Mars One Foundation Picks Lockheed Martin to Develop First Landing Plan

12/10/13Follow @MichaelXBD

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planning and executing missions to space, and even fewer who could make it to Mars.

“We’re the only contractor that has successfully built a lander and put it on the surface of Mars. There aren’t many bona fide competitors in this particular market segment,” Sedivy said.

The initial landing operation and presumably the landing vehicle will be based on the Phoenix spacecraft Lockheed Martin designed, built, tested, and operated for a 2007 NASA mission. The Phoenix lander was designed and built at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Littleton.

There’s a lot of work to do before the mission starts, and Mars One’s goal is ambitious—and extremely expensive. The organization estimates it will cost $6 billion to put the first four-person crew on Mars. The Lockheed Martin study itself will cost $256,000, according to Mars One.

Mars One recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to try to raise money for the early phases of the project and to build awareness. To pay for the entire mission, Mars One plans to rely heavily on donations, sponsorships, merchandise sales, and possibly selling the rights to a reality TV broadcast.

Raising the money will be a challenge, but Sedivy said it is unlikely the federal government or European nations will put the money up.

Fundraising isn’t the only challenge. Mars One plans to get to Mars and stay, in the most literal sense. It doesn’t plan to be able to bring astronauts—make that settlers—home.

The funding model, the prospect of no return, and the technical challenges have earned the mission its share of skeptics, but it didn’t dissuade the more than 200,000 people who have applied to be part of the mission.

Meanwhile, the contract with Lockheed Martin gives the project some validation. The company is ready to go full throttle to be part of the team that puts humans on Mars, Sedivy said.

“The whole proposition is really exciting,” Sedivy said. “It’s hard to fathom how we are going to ignite a change in extraterrestrial exploration with government funded programs. The notion of being able to put together the first interplanetary mission [is exciting] and has the potential to be a new frontier in space exploration,” he said.

Mars One also announced it has picked Englewood, CO-based Surrey Satellite Technology to develop the communications satellite that will connect the lander and future base to Earth.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at Follow @MichaelXBD

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