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Feb 28, 2013 3:56 PM by Danielle Lerner

Tucson couple could make history with mission to Mars

TUCSON - A Tucson couple could make space history as part of a private mission to Mars.

Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter founded Paragon Space Development in Tucson, which specializes in life support systems for spacecraft. They are also part of the non-profit Inspiration Mars, which is behind the proposed January 2018 mission.

"Sort of rekindles America's excitement in space," said MacCallum.

If all goes according to plan humans, not just rovers, could soon be getting a birdseye view of the red planet. Poynter and MacCallum joined multi-millionaire and space tourist Dennis Tito in Washington, D.C. this week to unveil their big plans.

Tito is helping fund the 501-day private mission to send a two-person crew around Mars and back.

"It's like being in an RV where you go about 32,000 times around the earth and you can't get out for 500 days and you've got everything crammed in there with all that you need," said Poynter.

Not exactly a space getaway. The mission calls for a married couple, to help cope with the inevitable stress. They must also be past childbearing age because of high radiation levels and have experience with long periods of isolation and confinement.

"It was kind of funny, Jane and I kept checking off those requirements," said MacCallum.

The Tucson couple is no stranger to tight quarters. They spent two years living and working inside Biosphere 2.

"We're going to throw our hat into the ring," said MacCullum, "but whether we're on the ground supporting the crew, or we're actually the crew, both is really a fabulous opportunity for Tucson."

It is also an opportunity with lots of firsts and unknowns. The two don't just acknowledge that, they embrace it.

"Really the big risk is not taking the risk," said Poynter. "A calculated risk that is really daring but is possible, I mean that's really the spirit we need in America now."

Right now officials will not comment on the exact price tag, just saying it is much smaller and cheaper than the $2.5 billion Mars Curiosity Rover. For more information on Inspiration Mars, click here.

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