Mar 27 2013

Dennis Tito and the Essence of “Ebullience”

Dennis Tito wants to send humans to Mars, and he wants to do it before 2020, not in the misty, fuzzy future after 2030! Tito and other ebullient leaders point to a rapidly approaching 1960s-style “critical state” where unprecedented space adventures are just around the corner.

Tito is a world-class example of what we call “early ebullience.” And NASA agrees (2/27/13), “It’s a testament to the audacity of America’s commercial aerospace industry and the adventurous spirit of America’s citizen-explorers.”

“Ebullience” — a highly positive, almost giddy view of the future — is always associated with the approach of transformative, twice-per-century Maslow Windows over the last 200 years.

Although not seen since JFK and the 1960s Apollo Moon program, when Walter Cronkite predicted that after Apollo 11, “everything else that has happened in our time is going to be an asterisk,” this level of extraordinary excitement has been the fundamental driver of great explorations back to Lewis and Clark, as well as the largest macro-engineering projects, such as the Panama Canal and Apollo.

Tito is the former rocket scientist/businessman who ironically paid a hefty fee to the Russians for a ticket to the International Space Station back in 2001, when the U.S. was officially uninterested in fostering space tourism.

This time Tito wants to send a middle-aged married couple, who may have already have had children, on a 501 day mission to Mars using the free-return trajectory available in 2018. With no Mars landing or orbital goals, the mission costs less, is safer, and can be done sooner.

For you Apollo fans this would be like 1968’s Apollo 8 — the first human mission to the Moon’s vicinity — without the orbits, so the Tito mission is obviously not about Mars science. It’s operational focus is cruise science, which features the biggest remaining unknowns: i.e., the mental, physical, and social health of a Mars crew.

In my memory, the idea of using married couples on Mars missions goes back to a suggestion by sociologist Betty Halliwell, Ph.D. in the late 1980s. I remember seeing her paper in 1988 at NASA’s 2nd Conference on Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century in Houston. After 25 years, I located her and she promised to send me the paper so I could highlight it here.

But what’s really driving the quintessentially ebullient, 72-year-old Tito?

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.

This giant step in human expansion into the Cosmos “is very symbolic, and we need it to represent humanity with a man and woman.”

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