Science & Technology

Lockheed Martin adds a lander to its picture for NASA’s future journeys to Mars

Lockheed Martin has fleshed out its picture for sending astronauts to the Purple Planet by including a refuelable lander and a water-based gasoline provide chain to its “Mars Base Camp” mission structure.

The system, up to date right now on the Worldwide Astronautical Congress in Australia, might make use of sources supplied by asteroid mining corporations reminiscent of Redmond, Wash.-based Planetary Resources.

Danielle Richey, a area exploration architect at Lockheed Martin, stated the up to date Mars Base Camp idea might assist NASA “begin exploring the Martian system in about a decade.”

Though NASA has stated it needs to begin sending astronauts to Mars and its moons by the 2030s, the area company isn’t but wherever shut to choosing any detailed plan to get there.

Proper now, NASA’s farthest focus for human area exploration is the potential institution of a Deep Area Gateway, which may very well be constructed within the 2020s within the neighborhood of the moon and function a staging platform for missions to Mars. This week, NASA signed an agreement with Russia’s space agency to study the idea.

Lockheed Martin says its Mars Base Camp — principally, a area station that’s outfitted with a propulsion system — may very well be constructed on the Deep Area Gateway.

Robotic tugs powered by photo voltaic electrical propulsion programs might pre-position key elements and gasoline in Martian orbit. Then the Mars Base Camp and a crew of six astronauts would make their months-long journey, spanning tens of tens of millions of miles.

The propellants for the Mars station’s engines can be liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, produced by splitting water molecules. The required H2O may very well be despatched up from Earth, or supplied by mining operations on the moon or on near-Earth asteroids.

Planetary Assets and one other enterprise, Deep Area Industries, are each engaged on programs that might begin harvesting water ice from appropriate asteroids beginning within the 2020s.

“Water is in all places within the photo voltaic system,” stated Tim Cichan, one other Lockheed Martin area exploration architect concerned in right now’s presentation. “Anyplace we would like to ship people, water is there. It truly is the gasoline for exploration, and never simply for making hydrogen and oxygen rocket gasoline, but in addition for the astronauts to drink and to create oxygen for them to breathe.”

Cichan stated “we’re actually excited” about fostering the sort of water-based area economic system envisioned by Planetary Assets.

As soon as the station enters Martian orbit, astronauts might use an Orion tour module to make low-gravity journeys — for instance, “to discover the moons Phobos and Deimos … hopefully discovering one thing like water ice,” Richey stated.

Lockheed Martin’s idea calls for utilizing the single-stage lander to ship up to 4 astronauts on sorties to the Martian floor. The lander would have sufficient provides of hydrogen and oxygen on board to help a two-week keep on the floor, adopted by a rocket-powered return to the orbiting station.

The mission idea leaves the door open for harvesting water ice from deposits on Mars or its moons, however the lander wouldn’t have to depend upon Martian sources for its journeys, Lockheed Martin’s Rob Chambers stated.

Cichan stated the lander is also used for missions heading to the moon’s floor from the Deep Area Gateway.

Immediately’s presentation didn’t deal with the potential value of a 1,000-day mission organized alongside the strains of the Mars Base Camp idea, and there are doubtless to be many extra proposals for Mars mission architectures within the years to come.

Hours after Lockheed Martin’s IAC presentation in Australia, SpaceX founder Elon Musk was due to replace his personal imaginative and prescient for sending hundreds of settlers to Mars beginning within the 2020s.

To look at Musk’s presentation, scheduled at 9:30 p.m. PT, head on over to http://www.spacex.com/mars.

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