Private Mars mission planners said today that Lockheed Martin is onboard to build the spacecraft that would land a technology demonstration robot on the Red Planet by 2018. The Mars One group ultimately wants to establish a human outpost on Mars.
The lander robot would use technology Lockheed previously built for NASA's Phoenix lander which touched down on Mars in 2008. The Mars One lander will evaluate the use of the Phoenix design for the Mars One mission and identify any modifications that are necessary to meet future requirements. In addition, the mission would go a long way toward determining the cost and schedule of future missions.
Mars One also said it picked Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. to develop a mission concept study for a Mars communications orbiter that will be used in conjunction with the robotic lander. The satellite will be a high-bandwidth communications system in Mars orbit and will be used to relay the data from the surface of Mars to Earth. The orbiter will be in a Mars synchronous orbit to ensure the 2018 lander and future settlement can always communicate with it.
The ambitious Mars One project will ultimately need a heavy lift rocket (the company at this point expects to use SpaceX's Falcon 9), a spacecraft to fly humans to Mars, a rover for getting around on the Red Planet and a variety of other major technologies to enable human living on Mars.
The group anticipates a number of flights to Mars including cargo missions and unmanned preparation of a habitable settlement, followed by human landings.
As of September Mars One said it had received 202,586 applications from people who wanted to be among the first to travel to Mars. By 2015, six to ten teams of four individuals will be selected for seven years of full-time training. In 2023, one of these teams will become the first humans ever to land on Mars and live there for the rest of their lives, the group stated.
Mars has once again been the focus of a number of scientists and political types in recent weeks. A House subcommittee on space directions recently heard billionaire entrepreneur Dennis Tito detail how his philanthropic group known as Inspiration Mars can get around the money details and get strait to the Red Planet by 2018.
"No longer is a Mars flyby mission just one more theoretical big idea. It can be done - not in a matter of decades, but in a few years. Moreover, the mission might just show the way for a new model for joint effort and financing. It would attract significant private funding, while enabling NASA to do what it does best, and confirm the United States as the unquestioned leader in space," Tito who is a former NASA Jet Propulsion scientist, told the House committee. "If I may offer a frank word of caution to this subcommittee: The United States will carry out a Mars flyby mission, or we will watch as others do it - leaving us to applaud their skill and their daring. If America is ever going to do a flyby of Mars - a manned mission to another world - then 2018 is our last chance to be first."
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