Charlotte Hannah
March 01, 2013

Crazy Billionaire to Send Married Couple to Mars


Dennis Tito
Photo credit: AFP/Getty

What’s the longest continuous stretch of time you’ve spent with your significant other? Like, I’m talking about being by their side constantly unless one of you is in the bathroom. A week or two, maybe, if you’ve ever taken a trip together with just the two of you?

In all likelihood, when it was over, you were probably glad to get away from him for a bit. No matter how much you adore your sweetheart, when you spend all your time with just one person, their normally tolerable habits and quirks quickly become unbearable.

But that’s just what happens when you’re alone with your partner for a week or two. Imagine spending a year and a half with him (and only him) – in a confined area half the size of an RV, in the cold, dark vacuum of space.

Billionaire investor Dennis Tito, who was also the world’s first space tourist, wants to make this nightmare a reality. He’s the man behind project Inspiration Mars, a privately funded project that hopes to send two married astronauts on a trip around Mars in a spacecraft that looks like a giant Hitachi Magic Wand.

Photo credit: Associated Press

Tito, a former NASA engineer, is hopeful the mission will take place as early as January 2018, when Mars’ rotation brings it closest to Earth. Two astronauts – a middle-aged, married couple who has already had children – will be shot into the darkness of space, spending about 500 days away from Earth. The mission will take advantage of Mars’ gravitational field to slingshot the spacecraft back toward our planet. Unlike previous NASA-funded missions to space, there will be no backup plan to save the astronauts if they become stranded.

Why a married couple? Jane Poynter, a member of the team behind the Inspiration mission, explained that they decided to go with a man and a woman because they’d “represent humanity” and give future generations something to look up to. They decided to use a married couple because they’d be able to give each other the emotional support needed as their spacecraft got further and further from Earth.

“If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is,” remarked chief technical officer Taber MacCallum.

So, to recap: Tito wants to send a married couple to space for a year and a half (the longest anyone’s ever spent in space), on a mission that’s never been done before, in a spacecraft less than 600 cubic feet in size, with no backup plan in case something goes wrong, and a crew member described the whole thing as “scary.” Oh, and they’ll be drinking their own recycled pee the whole time.

It’s a good thing that in space, no one can hear you argue.