I wrote this about 6-8 weeks ago and because I was so worked up at Tito's audacity, decided not to print it. I am currently looking into what final outcome there might have been but thought in the meantime I'd go ahead & publish this!-MLD
Interesting, when the mission was first carried by the news, it was billionaire Dennis Tito to have privatized fly-by of Mars; but when it gets delayed, it is NASA’s fault. I’m confused. ALSO if a special alignment in 2021 makes the trip save time and energy (arriving in 1 ½ instead of 2-3 years), how is that bad?
When Mr. Tito began his Inspiration Mars, his plan was to do this incredible thing to inspire others and push the Mars itinerary. The privately funded mission would come from the billionaire PLUS private donations, however, that didn’t work out. It seems he found the privately funded mission was a little more than he was able to handle. His next iteration involved a move to seek a partnership with NASA - partially private funded and significantly federally funded. While it is the norm these days for partnerships between NASA and the commercial arena, here Tito is missing something. These handshake deals for the exploration of space are not involving an exchange of funds or using NASA hardware but relying on their mentorship and brainpower.
What amount is Tito asking for? $1 billion. Remember back to his first statement: where he was the only one who could spur this growth in exploration. Then we found out he wouldn’t be flying, instead two rather mature people would. Now he states that this is the government’s role, and THEY need to spur the space industry forward by taking on the big risks, costs, and the hard exploration. ALSO: The original specs for this mission were based on a modified Dragon capsule from the private US space company, SpaceX, launched on one of the company's Falcon heavy rockets. What happened to that plan?
After meeting with lawmakers regarding this projects setbacks that make it now require NASA, their Orion crew capsule, the Space Launch System etc., the lawmakers penned a letter to Charles Bolden Jr. (NASA Administrator ) stating that NASA needs to have a more organized plan enabling American Astronauts to travel beyond low-earth orbit.
Did I miss something? I believe they have a plan. It is for the year 2030 (as far as Mars). There is much that NASA, the ESA, and many others still need to find out about Mars while they continue work on many other fronts – the Moon for one, the entire Space Launch System & the Orion capsule for another. Previously it has been mentioned that a trip to the Moon or Mars or any other place involves 15-25 years (the farther it is away, the longer to prepare, glean data, take every precaution one can!)
In 2012 everyone from the newspapers to the scientists found it terribly amusing when Newt in his run for President stated that first thing he would do is have a colony on the moon immediately after being sworn in. What all these people recognized is that while Newt meant well a project such as that takes time. Now when Tito suggests it but allows some time but then also asks for a ton of their budget, that’s not considered odd.
I would love for there to be a fly-by of Mars and while I thought it cool when Tito announced his plans for 2018, I also thought it unlikely to succeed in that time frame. I personally, while thinking the fly-by a necessary step also would like to see it taken on by private industry with NASA in the mentoring chair. Otherwise I think NASA should take the whole project over as really, what’s the need for Tito if they are doing all the heavy lifting? Using the people he chose who have no training? It’s a long distance to go and not have ‘the right stuff’. I think before lawmakers make NASA reconsider, these same should perhaps look at the SAA (Space Act Agreements) between NASA and private companies on a no-exchange of funds basis...It is not NASA’s responsibility to make sure that Tito is a man of his word!