December 16, 2013
A Dutch non-profit foundation that hopes to start colonizing Mars in 2025 has hired Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Surrey Satellite Technologies Ltd. to run concept studies of unmanned precursor spacecraft that could fly as early as 2018.
If the youthful Mars One organization succeeds in the first step of its plan, students from the grade-school level on up could see their experiments on Mars before the decade is out, and companies willing to sponsor the mission could be the first to recruit the best and brightest participants in the competitions the foundation hopes to run for payload space on Mars.
The first privately funded mission to Mars already has drawn 200,000 applicants from potential Mars colonists and contributions from 80 countries. Contributors may get to vote on competition winners and other decisions if the project takes off, according to the organizers.
Relying on a mixture of crowd-sourcing, merchandizing and philanthropy to raise funds, Mars One is paying Lockheed Martin $250,000 for its work, while Surrey will receive €60,000 ($83,000). Lockheed Martin will analyze how it can use technology developed for the 2007 Mars Phoenix mission to build a low-cost lander to deliver the technology payloads, a camera and student experiments to the surface for Mars One.
At the same time, Surrey will develop concepts for a small communications spacecraft designed for a stationary “Mars-synchronous” orbit over the lander. The lander/satellite configuration “will allow a live video feed from the surface of Mars to Earth,” says Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp. “We expect this will bring Mars a lot closer to Earth. Anyone can log into our website and see what's it is like on Mars.”
Edward Sedivy of Lockheed Martin, who was the company's program manager on Mars Phoenix, says the study will tackle such issues as whether it would be best to launch the lander and orbiter together—the favored going-in position—and how to phase their arrivals at Mars. Various launch vehicles will be considered, and the payload capability will be sized in the studies, he says.
Martin Sweeting, the head of Surrey Satellites in the U.K., says his studies will be based on work the company has done with Europe's Galileo navigation satellite constellation and the Giove pathfinder element for Galileo.