Mars One Mission Gains Support From Lockheed Martin, Surrey Satellite Technology
December 11, 2013

Lockheed Martin To Build Lander For Mars One Project

[ Watch the Video: Aerospace Giants Contribute To Mars One Mission ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

It might sound like something out of a science-fiction movie, but an initiative to colonize Mars is one step closer to fruition after garnering support from US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, AFP’s Robert MacPherson reported on Tuesday.

Mars One chief executive Bas Lansdorp told AFP that Lockheed would produce a “mission concept study” for an unmanned Mars lander in advance of the planned $6 billion manned mission to the Red Planet. The company will reportedly be receiving $250,000 for their efforts.

“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. Plans call for the unmanned lander to reach Mars in 2018,” MacPherson added. “But as for the ultimate goal of putting humans on Mars, Lansdorp told reporters in Washington that ‘our first humans will land in 2025.’”

According to Dan Leone of Space News, Lockheed’s Mars One lander will be based on the design used to create the Phoenix spacecraft used by NASA to reach Mars five years ago. Surrey Satellite Technology, meanwhile, will be responsible for designing a telecom orbiter, he added.

Obviously, Lansdorp’s non-profit organization faces considerable challenges. According to MacPherson, the chief executive believes that it will cost approximately $6 billion to send the first humans to Mars – where they will be asked to participate in a reality television program. He expects much of the money to come from “sponsors and partners,” including universities hoping to have their experiments included on the journey.

“Through merchandise sales and donations, Mars One had raised $183,870 as of Oct. 31, according to the company’s website. The group has also raised revenue from a group of seven sponsor companies, but Lansdorp would not disclose the value of that contribution,” Leone said, adding that over 200,000 people had applied to the company’s astronaut program in exchange for a $5 to $75 application fee, based on country of origin.

“A range of potential pitfalls might prevent Mars One from becoming a reality, including an inability to return to Earth, the small living quarters and the lack of food and water on Mars,” MacPherson added. “That assumes, of course, that radiation endured by its astronauts during the trip is not lethal, and that their spacecraft will be able to negotiate a volatile landing onto the harsh Martian landscape.”

Mars One had originally planned to send the first people to the Red Planet in the year 2023, but according to CNN’s Elizabeth Landau, the project has been pushed back by two years. Once the first colonists arrive in 2025, Lansdorp plans on sending additional people every two years – currently in batches of four at a time, but that may change as larger vehicles become available.

Over the five month application period, 202,586 people expressed their interest in the project, Mars One announced on their website in September. Nearly one-quarter of those individuals (24 percent) came from the US, while 10 percent of applicants were from India, six percent from China and five percent from Brazil. Four percent of applicants came from the UK, Canada, Russia and Mexico. The remainder came from the Philippines, Spain, Colombia, Argentina, Australia, France, Turkey, Chile, the Ukraine, Peru, Germany, Italy and Poland.

In addition, the inaugural journey will include experiments designed by students at schools and universities, BBC News Science Reporter James Morgan reported on Tuesday. Mars One has announced a “University Challenge,” which encourages young engineers to create science projects for inclusion on the company’s spacecraft. The goal of the University Challenge, Lansdorp told Morgan, is to “inspire young people to participate in Mars exploration.”