But can this interplanetary jet-setter beat NASA to Mars? The U.S. space agency has no concrete plans to send a human to Mars yet, though NASA administrator Charles Bolden has said that they hope to put a man on Mars in the 2030s. We'll learn more about Tito's mission on February 27, when the nspiration Mars Foundation holds its first press conference, but space industry news outlet NewSpace Journal has obtained a copy of the paper they're planning to present. They write, "NASA would also have a role in this mission in terms of supporting key ECLSS and thermal protection system technology development." So maybe this isn't so much a race between Tito and NASA as it is a race between Tito (with some help from NASA) against Elon Musk, who says his Space X company will put humans on Mars by 2021. Either way, astronomers and space travel experts say their plans may be overly optimistic (one Scientific American editor reacted to the plans by saying, "if anyone gets beyond Earth orbit in 2018, I’ll eat the magazine.").
NASA is currently focussing on sending more rovers to Mars. Such projects, including the current Curiosity rover, give us much more useful data than a manned flyby ever would, but they're short on inspirational sound bites.
Inset image: jasonb42882 via Flickr