Human adventure on the Red Planet is getting closer every day. The latest proposal for a crewed mission to Mars comes from Lockheed Martin, an American global aerospace company.
Today at the Humans to Mars conference in Washington D.C., Lockheed Martin will announce its proposal to put a crew of six people in orbit around Mars by 2028. The spacecraft, called “Mars Base Camp,” would be in martian orbit for about 10 to 11 months, and it would be the first step of human exploration into deep space.
Lockheed is already involved in NASA’s Journey to Mars as its primary contractor for the construction of the Orion crew capsule and the Space Launch System, a new heavy-lift rocket. An uncrewed test of these technologies is scheduled for 2018, with a crewed follow-up in 2023. No firm plans have been set yet regarding the steps after that.
"We think that orbiting Mars is a necessary precursor to landing humans on the surface," Tony Antonelli, Lockheed Martin's chief technologist for civil space exploration, told Popular Science. "NASA has that in their plans, and we're coloring in the details."
Mars Base Camp is not a simple precursor, it is a ground-breaking mission in its own right. Having a crewed vessel in orbit around Mars will lead to new scientific achievement. The astronauts will be able to explore the moons of Mars, teleoperate rovers on the surface directly from orbit, locate future landing sites, and provide a closer look at our planetary neighbor.
The spacecraft, a concept Lockheed hopes NASA will consider using for its Mars missions, would be assembled in stages around the Moon. The team envisions it to be made of large habitats, laboratory modules, and two Orion capsules to propel the craft to Mars. All the parts of the Mars Base Camp are made of near-term technologies that have either been tested already or are about to be.
"All of these pieces exist today, they're not brand new," added Antonelli. "We're taking advantage of what we've already got."
Lockheed’s plan comes after the recent announcement by SpaceX of a mission to Mars as soon as 2018. With the private sector throwing their hats in, the race to the Red Planet has officially begun.
[H/T: Popular Science]