To Mars Via Venus?
LOS ANGELES - Inspiration Mars Foundation is an American nonprofit organisation founded by Dennis Tito that proposed to launch a manned mission to flyby Mars in January 2018, or 2021 if they missed the first deadline. Their website is now defunct but that page had been archived by the Internet Archive. The Foundation's future plans are unclear.
On 27 February 2013, the Inspiration Mars Foundation held a press conference in the National Press Club to announce their plan to procure space hardware, launch vehicle services, and select a two-person married couple as crew, and then attempt to raise the funding necessary to launch a mission to Mars in 2018. Dennis Tito said he was going to fund the foundation with $100 million for the first years of operation.
At the 2013 conference, however, Dennis Tito indicated that the plan was impossible without significant investment from NASA and the use of NASA spacecraft. NASA, however, was an unwilling partner.
The total cost of the mission was projected to be between US$1 and US$2 billion. Tito planned to fund the foundation's cost for the first two years. Then, the foundation planned to raise funds from industry and individuals.
However, in testimony before congress in November 2013, Tito indicated that he expected private donors to only provide around $300 million, leaving the need for an additional investment of $700 million from the US government. NASA responded that whilst they were willing to share technical and programmatic expertise with Inspiration Mars, they were unable to commit to sharing expenses with them. The foundation's funding model, dependent on an unwilling partner, was broken.
In March 2014, SpaceX indicated that they had also been contacted by Inspiration Mars, but that accommodating such requirements would require some additional work and that such work was not a part of the current focus of SpaceX.