According to a December 10 news release from Mars One, a non-profit foundation that hopes to establish a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet, the organization has secured primary suppliers for its primary mission. Set for a 2018 launch, the mission will include a robotic lander and communications satellite.
Mars One has awarded Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology, Limited (SSTL) a contract to develop mission concept studies for the Mars lander and communications satellite, respectively. The first mission to Mars will be a demonstration to provide a proof of concept for a fraction of the technologies that are vital for a permanent human settlement on Mars.
“We’re very excited to have contracted Lockheed Martin and SSTL for our first mission to Mars,” said Bas Lansdorp, Mars One cofounder and CEO. “Both are significant players in their field of expertise and have outstanding track records. These will be the first private spacecraft to Mars and their successful arrival and operation will be a historic accomplishment.”
The Lockheed Martin lander will be based on the 2007 NASA Phoenix mission spacecraft and will display some of the technologies essential for the manned mission. Lockheed Martin has a distinct heritage of taking part in nearly every NASA mission to Mars. With respect to the Phoenix mission, Lockheed Martin designed, built, tested and operated the lander for NASA.
“This will be the first private mission to Mars and Lockheed Martin is very excited to have been contracted by Mars One. This is an ambitious project and we’re already working on the mission concept study, starting with the proven design of Phoenix,” said Ed Sedivy, Civil Space chief engineer at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “Having managed the Phoenix spacecraft development, I can tell you, landing on Mars is challenging and a thrill and this is going to be a very exciting mission.”
According to Lockheed Martin, the lander will have the capability to dig up Martian soil with a robotic arm similar to that found on the Phoenix mission. A water experiment will pull out water from the Martian soil, a power experiment will display the deployment and operation of thin-film solar panels on the surface, and a camera on the lander will be used to continuously capture video recordings.
“SSTL believes that the [commercialization] of space exploration is vital in order to bring down costs and schedules and fuel progress,” said Sir Martin Sweeting, Executive Chairman of SSTL. “This study gives us an unprecedented opportunity to take our tried and tested approach and apply it to Mars One’s imaginative and exhilarating challenge of sending humans to Mars through private investment.”