said by someone who is, at present, extremely poor, but still enjoys following Curiosity's discoveries . . . but who also has lived in a homeless shelter for 6 months for lack of medical insurance to treat the condition that kept me from being able to work for almost 2 years. There were no funds to help me get off the street, as I'm single with no children. A few thousand of the hundreds of millions spent on sending probes to Mars would have made all the difference, you see.

        1. Joe Cooper

          Re: Just what you need

          I'm sorry but it's a false choice. I too know what poverty is, and I'm glad to see someone going. I will never begrudge the few billion spent on the public Mars program, because it – along with anything we can do end poverty – is what a great society does. Unfortunately you are going to have to _convince_ people to help the poor because not everyone agrees with you on if or how to do that. That, not the fact that a sliver of the public money is spent on exploration, is your enemy. You can tear down NASA, DARPA, CERN, hell even the DoD and every gun we have and it'll still be in your way. Deal with _that_ and stop throwing poo at one of the most amazing things we're doing right now.

          1. Joe Cooper

            Re: Just what you need

            Ahem, just to add, I didn't mean to imply CERN is a US agency. The LHC did however cost a few billion of public money and does not have an obvious, immediate material benefit compared to other things that European states could have spent a few billion on. But I stand by its existence because it's important and it's not the only few billion around.

        2. mickey mouse the fith

          Re: Just what you need

          " ...when too many people are actually dying from lack of life's necessities, such as sufficient food, basic housing, even minimal medical care, etc."

          If we dont prioritize spending on space research now, one asteroid could wipe us out or severely curtail our civilisations development, thus maybe robbing us of the chance of ever spreading out into space. We really need to get off this planet before a catastrophe renders us incapable of doing so.

          The human race can withstand poverty, min med care etc and continue to thrive and develop, it maybe cannot survive a global disaster if every human is in the firing line.

          What this guy is doing and the knowledge the project will bring are as important as irradicating disease in my opinion. We will develop tech to maybe deflect incoming objects, and later, the legacy of this mission could be a human colony, a backup, somewhere off-world.

          I also think this guy is planning a one way trip, who wouldnt want to spend the last days of their lives gazing upon and experiencing something no other human has, whilst knowing that the knowledge gained on the mission will advance mankind? I would volunteer in a heartbeat.

    2. SteveastroUk

      Re: Just what you need

      IIRC NASAs budget is 0.5% of the current US budget. In a poll taken recently over 70% of Americans supported a manned, landing mission to Mars, even if that meant doubling Nasa's budget

    3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just what you need

        Of course none of their computing needs would be Microsoft based, hey Eadon?

    4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Just what you need

      > the great American divide

      Is that the one created by a hundred years of Progressivism which shall be fixed by MORE Progressivism?

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Just what you need @Destroy All Monsters

        I think they are referring to the progression of what is now the conservative parties from being fairly liberal and forward looking to them being backwards looking knobends.

      2. Rattus Rattus

        @Destroy All Monsters

        No, it's the one caused by a hundred years of thinking that the rich don't deserve to pay a fair tax rate because they "create jibs" (snigger), and that corporations are people, and that money is speech. And especially that whoever spends most on an election campaign deserves to win it.

        1. Rattus Rattus

          Re: @Destroy All Monsters

          And by "jibs" I of course meant "jobs", dammit.

    5. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Just what you need

      Lars, you and Cordwainer 1 are the ones that make *me* weep. Small thinkers, with no vision. The amount this project will cost wouldn't even make a dent in the "great American divide"*, and wouldn't make any lasting difference. Making the rich pay the same proportion of tax as the middle classes- that is your battle.

      *And with that comment alone, you show yourself to be a small thinker - there are poor people all around the world, but you want to restrict your "aid" to your society. Very sad.

  6. Anonymous John

    Cramped conditions?

    Not if they took a Bigelow inflatable module with them. I wonder if an unmanned Falcon 9 could be used to take some cargo aloft and docked with the FH.

  7. xehpuk
    Thumb Up


    If he can afford the trip then why not. The trips to the moon was not for science either, it was about who would be there first. And I would love it if an old man could do it, show the world you can do things after 70, that could inspire people. I hope its not his ashes he is planing to send there though, that would be like polluting the place.

  8. Robert Heffernan

    Definately Possible

    There is no reason why a manned mars mission couldn't be done with civilian off-the-shelf hardware.

    Between SpaceX providing the capsule and launcher, and Bigelow providing an in-space habitat, and diving companies providing pressure suits for on-ground operations, it could all be done extremely cheaply and with little in the way of red-tape of the kind NASA had to go up against.

    It would be EXTREMELY cheap in that what company isn't going to want the PR from having their gear used in the first manned mars shot. They will either be handing it over for free or throwing out any and all profit on said gear just for the priviledge.

    Can you imagine Tito walking up to them plucky rovers on Mars, swapping out the batteries for a new set, giving the Solar panels a dust-off, spraying some Space WD-40 into the wheels to free them up and kicking it in the ass to get it moving again.

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: Definately Possible

      Having your chief mark die half way wouldn't be the best product placement outcome ever.

      Tito's in his 70s. The probability of him popping his vacuum-proofed clogs on Earth is likely over 50%.

      What are you going to do in space if half your two-man mission is decomposing next to you in the capsule?

      1. Smallbrainfield
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Definately Possible

        Burial at sea, more food for me.

        If that isn't a quote, it should be.

        1. moonface

          Re: Definately Possible

          Simple solutions: Special steak tartare now on the menu. Bring out the 'Capricorn One' set from mothballs and start auditioning bald actors.

      2. TwistUrCapBack

        Re: Definately Possible

        could always tie him to a rope and trail him behind said capsule :)

        wouldnt be much decomposing going on then

  9. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Private sector needs to show the public sector how it is done

      Minor correction - human crewed, not piloted.

      Computers have flown all spacecraft with the exception of Apollo 11's LEM*, Apollo 13* and the shuttle during the landing.

      Launch and in-space manoeuvring is something humans just can't do - the timings and precision needed are too tight, and we simply can't do the observations either.

      Any spaceflight is quite simply pre-calculate and let the computer burn the engines.

      Humans can do the last bit of landing, but balancing on a tongue of flame is best left to a computer.

      * 'cos it broke.

      1. JeffyPooh

        Re: Private sector needs to show the public sector how it is done

        " manoeuvring is something humans just can't do..."


        "...with the exception of Apollo 11's LEM (sic), Apollo 13 and the shuttle during the landing."

        So your point is contradicted by your own counterexamples.

        And the Gemini rendezvous (flown manually), and Alan Bean being handed control of the LM, and Apollo 10 when it rolled out of control, and Armstrong saving Gemini 8, and etc. etc. etc.

        PS. LM pronounced lem.

        1. Paul 77

          Re: Private sector needs to show the public sector how it is done

          I thought it was Lunar Excursion Module - LEM...

          1. JeffyPooh

            Re: Private sector needs to show the public sector how it is done

            LEM := LM

            There was a memo, circa 1966. Check your files....

            ...Or wiki. :-)

        2. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Private sector needs to show the public sector how it is done

          Armstrong took manual control of the last section of the computer landing in the LEM and drifted it along to find a flatter LZ - because it missed the target due to wrong data, and it wasn't possible for a human to see that until it had nearly landed.

          With a hand over the "hard abort" button that would put the computer back in control and throw them back to the CM. That's still the closest to actual off-world piloting ever done. Perhaps the same will be done for a manned Mars lander, but I doubt it.

          Apollo 13 did one or two 'manual' burns on a "we'll correct it later when the computer is running again" basis.

          However, the burn was still pre-calculated by the boffins on Earth, the crew's job was to keep the craft in the same orientation during the burn.

          Not to time the burn, not to work out how long to burn for or which direction to do it, and not even to know that it needed doing at all.

          Finally, Gemini etc crews didn't do the rendezvous, just the final docking. Computers got them within a few hundred metres and at near-zero relative velocity, humans only handled the final touch-and-grab.

          - Compare taking a ship across the Atlantic to New York with going the last 100m to the quayside.

          Humans are also rather poor at it, demonstrated by how much practice was needed to get a small number of extremely experienced and highly trained individuals to be able to do it at all. (And how dented a lot of ships are! The big ones auto-dock now.)

          Today it's mostly not done - grab the thing with an arm and drag it into place.

          The big advantage a human-crewed mission has is being able to repair stuff. If the computer breaks, a human can turn it off, replace bad components and reload the software. A computer can't do that for itself.

          1. Chris Rowland

            Re: Private sector needs to show the public sector how it is done

            There's a free space flight simulator called Orbiter that allows you to try all this sort of thing for yourself. The default craft is seriously over endowed with delta V but even so anything more complex than getting into orbit is almost impossible without getting the computer to do the calculations.

            Try a take off from the Moon and a return to Earth without using a burn calculator.

          2. JeffyPooh

            Re: Private sector needs to show the public sector how it is done

            Armstrong / Apollo 11: "...missed the target due to wrong data..."

            No, it was reportedly traced back to a failure to *completely* depressurize the CM to LM junction prior to separation. The resultant puff of residual pressure resulted in an unexpected delta V that built up to an overshoot of the originally planned landing zone. They fixed this procedural error on Apollo 12 and were thus able to achieve a pin-point landing. It wasn't "wrong data".

            Apollo 13: "Apollo 13 did one or two 'manual' burns on a 'we'll correct it later when the computer is running again' basis.

            I don't think that the phrase "when the computer is running again" is correct. The LM computer was brought on-line (just) before the CM was put to sleep. And the CM was powered up just before reentry, long past the point where any mid-course corrections were possible. The mid-course corrections were performed open-loop (by the crew, using their eyes) and double-checked by the boffins on the ground. I don't believe that the quoted phrase "when the computer is running again" is accurate.

            My reply was to the phrase " manoeuvring is something humans just can't do...", an overly-broad and thus false statement. In general, the on-board systems and people were fully capable of navigating the interplantary void. You should read the 'Digital Apollo' book. Note that Dr. Buzz Aldrin has his PhD in orbital mechanics.

            That they choose to make use of the ground resources in the vast majority of cases is just common sense, but it is not proof that it cannot be done. As exemplified by the many counter examples. I've previously listed many examples where the systems went bonkers and the crew took full manual control. Many more than the three exceptions you listed. Any one of which proves that "just can't do" is incorrect.

            As far as "during launch", that's kind-of the entire point of one Robert H. Goddard: liquid fuel and control systems. My car has traction control, but I'm still capable of driving. Even if I use cruise control sometimes.

            Disclaimer: I wasn't there at the time, but I have a large number of Apollo / Space books (probably about 20-feet of shelf space), including several signed by moon walkers.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd go too!

    But I do need to be back in time for tea and Corry.

  11. Anonymous John

    Re "just sending a private ship to Mars and back would be pretty darn impressive."

    It would indeed, but "historic"? That would surely need a manned flight to qualify..

  12. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    While I'm skeptical that they'll pull it off...

    They would be truly insane to go to all the trouble to fly to Mars and not land on it! Did they take vacations as a kid where their father would take them to Disneyland, drive into the parking lot, turn around and go home?

    1. JeffyPooh

      Re: While I'm skeptical that they'll pull it off...

      Flyby is about 200x simpler than landing.

  13. JeffyPooh

    MC: "TMI complete. Profile nominal. Newton is in control. Your're on the way to Mars!"

    Tito to other crew member, "Oh shit. We forgot toilet paper."

  14. FanniM

    I'd like to go to see Mars, but only if I was fairly sure it wouldn't be a one way trip. I need to win the lottery.

  15. Charlie van Becelaere

    I don't know where

    he came up with his Biodome consultants. I'm all for sending Pauly Shore on the mission, just to make certain things work out well for all involved.

  16. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Economically Affordable Roundtrip

    A manned mission to Mars will be a giant leap for mankind. But it is needed to develop fusion-powered spacecrafts so that the roundtrips to Red planet become more economically affordable.

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