Lockheed Martin Unveils 'Mars Base Camp' Spacecraft for Future Missions
There are a lot of missions to Mars currently in the works, but not all prioritize comfort for travelers.
The 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) continues to provide a wealth of new and exciting announcements, with Lockheed Martin unveiling what they've titled "Mars Base Camp," a large spacecraft that's designed to carry six astronauts all the way to the Red Planet as part of a three year round trip.
This mission had been previously announced, but now, the company has design documents and a plan for implementation, which makes it all feel much more concrete.
Legroom is expensive in space travel, but this hasn't stopped Lockheed Martin from creating a design for their craft that gives astronauts plenty of space to breathe, with habitat pods that will allow them to work and play, while crucially providing them the opportunity for time alone, which is going to be essential in such a long flight while cramped within a tiny environment alongside the same few people.
Even with the relative comfort of the Mars Base Camp, this journey is still going to be trying for the astronauts who sign up for the flight. Tempers can rage, and people can get very sick of each other - or else, too attached, to the point that it jeopardizes the mission. It's recently been reported that NASA at one point considered sending an all-female crew of astronauts to Mars in order to avoid sexual tension and a testosterone-fueled lack of cooperation, which, while a very outdated concept with some archaic ideas about sex and gender stereotypes, was at one point a genuinely proposed solution to the challenges of long-haul space flight.
The Mars Base Camp won't actually touch down on the Red Planet's surface itself - at least, not in its entirety. The astronauts who undertake this journey will use a vantage point in Mars' orbit to study the planet, collect data, and send out rovers and drones to do all the heavy lifting, including a reusable landing craft for surface missions.
It's a long way to go just for a good view of an alien world, but considering the fact that the view is pretty spectacular, there probably won't be a shortage of volunteers to undertake the mission. Besides, the surface of Mars is no place for puny Earthlings to be wandering around unsupervised.
Mars Base Camp is still around ten years away from viability, but progress is being made, with plans in place to use parts of the Base Camp to help construct the deep space gateway that America and Russia are currently working on together. The technological advancements that will take place over the next decade will likely mean that the design plan for the spacecraft changes over time, and the growing commercial space flight sector will likely impact this future mission if it ever does take place in its current form.
It's exciting, though, to know that this mission is currently on the books, and that Lockheed Martin believes that before too long, all the technology that we need to achieve such a long flight will be available. All that's left now is to wait and see how things pan out. Here's hoping Lockheed Martin's engineers are the patient type.