Jul 12, 2014 02:32 AM EDT
One Dutch company's plans to colonize the Red Planet is beginning to draw significant industry support, not to mention potential green.
The nonprofit venture, Mars One, which, along with its plans for settling the fourth planet from the sun, is also developing a reality-based TV show about its colonization initiative and has announced a partnership with Colorado-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems to develop an unmanned spacecraft to land on Mars.
"Lockheed is the most experienced company in landing on Mars," said Mars One co-founder and CEO Bas Lansdorp. "There is really no alternative if you want to organize a low-risk mission to Mars."
Lansdorp said his outfit is contracting Lockheed to conduct a $250,000 concept study, which will allow Mars One developers to examine Lockheed's design for its Phoenix mission, a Mars lander that launched in 2007 and was tasked with exploring the planet's arctic regions..
While Mars One's ultimate goal is a one-way human mission by 2025, the initial unmanned mission, scheduled for launch in 2018, will test and ultimately prove the safety of the colonization mission's technology.
Aside from helping Mars One design a lander, Lockheed has apparently also offered one of its operations in Waterton Canyon, CO, to help guide the mission's cost, scheduling and technical planning.
"We have a team currently involved in flying three orbiters around Mars and a lander in development," said Ed Sedivy, a civil space chief engineer for Lockheed Martin Space Systems, who served as the program manager for the Phoenix flight system. Sedivy told reporters that he's confident Lockheed's design and support will lead to the final contract sometime in 2014 for building the unmanned Mars One spacecraft.
"It is a great opportunity and we are excited about it for a couple of reasons," Sedivy said. "International collaboration is increasingly growing in importance" and "the collective ability to partner across oceans is going to be key."
This week's announced partnership between the fledgling Mars One and aerospace behemoth Lockheed comes in the wake of the latter's decision to close four U.S. facilities and lay off about 4,000 employees nationwide due to government budget cutbacks.
Earlier this week, Mars One also announced a contract with United Kingdom-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. to develop a mission concept study for a Mars orbiter communications satellite, which would constantly relay information to Earth.
In conjunction with this week's announcement at the National Press Club in Washington, Mars One also kicked-off an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign aiming to raise $400,000 by Jan. 25.
So far, the Mars colonization venture has raised about $200,000 from individuals around the world.
Lansdorp says Mars One has received applications from more than 200,000 applicants who want to be one of the first to live on Mars.
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