A multi-millionaire investment tycoon and space travel enthusiast is planning a privately funded 501-day round trip mission to Mars in 2018.

Inspiration Mars Foundation, a non-profit organisation, led by millionaire Dennis Tito — the world’s first space tourist — will hold a news conference next week to announce the mission, for a January 2018 launch.

“This ‘Mission for America’ will generate new knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration,” Inspiration Mars officials wrote in a media advisory.

Some people and media reports speculate that given the speakers’ backgrounds and the lofty goals articulated in the media advisory, Inspiration Mars is planning a manned mission to the Red Planet, ‘SPACE.com’ reported.

According to the NewSpace Journal, Tito’s paper discusses “a crewed free-return Mars mission that would fly by Mars, but not go into orbit around the planet or land on it. This 501-day mission would launch in January 2018, using a modified SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket.”

The Journal writes, “According to the paper, existing environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) technologies would allow such a spacecraft to support two people for the mission, although in Spartan condition.”

It added the mission would be privately financed and cheaper than previous estimates for manned Mars efforts, though no overall cost is given.

A 501-day mission would pose potentially serious physiological and psychological issues for astronauts, experts say.

Tito made history in 2001, plunking down a reported $ 20 million for an eight-day trip to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

(This article was published on February 22, 2013)
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