Dennis Tito, the American entrepreneur most widely known as the world's first space tourist, is setting his sights on the red planet. Tito next week will announce a bold manned mission to Mars, as part of an initiative launched by the Inspiration Mars Foundation, his newly-formed nonprofit organization. The so-called "mission for America" is slated to launch in January 2018, in the hopes of sending participants to Mars and back in 501 days.

"It is intended to encourage all Americans to believe again."

Tito made headlines in 2001, when he paid $20 million to visit the International Space Station. It's unclear how much his mission to Mars will cost, and Tito has yet to provide details on who will be participating, but the picture should become clearer on February 27th, when he and a panel of experts hold a press conference in Washington, DC. Included on the panel is Dr. Jonathan Clark, a space medicine advisor for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, who will presumably offer more details on perhaps the most important issue — human safety.

According to a press release issued this week, the mission is designed to "generate new knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration. It is intended to encourage all Americans to believe again, in doing the hard things that make our nation great, while inspiring youth through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and motivation."