NASA’s mission to reach Mars has never been heavy on detail, but now Lockheed Martin is trying to fill in one of the biggest gaps — where we’ll hang out before reaching the surface of the Red Planet.
The research and development firm has unveiled plans for a Mars Base Camp, which is essentially a six-person orbiting lab the company hopes to send to Mars. The idea makes sense: Before we landed on the moon, NASA sent some orbiting missions to check things out beforehand, so Lockheed Martin is proposing a similar approach to Mars. The Base Camp would be an orbiting mission, which would provide support and test out some of the technology for an eventual manned mission.
"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."
Lockheed Martin also stresses that the concept is built on existing technology, meaning they could conceivably build one of these and launch it without having to fill in any gaps with stuff that doesn’t actually exist yet. It’s essentially comprised of two Orion capsules (one of which would serve as an escape pod), solar panels for power and some additional modules to tie it all together.
Sadly, NASA has yet to actually approve the Mars Base Camp. But Lockheed Martin is hoping the project will prove viable and be picked up as part of NASA’s Mars mission architecture.
(Via Popular Science)