Space

Lockheed Martin plans manned Mars Base Camp for 2028

Lockheed Martin plans manned M...
By 2028, Lockheed Martin plans to have astronauts in orbit around Mars in its Mars Base Camp space station
By 2028, Lockheed Martin plans to have astronauts in orbit around Mars in its Mars Base Camp space station
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Lockheed Martin's Mars Base Camp as it will orbit the red planet - with two Orion modules attached
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Lockheed Martin's Mars Base Camp as it will orbit the red planet - with two Orion modules attached
Lockheed Martin's timeline for launching the Mars Base Camp operation
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Lockheed Martin's timeline for launching the Mars Base Camp operation
By 2028, Lockheed Martin plans to have astronauts in orbit around Mars in its Mars Base Camp space station
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By 2028, Lockheed Martin plans to have astronauts in orbit around Mars in its Mars Base Camp space station
NASA's Space Launch System will be the largest rocket ever built
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NASA's Space Launch System will be the largest rocket ever built
NASA's Orion capsule linked with ESA's service module
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NASA's Orion capsule linked with ESA's service module

Lockheed Martin has weighed in on this generation's great space race with a plan to get humans to Mars in just 11 years. Not to the surface, mind you; the Mars Base Camp plan aims to put six people tantalizingly close, in a space station orbiting around the Red Planet.

While Elon Musk focuses on mass-transport solutions to bus people to the surface of Mars, Lockheed Martin is working on an earlier stage mission with the objective of allowing real-time scientific research on the Martian surface and helping to identify an ideal landing spot for when humans touch down some time in the 2030s.

In a technology roadmap layout, the aerospace giant emphasizes how a manned, orbital Mars space station is possible as soon as 2028 using existing technology, by accelerating some flight test objectives.

In 2021, the team plans to start putting components of the Mars Base Camp space station into orbit between the Earth and the Moon, using the biggest rocket ever built. The gigantic, 322-foot-high Space Launch System provides super heavy lift launch capabilities to get the pieces and supplies off the ground.

NASA's Space Launch System will be the largest rocket ever built
NASA's Space Launch System will be the largest rocket ever built

Some will be assembled in orbit, others will rendezvous with the rest once they make it to Mars, and they'll make the trip across using solar electric propulsion. This uses solar energy to ionize a xenon propulsion gas into an exhaust plume of plasma, extracting about 10 times as much thrust as a conventional chemical rocket for the same amount of fuel, and providing a steady, constant push throughout the journey.

By 2028, all should be ready for the manned missions. Six astronauts will hop into the Orion spacecraft, attached to Space Launch System rockets, and begin the trek across. One of these craft will go straight to the space station, the other will explore Deimos and Phobos, the two moons of Mars, before docking at Mars Base Camp.

NASA's Orion capsule linked with ESA's service module
NASA's Orion capsule linked with ESA's service module

Once the space station is fully assembled and manned, the crew will begin real-time joystick-style operation of research assets on the Martian surface, analysis of rocks and soil, and the search for an ideal landing place when the first manned surface mission is attempted in the 2030s.

Lockheed Martin is designing the space station differently to the ISS, as it will spend a lot of its time unmanned and needs to run efficiently and reliably as an autonomous system. Thus, it will use a lot of the Orion capsule's capabilities as key life support, navigation, communications and radiation protection features.

Lockheed Martin's Mars Base Camp as it will orbit the red planet - with two Orion modules attached
Lockheed Martin's Mars Base Camp as it will orbit the red planet - with two Orion modules attached

Orion is built to support missions up to 1000 days, where the Mars Base Camp space station only needs to accommodate crew for 30 to 60 days. Once the mission is complete, the Orion capsules will take the astronauts back to Earth – it's built to keep them safe during re-entry into our atmosphere.

It's been decades since humanity had so much to look forward to in manned space flight. The race to Mars is a welcome injection of awe and possibility into our terrestrial lives.

Mars Base Camp

Source: Lockheed Martin

5 comments
JackOLeary
Spectacular computer-generated graphics but: 1. Launch with the SLS (Senate Launch System)? Really? SpaceX is dramatically lowering launch costs. Among its many faults, SLS cannot achieve a launch rate to assemble this "Battlestar Galactica" quickly enough to support a mission- see https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/capitalism-in-space. 2. Where are the provisions to rotate the habitat to provide "artificial gravity" (centrifugal acceleration) to help maintain the crew's health during what will be a very lengthy mission. 3. No landings? The Amercian public will not fund another Soviet-style space effort if astronauts just circle around another planet. If you want to see how a REAL Mars mission may happen, please check out the work of Bob Zubrin. His website and books describe an innovative and plausible mission to land astronauts on Mars, and create a maintainable base there if that is the national will. He even provides a way to do it with the SLS if needed. http://www.marssociety.org/home/about/mars-direct/ These refererences are much more useful in understanding how to get to Mars than a press release from a self-serving government contractor.
piperTom
So the "race to Mars is a welcome injection of awe"? Besides that, what do we get that we could not get for one-tenth the cost by sending more robotic missions? Nothing; just "awe". That's how government programs work.
Rehab
In time we'll send highly advanced robots on a one way mission to do the work. For now, we can only send humans to orbit Mars so they can operate rovers in real time. So costly and dangerous!
habakak
And do what there? This is the 'new' race to the Moon. We will go and come back and stop due to expense and figuring out it is pointless. Let's first establish a Moon base and develop the technology required to have people live independently and safely on a heavenly body outside of earth.
Geo_Place
Totally agree ,habakak! I would not want to go climb Mt. Everest after doing a few climbs in the Texas hill country!