By Elizabeth Landau, (CNN) — Will the Mars rover Curiosity catch a glimpse of a manned spaceship in this decade? That could be even more exciting than the gray powder it found by drilling.
A nonprofit organization called the Inspiration Mars Foundation is hosting a press conference next week in which plans for a trip to Mars and back will be revealed. The proposed launch date is January 2018, and the venture is called “Mission for America.”
The press release doesn’t explicitly state that the mission is manned, but it does say that the organization “is committed to accelerating America’s human exploration of space as a critical catalyst for future growth, national prosperity, new knowledge and global leadership.”
The leader of this effort is millionaire Dennis Tito, who’s no stranger to space travel. He spent $20 million to jaunt up to the International Space Station in 2001, making him the first private space traveler.
Tito wasn’t an especially young space voyager then; he was 60 when he visited the space station. The entrepreneur used to work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the early 1960s, charting flight paths for Mariner probes built to orbit Mars.
His organization’s new idea is to get to Mars and back in 501 days. The official description is as follows:
“This ‘Mission for America’ will generate new knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration. It is intended to encourage all Americans to believe again in doing the hard things that make our nation great, while inspiring youth through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and motivation.”
There’s no word yet on where the money will come from, or how the potential space traveler(s) would survive the journey.
We will learn more about this plan at a press conference planned for Wednesday at the National Press Club.