Mars One outlines plans to put unmanned lander on Mars in 2018


December 10, 2013

Artist's concept of the Mars One lander (Image: Lockheed Martin)

Artist's concept of the Mars One lander (Image: Lockheed Martin)

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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.

Sources: Mars One, Lockheed Martin, SSTL

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

Great ! Prof. Gerard 't Hoofd is also supporting this project. Perhaps they and Dennis Tito and India will trigger the terra forming and further colonization of Mars

Theo Prinse

There will be people who will want to volunteer for this. People like the early explorers, Columbus, Cartier, Cook, etc. However last time I checked no one has been able to create an isolated biosphere that works long term. I don't think videos convey the fact that Mars is cold... really REALLY cold! It's a hard call to do a 1 way trip but I think we have to do it eventually.


@ warren52nz The problem is generating enough oxygen and food; there are algaes that solve both problems in a small space.


Do you think it is good to make the ladder material using flexible solar cells? Pls comment. Thx, Sunny Lau

Sunny YS Lau

I'm to old to go, but the thought is intriguing. The way I see it they will need find the following items: 1) An underground water aquifer to supply a large source of water, 2) An underground thermal heat source to heat both the living areas and any and all greenhouse growing areas, 3) a large and varied source of different vegetable, herbal, and homeopathic medical seeds. Plus any other that may prove beneficial. Anything to provide a large and varied diet. They won't be able to import all that is needed to survive from earth.

Jerry Odom

While I applaud the passion and spirit of this endeavor I must say I disagree with the goal. Here's why, Mars has a gravity of .25 Earth norm or 1/4 of Earth's gravity. This ensures two factors that can't be gotten around. Mars can never be fully terraformed since there isn't enough gravity to prevent significant atmospheric loss to space and the gravity well poses a significant barrier to space transport. Far better to build colonies in space at the Earth Moon Lagrange points. They're closer and can be built with materials from the moon or asteroids. There is a Robert Heinlein saying "Once you get to orbit you're halfway to anywhere".

Russell Poley

@ Russell Poley

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the gravity is NOT .25 (or 1/4) of an Earth gravity. It stands at about .38 (38%) of Earth's gravity.

Also you only need to increase the pressure to about maybe 5 to 7 P.S.I. with an Oxygen/Nitrogen atmosphere to be able to survive on the surface. Of course the temperature needs to be brought up a bit. At a -130 degrees at night it is just a bit on the chilly side.

Jerry Odom
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