Humans could be headed to Mars in the not-so-distant future.
Aerospace company Lockheed Martin is planning to set up a Mars Base Camp: a giant floating laboratory orbiting Mars. The company thinks it can do it by 2028, according to a news release.
"The concept is simple: transport astronauts from Earth to a Mars-orbiting science laboratory where they can perform real-time scientific exploration, analyze Martian rock and soil samples, and confirm the ideal place to land humans on the surface," Lockheed Martin wrote.
Lockheed Martin isn't the only company with its sights set on Mars; NASA, SpaceX and Mars One all have their own ideas on how to get humans there. But the company's plan is the most immediate: NASA is shooting for the 2030s; SpaceX has yet to reveal its rumored Mars Colonial Transporter capable of carrying 100 people to Mars at a time; and Mars One is just floundering.
How does Lockheed Martin plan to get humans to Mars?
Lockheed Martin is already working on a deep-space habitat that could be assembled in cis-lunar orbit, according to the release. The lab would be powered with solar electric propulsion and would launch before any astronauts leave Earth.
The company is planning on using technology that NASA is already developing — including the Orion space capsule and a gigantic rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS) — to get astronauts to the Red Planet. Astronauts would pile into the Orion capsule and blast off on top of the SLS. Once they got to Mars, astronauts could use Orion to dock with the lab.
Astronauts could safely gather real-time data on Mars, study soil and rock samples and pick out the perfect spot for a first landing site, Lockheed Martin wrote. Eventually astronauts would explore the surface in the 2030s.
Here's the concept design for the base:
"Mars is closer than you think," Lockheed Martin writes. "We're ready to accelerate the journey."