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Dennis Tito plans to send couple to Mars and back

Multimillionaire space tourist Dennis Tito has established Inspiration Mars Foundation a nonprofit intended to organize a mission to Mars by 2017. The project's chief technical officer Taber MacCallum dubbed this a no-frills, 'Lewis and Clark trip to Mars'.

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The worlds first space tourist Dennis Tito (C) flies into the International Space Station, April 30, 2001. Tito has established a foundation intended to fund a two person mission to Mars in the near future.

REUTERS/Rtv

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A nonprofit foundation wants to recruit a man and a woman - possibly a married couple - for a bare-bones, 501-day journey to Mars and back that would start in less than five years, project organizers said on Wednesday.

The mission, expected to cost upwards of $1 billion, would be privately financed by donations and sponsorships.

Project founder Dennis Tito, a multimillionaire who in 2001 paid $20 million for a trip to the International Space Station, said he will pay start-up costs for two years to begin development of life-support systems and other critical technologies.

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Currently, there are no U.S. human spaceships in operation, but several are under development and expected to be flying by 2017.

That leaves little time to take advantage of a rare planetary alignment that would allow a craft to loop around Mars, coming as close as about 150 miles (241 kilometers) to the planet's surface, before returning to Earth.

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