Mars One, a Dutch-based non-profit organization that aims to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars by 2025, on Tuesday announced its partnership with U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin and UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) for its first unmanned mission to Mars in 2018.
“We’re very excited to have contracted Lockheed Martin and SSTL for our first mission to Mars. Both are significant players in their field of expertise and have outstanding track records,” Bas Lansdorp, Mars One co-founder and CEO, said in a statement.
Under the plan, Lockheed Martin will design the Mars One lander, which will be based on the successful 2007 Phoenix mission spacecraft the company designed, built, tested and operated for U.S. space agency NASA.
According to the companies, the lander will have the ability to scoop up Martian soil with a robotic arm similar to the Phoenix mission, a water experiment to extract water from the Martian soil, a power experiment to demonstrate the deployment and operation of thin-film solar panels on the planet’s surface, and a camera to make continuous video recordings.
“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.”
SSTL will be in charge of designing an interplanetary communications satellite, which will provide a high bandwidth communications system in a Mars synchronous orbit and will be used to relay data and a live video feed from the lander on the surface of Mars back to Earth.
“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,” Martin Sweeting, executive chairman of SSTL, said in a statement.
Mars One said it has decided to launch the lander and communications satellite in 2018, two years later than its original schedule.
The Dutch organization aims to land its first four volunteer astronauts in 2025 and is inviting people who are 18 years or older to apply. Although the trip will be one-way, Mars One said it has received applications from more than 200,000 people from around the world so far. PNA