By John Zarrella, CNN
A unique mission to Mars is in the planning.
Mars. We should have been there already. Just ask the head of the mars society who decades ago worked on concepts for human missions.
"If the Apollo program had not been orphaned and abandoned, the first children born on Mars would probably be entering high school right about now," said Robert Zubrin, President of the Mars Society.
Just ask the last man to walk on the moon the furthest away any humans been so far.
"We're gonna be on our way to Mars by the turn of the century. I said that in 1973. Gave me over 27 years to be proven wrong. I won't live to see humans on Mars. I thought I would," said Gene Cernan, Apollo 17 astronaut.
But there's a chance, a long shot, that Cernan will see humans fly by the red planet.
Millionaire Dennis Tito, is leading a privately funded venture to mars called "Mission for America." The jaw dropping, seemingly outrageous undertaking would liftoff in 2018, just five years from now, when mars will be in spitting distance of Earth, about as close it ever gets, roughly 36 million miles.
Tito is no stranger to space flight. He was a NASA engineer, and in 2001 became the first space tourist flying on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station.
Plans for the Mars mission will be fully unveiled next week in Washington.
While Tito hasn't said it's a human mission, that seems pretty clear. Some of the principle players involved are experts in space medicine and life support. The mission would be a "fast free return" and take 501 days. That's nothing like what NASA wants to eventually do have humans land and work on mar before returning.
Sources close to the Mars mission tell CNN this is just a "really very simple fly around Mars." Talk about an understatement. What we don't know is who's going and how many. How much it will cost or how they'll get there, what rocket and spacecraft?
Sources say, "It's an open field with a wide range of solutions." There are many millionaires and billionaires out there talking about mining asteroids, space hotels and moon bases, but all that's way down the road. Pulling off a mars mission in five years, well that's shooting for the moon.