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Millionaire plans to send couple to Mars in 2018. Is that realistic? (+video)

The Inspiration Mars Foundation, led by space tourist and multimillionaire Dennis Tito, announces its plan to send a married couple on a flyby mission to the Red Planet beginning in 2018. 

The race to go to Mars heats up in the private sector.
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In 1961, President John F. Kennedy charged NASA with putting humans on the moon within the decade. Now, the world's first space tourist, multimillionaire Dennis Tito, formally unveiled plans to send two humans to Mars and back on a nonstop, 501-day mission, with the launch envisioned for January 2018.

The audacious project, which Mr. Tito is bankrolling out-of-pocket for the first two years, is driven by a mixture of motives: part America first, part research, and an enormous dash of what he and his partners hope will be inspiration to a nation whose government space program is caught between tight budgets and an unclear direction for its human spaceflight effort.

NASA's current plans don't call for a human mission to Mars for more than a decade.

The Mars flyby mission announcement came Wednesday, shortly after the House Subcommittee on Space held hearings on the Space Leadership Preservation Act, a bill that would overhaul the way NASA is funded and how its leadership is structured.

During the hearing, Rep. Chris Stewart (R) of Utah spoke of goals for NASA and said, "It will be disappointing to some of us if Google goes to Mars before the government."

In this case, however, it's not Internet titan Google spearheading the mission, but the Inspiration Mars Foundation, a nonprofit group Tito and others established to execute the project.

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