Rich Guy Dennis Tito Plans to Almost Send People to Mars in 2017

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Dennis Tito, the first man to pay for space flight, arrives at the 6th Annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 22, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California.
Dennis Tito. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Isn't it time we sent a person to Mars? Probably, right? It just seems like something we should do. Well, multimillionaire* Dennis Tito, famous for being the world's first paying space tourist, agrees. Today he officially announced his plans to launch a 501-day manned mission (one man, one woman) to Mars in 2017, at a time when the planet happens to be relatively close to ours. Which would be a lot more exciting if the astronauts were actually going to land on the planet. But they aren't — the mission will be of the "fly-by" variety.

We realize that actually landing on Mars and then returning to Earth would be a lot more complicated and costly, but, nevertheless, we can't help but feel like going all the way to Mars without landing is kind of a letdown. It would be like Harold and Kumar finally making it to White Castle, turning around in the parking lot, and driving home without ever stepping foot inside. 

*The Washington Post refers to Tito as a billionaire, but this March 2013 story from the Street says his net worth "is estimated in the low-to-mid hundreds of millions."