Inspiration Mars Foundation aims to send humans to Mars in 2018

The Inspiration Mars Foundation, a nonprofit group established by multimillionaire Dennis Tito and others, is aiming to send humans to Mars before the government.

Tito, the world's first space tourist, and others behind the project have plans to send two humans to Mars sometime in 2018.

Experts from the Inspiration Mars Foundation used the recently held Institute of Electronics & Electrical Engineering (IEEE) aerospace conference in Big Sky, Mont., to present the conclusions of a Mars mission-feasibility study.

Taber MacCallum, chief technology officer at the Inspiration Mars Foundation, said, "All of the work done to date show the mission is possible, just barely." MacCallum is also the chief executive and chief technology officer of the Paragon Space Development Corp, which is headquartered in Tucson.

The Foundation's Mars mission aims to take advantage of a very encouraging alignment between Earth and Mars in the year 2018. The alignment will allow a simple round trip in 501 days. The alignment will not be available again until the year 2031.

The Foundation has plans to send a man and a woman, with a scheduled launch date on January 5, 2018. The two-member crew will take one swing around the Red Planet, and come to within 100 miles of its surface on August 21, then return to Earth on May 21, 2019.

Government space agency NASA has no plans conduct a human mission to the Red Planet for more than a decade.