Lockheed Martin Plans to Build a Mars-Orbiting Science Laboratory
Mars, take heed (Lockheed, that is)
Lockheed Martin is a leading name in aircraft manufacturing, particularly in the design, manufacture, and support of military aircraft. But did you know that Lockheed Martin also has interests that are, well, a little more out of this world?
Lockheed Martin (and its heritage companies) has contributed to the space program since Neil Armstrong first stepped onto the Moon in 1969 (yes, we're choosing to believe that the moon landings were not a hoax staged by NASA). In 1976, Lockheed was one of several companies that Mars exploration possible in 1976 by contributing components to build the Viking I and II spacecraft, which landed on the Red Planet. Since building the first Mars lander, Lockheed Martin has continued to be involved in NASA's Mars mission.
Racing to the Red Planet
It seems as though everyone wants to be involved in the race to Mars (I mean who can blame them? Mars is kind of a big deal). We've already talked about SpaceX and how Elon Musk wants to -colonize- Mars, so how is Lockheed any different (besides the obvious and unfortunate lack of Mr. Musk)?
Well, for starters, as far as we know, the folks over at Lockheed Martin aren't planning on creating a self-sustaining city; rather, their concept is actually a little less out there by comparison: a Mars Base Camp that would serve as a -Mars-orbiting science laboratory- where the crew can -perform real-time scientific exploration, analyze Martian rock and soil samples, and confirm the ideal place to land humans on the surface.-
This Base Camp concept is envisioned to launch in 2028, which would then set the stage for human landing missions in the 2030s (SpaceX, by contrast, is shooting for a 2018 trip--although to be fair, shooting for the stars doesn't exactly guarantee you're going to land there...or Mars).
Lockheed Martin's Notional Timeline:
2018: Orion Vehicle Certification at the Moon
2021: Start of Cis-Lunar Outpost Assembly
2023: Cis-Lunar Science with SEP-Staged Assets
2026: Pre-Deploy Martian Surface Assets
2027: Pre-Departure MBC System Tests
Lockheed Martin might not have Elon Musk as a CEO, but it seems safe to bet that they're not going to let a little thing like that stop them from being a part of mankind's next big leap through outer space. Mars might be, on average, around 155 million miles away from our home planet Earth, but with companies like Lockheed Martin, getting there is closer than ever before.