This whole “Inspiration Mars” free-return mission is getting a lot of well-deserved attention, and one analysis I stumbled into today is worth pointing out.

A recent piece by Dennis Wingo at SpaceRef offers what may look like some convoluted routes to Mars, except that the peculiarities of orbital mechanics actually reduce the trip time in some cases. Sixteen months in a flying RV would really be worth it if you could also fly by the Moon and Venus on your way around Mars. Seems to me if you’re going to go to all that trouble anyway, you might as well tailor the orbit to do just that.

So it’s not exactly like the airline’s around-your-@$$-to-reach-your-elbow routes. Cleveland to LA via New Jersey, for example, isn’t quite the same thing as Earth-Moon-Venus-Mars-Earth.

A human Grand Tour of the inner Solar System, paid for with private funds: this is the age I’ve been waiting for.

The downside is they’d have to be prepared to leave in 2017, not 2018. But if outfits like SpaceX can keep this up, they might just make it:

I don’t know who said it first, but I first saw this quote at Rand Simberg’s place: “It shouldn’t be NASA’s job to send men to Mars. It should be their job to make it possible for the National Geographic Society to send men to Mars.”

As they say, Nature abhors a vacuum. If NASA wasn’t going to do it, somebody was eventually going to step up.

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