Defence company Lockheed Martin wants to create a laboratory that will allow up to six astronauts to orbit the Red Planet
Mars is the next great step in the global space race – and Lockheed Martin is sprinting for the finish line.
The aerospace company has announced it’s joining the likes of SpaceX in aiming to send people to the Red Planet. And the first stage involves putting an craft similar to the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit around Mars.
Called the “Mars Base Camp” it will be an orbiting lab staffed by up to six astronauts.
Lockheed will launch it in pieces (with the assistance of NASA) and then assemble the craft in space around the moon. It will then begin the long trek to Mars.
“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.”
The ambitious project doesn’t rely on any sci-fi stables like cryogenic freezing or warp drives. Instead it’s being built right now using current tried-and-tested components.
“All of these pieces exist today, they’re not brand new,” said Antonelli. “We’re taking advantage of what we’ve already got.”
While the idea for the base camp has been created independently of NASA , Lockheed Martin is hoping the space agency will consider it in plans for Mars exploration in the 2030s and 2040s.
They reckon it will allow astronauts to stay in Martian orbit for roughly 10 or 11 months at a time.
“We think that putting scientists with laboratories right there in Mars orbit will allow them, in just a few months, to accomplish more science than we’ve been able to accomplish in the past 40 years,” Antonelli told Popular Science.
Currently, the only human outpost outside of Earth’s atmosphere is the International Space Station, which is shielded from the ravages of space by our planet’s magnetic field.
But the proposed lunar base will be outside this protective bubble, meaning its designers will have to come up with a way of making sure astronauts aren’t blasted with cancer-causing radiation.
Lockheed’s William Pratt said the base could be used to control robots on the moon, and prepare for exploration of deep space.
Currently, signals sent from the surface of Mars need anywhere from 13 to 20 minutes to reach Earth. If we had an orbiting space base then the astronauts could monitor the surface in real-time.
Last year, Lockheed Martin was awarded a NASA grant under the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships.
It will now spend the rest of 2016 working to develop Orion, a craft which is expected to one day carry astronauts to Mars.Share: