If there's one person hogging all the space news at the moment it's Elon Musk, who revealed new details on his plans to colonize Mars earlier today. However, he's not the only one with their eye on the Red Planet.
A bit more under the radar than Musk, US aerospace company Lockheed Martin has revealed its own plans to get to Mars, which they’re calling the Mars Base Camp. They’ve announced this before, but now we've got new details on how it would work from the scene of Musk Mania, the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Australia.
Lockheed’s proposal is to more closely aligned with NASA’s plan to build a Deep Space Gateway near the Moon. The Mars Base Camp would be built on this station, away from Earth’s gravity, before then being sent to Mars.
Initially, the Mars station would simply orbit the planet. However, it would also carry a single-stage reusable surface lander, the Mars Ascent/Descent Vehicle (MADV) which would detach from the station and take astronauts to and from the surface. These sorties could last two weeks with up to four astronauts, before returning back to the orbiting station to refuel.
"Sending humans to Mars has always been a part of science fiction, but today we have the capability to make it a reality," said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin, in a statement.
The space station would have four main sections, which include four large solar arrays, two cryogenic propulsion stages and two tank sections, and two habitats and a living space for the astronauts. It would use liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as a propellant, which could be extracted from water-ice on Mars or its moons.
NASA’s Orion spacecraft would serve as the command deck for the entire station. Lockheed said they hoped to have the whole station ready to go to Mars within a decade, with crews undertaking 1,000-day missions to Mars and back.
The main new thing from Lockheed though is the lander. It would use rocket engines to touch down on the surface, similar to how SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 rockets.
NASA is currently considering a number of options for deep space exploration, so it’s unclear if this concept will ever see the light of day. But while Musk’s ideas might seem a bit fanciful at times, this Lockheed concept is largely based on proven technology. Maybe it’s the better bet to get humans to Mars.