Just a few decades ago, and for thousands of years previous, there were very few great advancements that did not put someone's life in jeopardy. In my mind, that is where NASA went wrong.
I would wager we could build a space shuttle replacement for 1/10th the cost but with double of the failure rate and still have the best and brightest clamoring to get aboard!
Today, there are billions wasted and many opportunities to learn missed in an effort to prevent catastrophe. Though I understand the logic, I think that risk avoidance is what has brought so many exciting government, and private sector, programs to a slow crawl.
It wouldn't be difficult to find someone willing to travel to Mars on a low budget/high risk mission. Sure they may not come home, but they would go anyway. I'd bet you could find someone to take a one way flight to the outer solar system, just for the sake of exploration. A few hundred years ago, humanity had great respect for explorers and scientists who were willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of progress. How many discoveries were made when men and women risked, and often lost, their lives exploring uncharted territory, or trying risky experiments.
I applaud this effort and hope that people start realizing that there are 6 Billion people on this planet, one or two lives for the sake of progress is a small price... and one that would likely be paid willingly just to go down in history as "the first".