Not content with being the world’s first space tourist, multi-millionaire Dennis Tito now has even bigger ambitions – namely to launch the first ever manned mission to Mars. If all goes according to plan, in January 2018 two people will clamber into a pod the size of a small bathroom and set off for a 501-day round-trip into science fiction.
A crazy scheme, perhaps. Certainly one with no scientific value, given that the travellers will not land and that there will be little space for kit on the pared-down, privately financed craft.
Then again, there are psychological insights to consider. Even they are as nothing, though, compared with the romance of the venture. The Red Planet has an iconic place in the human imagination. And it is that imagination – and the incurable curiosity which goes with it – that defines us. Why go to Mars? For all the best reasons: because we can, and because it’s there.
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