Mars One has secured lead suppliers for its first mission to Mars. The mission, slated a 2018 launch, will include a robotic lander and a communications satellite. Mars One has contracted Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) to develop mission concept studies. The Mars lander will be built by Lockheed Martin and the communications satellite will be built by SSTL.
This 2018 mission will be a demonstration mission and will provide proof of concept for some of the technologies that are important for a permanent human settlement on Mars; the ultimate goal of the non-profit Mars One foundation.
Bas Lansdorp, M.Sc., Mars One Co-founder and CEO stated, “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. 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 successful 2007 NASA Phoenix mission spacecraft and will demonstrate some of the technologies required for the manned mission. Lockheed Martin has a distinct legacy of participating in nearly every NASA mission to Mars. For the Phoenix mission, the company designed, built, tested and operated the lander for NASA.
The Mars One Roadmap is to land a crew on Mars in 2025 Mars One wants to use reality TV and advertising sponsorship to fund manned missions to Mars.
Lockheed Martin will for $250,000 produce a “mission concept study” for an unmanned Martian lander that would precede the $6 billion manned mission.
Britain’s Surrey Satellite Technology will meanwhile turn out a similar study, for 60,000 euros ($80,000), for a satellite that would hover in orbit over the lander and relay data and images back to Earth.
“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.”
The lander will have the ability to scoop up Martian soil with a robotic arm similar to the Phoenix mission. A water experiment will extract water from the Martian soil. A power experiment will demonstrate the deployment and operation of thin-film solar panels on the surface, and a camera on the lander will be used to make continuous video recordings.
The demonstration satellite 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. Sir Martin Sweeting, Executive Chairman of SSTL said: “SSTL believes that the commercialisation of space exploration is vital in order to bring down costs and schedules and fuel progress. 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.”
The lander will also carry the winner of a worldwide university challenge that Mars One will launch in 2014 and items from several Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education challenge winners.
Arno Wielders, Co-founder and CTO of Mars One, said, “With our 2018 missions, Mars One brings the settlement of Mars one step closer to reality. The demonstration of water production on Mars is crucial for manned missions. The live video feed from the surface camera will bring Mars closer to people on Earth. And with the STEM education challenges and university competitions planned on our lander, we will enthuse a whole new generation for Mars exploration, even before our first crew lands.”
Mars One decided to launch the lander and communications satellite in 2018, two years later than Mars One’s original schedule. This new schedule provides time for the development for the two spacecraft and for student participation in STEM and university challenges.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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