The nonprofit Mars One foundation is mainly known for trying to recruit people who really, really want to go to Mars. That redundant "really" is because it's a one-way ticket to the Red Planet for life. But now, Mars One is looking at something a bit less dramatic. On Monday, it was revealed that Lockheed Martin, and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) have been selected to carry out concept studies for a Mars lander mission in 2018 as a prelude to colonization.

In the agreement, Lockheed Martin will develop a mission concept study for an unmanned Mars lander that would be launched in May 2018. To be based on the 2007 NASA Phoenix spacecraft, which was designed, built, and operated by Lockheed, it's intended as a technology demonstrator.

According to Lockheed, the US$256,000 study will examine how the Phoenix design can be adapted to the needs of Mars One and show the feasibility of the technology that Mars One hopes to use to establish a permanent colony on the Red Planet in 2025. Schedule estimates and program cost will also be considered.

Meanwhile, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) will do its own concept study aimed at developing an interplanetary communications system for the lander mission. The goal of the SSTL study is to take the first step toward building a demonstration satellite, which will be put into a Mars synchronous orbit to provides the lander with high bandwidth communications for data and live video feeds from the Lockheed lander.

SSTL also sees the orbiter as the "backbone" for the Mars One settlement's communications after the first manned landings. The $80,000 SSTL study will consider the satellite's requirements and concept design as well as the technical specifications for the spacecraft's launch, passage to Mars, and entering Martian orbit.

Adding to these agreements, the Mars One foundation began an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the two concept studies.

According to Mars One, the lander will carry a payload of instruments and experiments, which will include a camera to relay a live video feed via the SSTL orbiter, an experiment to extract water from the Martian soil, a test of thin-film solar panels for the colony, and a final test to be selected by a university challenge.

Mars One sees the lander mission as the first in an ambitious five-year program of unmanned landings to prepare and supply a settlement in anticipation of the first colonists.

The video below outlines the Mars One Indiegogo campaign.

View gallery - 6 images