NASA Passed on Mars Flyby Mission in 1990s U.S.News & World Report

Millionaire entrepreneur Dennis Tito got space enthusiasts excited last month when he announced a project to fly a married couple around Mars in 2018—but NASA may have passed on a similar mission when it was proposed in the late 1990s by a prominent aerospace engineer.
According to Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society and a prominent advocate for exploration of the red planet, he had meetings with former NASA administrator Daniel Goldin in the late 1990s to pitch him a nearly identical mission to Tito’s that would have launched in 2001 and cost the agency about $2 billion.
Dubbed Athena, the mission would have used technology that existed in 1996 on a two-year Mars flyby mission. Two astronauts would have orbited the planet for about a year, remotely-controlling rovers on the Martian surface with about 100 times less lag time than rovers controlled from Earth. The spaceship would never land on Mars, which Zubrin contends was Goldin’s problem with the mission.