It could be the ultimate relationship test. They say going on holiday together when you first become a couple is one of the make or break milestones in any love affair.
So that’s probably why billionaire Dennis Tito is seeking a couple who have been married a while and are comfortable with all their partners’ little quirks for his ambitious plan to send a husband-and-wife team into space on the first manned mission to Mars.
Tito is also specifically looking for a middle-aged couple who have, perhaps, already had their children and so are happy to take the risk of their fertility being affected because they will be exposed to radiation for a prolonged period of time.
The billionaire financier’s plan comes after he became the world’s first space tourist 12 years ago. His latest scheme to send two civilians on what he describes as “an history journey” will come to fruition in five years’ time.
Speaking about the idea behind his Red Planet mission, Tito said: “We have not sent humans beyond the moon in more than 40 years. “I’ve been waiting and a lot of people my age have been waiting. And I think it’s time to put an end to that lapse.”
The mission will not involve any landing on Mars, but will be a fly-by, which would take 500 days, so any couple will have to be happy in each other’s company as they will be cooped up for more than 16 months in an area the size of a small caravan.
Costing somewhere between $1bn and $2bn, Tito is hoping to partly fund the mission through selling television rights, and selling information gained during the trip to Nasa.
The organisation set up to action his plan, Inspiration Mars, is now taking applications from couples who want to spend all that time together in a 14ft by 12ft Dragon space craft. They would be given supplies including more than a tonne of dehydrated food.
Talking about why Inspiration Mars is only looking for a married couple to make the flight rather than, for example, a pair of life-long friends, Taber MacCallum, who is chief technical officer for the mission, said: “This is very symbolic and we really need it to represent humanity with a man and a woman.”
He said it would be necessary to find the right people who would offer each other emotional support when they reached the moment of looking out of the window to see Earth getting smaller and smaller. “If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is,” he said.
Tito said he decided to take matters into his own hands because, now 72, he is worried he may not still be around for the first US-government manned mission to Mars, which is scheduled to take place in the mid 2030s.
The mission is set to take place on January 5, 2018 to take advantage of an alignment of the Earth with Mars that happens just once every 15 years.