NASA announced today in a press release that Denver-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems, along with The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Orbital ATK and Space Systems, has been selected to conduct a four-month concept study for a potential Mars Orbiter mission.
The mission will promote advances in telecommunications and high-resolution imaging for the Journey to Mars — an ongoing series of information gathering and exploratory missions with the ultimate goal of sending humans to the red planet around 2030, according to NASA’s website.
Six months ago, the Mars Exploration Analysis Group — an organization that pools input from the scientific community to NASA — recommended several future Mars orbiter science objectives, such as searching for present day water and studying ice deposits, among others. The five concept studies are designed to determine whether these objectives are even feasible, as well as conceptualizing communications, imaging and operational capacities and assessing support for additional scientific instruments on the orbiter. NASA reports that the orbiter will use US-made solar electric propulsion for orbiting and launch.
“We’re excited to continue planning for the next decade of Mars exploration,” said associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Geoffrey Yoder, in a press release.
Lockheed has been working on Mars projects for a while.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems and its predecessor companies Martin Marietta and the Lockheed Corporation have been active in Mars exploration since 1965, when the Mariner 4 Mars orbiter used a Lockheed rocket to launch into space. Since then, the company has earned recognition for its 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft, which currently holds the record for longest surviving, active spacecraft orbiting another planet, according to the company’s website.
Under the direction of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the agency’s Jet Propulsion Lab will manage the concept studies.
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