Married? Wanna go to Mars?

Are you married?  If not, it might be time to start thinking about tying the knot - it could earn you a trip to the red planet.  Millionaire space tourist Dennis Tito announced his goal to send humans to Mars today and it revolves around a married couple.  Tito's $2.5 billion plan would send one lucky pair on a round trip to Mars in 2018.

Unlike previous rumors, the 73 year-old Tito will not be making the trip himself.  Instead, he plans to spearhead fundraising for the project, which he expects to cost orders of magnitude less than a traditional voyage would.  The patriotically-named Mission for America would send two people on a 501 day trip to Mars and back again in a spaceship roughly the size of your living room.

Mars is home to the largest canyon in the solar system. Soon, a lucky couple might be seeing it up close.  (Image credit: NASA)

After reaching Mars, the pair won't descend to the surface.  Instead, they'll have to settle for some spectacular scenery as they swing around the planet for the return voyage.  The ship, launched by SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket, would be on what's called a free-return trajectory. That means that once it's on its way to Mars, no action by the crew will be required for it to return.  Its path will naturally take it past Mars in such a way that a swing around the planet will return it to Earth automatically.  This is the safest and cheapest type of orbit, so it's no surprise that it's in the plan.  Free-return orbits are often some of the slowest, however.

The length of the journey and the spacecraft's tight confines make a married couple an attractive choice for the mission.  At least in theory, they will be able to get along better than two strangers.  Of course, divorce rates in the US might beg to differ.  It's also a question if such a living arrangement would create an environment conducive to making the snap, pragmatic decisions needed in an emergency.

Whatever the plan is now, Tito and company have the next five years to sort things out.  I'm sure they will be busy figuring out the intricacies of this one-of-a-kind idea.  Like how to fund it.

Source: USA Today

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