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article imageAmbitious plans for a Mars orbiter announced

By Tim Sandle     May 29, 2016 in Science
The multi-billion-dollar company Lockheed Martin is planning to construct a space station that will orbit Mars. The platform will first be tested around the Moon.
Lockheed Martin unveiled their ambitious project at the Humans 2 Mars Summit, which was held on May 18, 2016. The company thinks that the first phase of the project will be completed by 2028. At this time the company aims to have astronauts inside the Mars orbiter.
The project is taking place at the request of NASA. Under the agreement, Lockheed Martin will produce a deep-space crew module, termed Orion. The craft would be assembled in orbit around the Earth, close to the moon, with the main components launched in stages.
According to current project timetables, Orion should venture outside low-Earth orbit as part of an initial Moon mission in 2018. This will be followed by a manned mission around the Moon in 2021.
After this, the craft will venture on missions deeper into space, probably around 2025. This will be followed by a “dry run” to Mars (here the craft would venture a distance three days travel from Earth.) If all of this is successful, a mission to Mars will take place using the craft. The journey to Mars would take around six-months. The idea would be that the astronauts remain in orbit around Mars for up to one year.
The concept is for "astronaut-scientists" to study the Red Planet from orbit. This is in preparation for future landing sites, helping to pinpoint a landing site for the first humans on Mars. The astronauts would remotely operate rovers and collect surface samples with a remote-controlled launch.
Speaking with Popular Science, Tony Antonelli, Lockheed Martin's chief technologist for civil space exploration said: “We think that orbiting Mars is a necessary precursor to landing humans on the surface. NASA has that in their plans, and we're coloring in the details.”
There are other logistical problems associated with getting people to Mars, or onto a Mars orbiter. Outside of fiscal and technological restraints radiation presents a significant problem. This warning was picked up by the Radiation Assessment Detector aboard the vessel that took Curiosity to Mars. The vessel measured the radiation exposure received on the trip, and confirmed this was high enough to cause harm to any human space travelers. Furthermore, there are also problems with food supplies for astronauts (here experiemnts have been taking place on the International Space Station to see how certain plants fare in micro-gravity conditions.)
More about mars orbiter, Mars, NASA, Space
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