Space tourist Dennis Tito plans mission to Mars, manned by a man and woman (sex in space!)

The world's first commercial space traveler, Dennis Tito, is today launching "Inspiration Mars," a space tourism project which involves a 501-day flight for two astronauts to do a "flyby" past Mars, then loop back to Earth. The multimillionaire's Mars project would "set plenty of precedents on the final frontier," writes NBC's science editor Alan Boyle, the most intriguing of which may be "the astronauts that are to be sent: one man and one woman, preferably a married couple beyond childbearing years. We're talking about sex in space, folks."

A live web video press conference is under way with Dennis Tito, hosted by Miles O'Brien (whom I told I'd happily take the trip with!). Tito, who is 72, won't be taking the trip.

Dan Vergano at USA Today:

The trip would rely on planned Falcon Heavy rockets under development by Elon Musk's SpaceX corporation, which will be even larger than the heaviest current U.S. rockets. Falcon Heavy launches could deliver 1,600 pounds of cargo to Mars at a cost of around $128 million (providing about 350 square feet of room for that cargo), according to a 2012 analysis by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. SpaceX last year announced its first commercial contract and Defense Department contract for the rocket, intended for launch this year or next.

"SpaceX does not have a relationship with the Inspiration Mars Foundation," says SpaceX spokeswoman Christina Ra. "However, SpaceX is always open to providing a full spectrum of launch services to interested customers."

Any of you Boing Boing readers up for going? I'm guessing the reason gay couples aren't invited has to do with wanting to observe the differing effects on male and female subjects.

More coverage: Guardian, Space.com, Wired, WSJ.

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