Race To Mars Begins: Lockheed Martin, NASA Reveal Mars Base Camp Orbiter

Image: Lockheed Martin

Everyone might be talking about Elon Musk's plans to get humans to Mars, but SpaceX wasn't the only organisation shooting for the moon. Well, past the moon. Lockheed Martin revealed last week that it's helping NASA reach the red planet too, showing off its Mars Base Camp orbiter that aims to "land humans on the [Mars] surface in the 2030s".

Lockheed Martin has released details about the orbiter, including an extensive white paper (PDF), however, you can check out the clip below which explains the concept:

The Mars Base Camp consists of two Orion multi-purpose crew vehicles, designed by Lockheed Martin, one of which serves as the command centre, while the other is a back-up unit that could be used for the exploration of Phobos and Deimos.

Four solar arrays provide power, with cryogenic engines delivering propulsion.

Image: Lockheed Martin

Rather than creating a colony, the Mars Base Camp is designed to stay in orbit, crewed by six astronauts. Short missions to and from the surface will make the bulk of the activities:

Mars Base Camp's first mission is intended to be an orbiting mission around the Red Planet. Following this, the architecture allows for a surface lander. The concept is designed to be a reusable, single-stage lander capable of descending to the surface from Mars orbit. Each surface mission could last two weeks with up to four astronauts, and then return to the orbiting Mars Base Camp where it would be refueled and readied for another mission.

Image: Lockheed Martin
Image: Lockheed Martin

The 2030s sounds like a long way away and it is, to a degree. A bit over a decade on the other hand... that sounds much, much closer.

Image: Lockheed Martin

[Lockheed Martin]