1. ITV Report

Dennis Tito: A man with a passion for space now has a mission for Mars

The view from the landing site of NASA's Curiosity rover toward the lower reaches of Mount Sharp on Mars Photo: REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

It is clear when you see Dennis Tito speak about space exploration he is a man with a passion.

And now he is a man with a mission.

Tito, the world's first space tourist, has revealed his plan for "Inspiration Mars" a manned mission to the Red Planet.

The privately funded mission, paid for partly by Tito, will take 501 days to journey around the planet. It is only made possible by a rare planetary alignment that occurs 5 years from now which will see Mars closer to the Earth, shortening the trip.

The two US citizens (a man and a woman and preferably a 'tried and tested couple') will be launched into space and will be able to return to Earth by using the gravitational influence of Mars to "slingshot" their vehicle back.

NASA photo of Mars where Inspiration Mars Foundation hope to send two private citizens Credit: PA Photo/Nasa

In a press conference this evening Tito and his team highlighted the trials and triumphs that will come with the mission; "we are approaching the limits of science using robots like the Mars Rover. Two people will be sent to Mars, but the whole world will be along for the ride."

A man on a mission - to Mars Credit: RTV

The goal is to inspire the population and to help pave the way for an eventual government-funded mission to the surface of Mars - but that is some way off.

Tito has garnered some high-profile supporters but he needs more, the cost is estimated to reach up to £1.3 billion.

But it is not just getting there or money that will prove challenging. Jokingly Tito added, "If I were 30 years younger I still would not be going." 501 days in a space of 35 cubic metres is going to be a real challenge, so the crew selection process is going to be rigourous, and there will be a lot of science to do when they are there, as well as vitally staying healthy.

We continue to make significant progress in space exploration, it's outstanding from a scientific point of view what we've done. But we haven't made the same progress in human space flight, we haven't send humans beyond the moon for 40 years, it's time to put an end to that. I will come out a lot poorer as a result of this mission but my grandchildren will come out a lot wealthier. Now is the time.

– Dennis Tito