Inspiration Mars Mission

Event Date: March 17, 2014
Purdue Researchers Prof. James Longuski and doctoral students Kyle Hughes and Peter Edelman Design Mission Trajectory For Mission to Mars

In February 2013, Dennis Tito created the Inspiration Mars Foundation and announced his intention to privately finance a mission to send a two-person American crew – a man and a woman – to fly by Mars, with a target launch date in 2018. The Inspiration Mars mission was inspired by a rare 501-day free-return opportunity that was discovered in 1998 by Professor James Longuski and his then student Moonish Patel. Tito holds a Bachelor of Science in Astronautics and Aeronautics from New York University, 1962 and a Master of Science in Engineering Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was a former scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he helped to plan and monitor the Mariner 4 and 9 missions to Mars.

In 2001, Tito spent nearly eight days in orbit as a crew member of the International Space Station on a visiting mission to the ISS, and he is widely known as the first privately funded space tourist.

On July 31, 2014 Tito and two colleagues, John Carrico (of Applied Defense Solutions, Inc.,) and Michel Loucks (of Space Exploration Engineering Co.) began a collaborative design effort for the Inspiration Mars mission with Longuski’s research group. Professor Longuski and two of his doctoral students, Kyle Hughes and Peter Edelman, have been working on studying the uniqueness of the Inspiration Mars 2018 opportunity as well as potential backup trajectories to give the mission a second chance if the 2018 launch date is missed. A portion of this work by Kyle Hughes focused on searching for opportunities that fly by Venus on the way to Mars, and then return to Earth (i.e. an Earth-Mars free-return trajectory with an intermediate Venus flyby). By using the Venus flyby on the way to Mars, the group was working with an entirely different set of trajectories, and their hope was that they could find one (with properties similar to the Inspiration Mars trajectory) soon after the 2018 opportunity. After an extensive search, the group found a few suitable trajectories with launch dates in 2021 that could be used as backups for Inspiration Mars.

Michel Loucks contacted Prof. Longuski on February 24th 2014 with the news that one of the trajectories that Longuski’s research group found (as part of their work with Dennis Tito) led to the development of a new mission to fly by Venus and Mars and was recently proposed in a U.S. House of Representatives Science Committee hearing (officially called the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology) on February 27, 2014. This mission would be a government funded mission as opposed to the privately funded Inspiration Mars mission, and would be launched in November of 2021 with a 580 day total flight time to Mars and back.

Top photo caption from L~R: John Carrico (Applied Defense Solutions, Inc.), Michel Loucks (Space Exploration Engineering Co.) , Kyle Hughes (Prof. Longuski’s Ph.D. student), Dennis Tito (Wilshire Associates Inc.), Peter Edelman (Prof. Longuski’s Ph.D. student), Professor James Longuski.

Bottom photo caption – This image came from a reproduction of the team’s trajectory in STK and was provided by Mike Loucks.  The House Science Committee discussed this trajectory on February 27th 2014. 

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