US aerospace and defence firm Lockheed Martin has unveiled a concept for a new Mars base that will orbit the Red Planet instead of being based on the planet's surface, enabling humans to be sent to Mars by 2028.
Lockheed Martin has envisioned a heavy lift rocket that turns into a space station, orbiting Mars to allow scientists to gather valuable research
Unveiled at the Human to Mars space conference in Washington DC on Wednesday 18 May, the Mars Base Camp is a space station designed to orbit around the Red Planet, similar to the International Space Station ISS , only smaller.
Also included in the design are radiators to keep sensitive electronics and living quarters cool, solar arrays to harness power from the sun for spacecraft operations and propulsion, and a cryogenic rocket engine that produces a high-powered thrust to get the spacecraft from lunar orbit into deep space to Mars and enables the astronauts to go on excursions around the Red Planet's moons; Phobos and Deimos.
Much can be learnt from Mars orbit
Lockheed Martin's mission timeline for the Mars base camp
By being in orbit of the Red Planet, scientists can learn a lot more about Mars even without landing, and it means that we could learn more instead of spending more time creating and constructing the right habitats.
So Lockheed Martin has come up with a proposal it hopes the space agency will consider in order to cement plans to get humans to Mars.
To that end, it has drawn up set targets – have the rocket and capsule ready to launch on an unmanned mission by 2018, and if that is successful, take astronauts to deep space, just beyond the moon in 2023 for the first time ever, and then work their way towards orbiting Mars by 2028.