Mars One Plans Unmanned Mission For 2018, Pushes Back Manned Mission By 2 Years

By Josh Lieberman on December 10, 2013 3:56 PM EST

mars one
Mars One will launch an unmanned mission in 2018 to test technologies in advance of the 2025 manned mission to the Red Planet (illustrated above). (Photo: Mars One)

Mars One, the one-way mission to the Red Planet that 200,000 people have expressed interest in, announced today that it plans to send the first private unmanned mission to Mars. The Mars One Foundation has contracted Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology to develop mission concept studies for the unmanned 2018 launch. A robotic lander built by Lockheed Martin, along with a communications satellite, will demonstrate the technology necessary for eventual settlement on Mars.

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"When we decided to move forward with the development of this private mission to Mars, we looked across the industry and determined Lockheed Martin was the obvious choice to build the lander," said Mars One co-founder and CEO Bas Lansdorp. "They have a distinct legacy of participating in nearly every NASA mission to Mars. This will be the first private mission to Mars and the lander's successful arrival and operation will be a historic accomplishment."

The robotic lander will be based on the Lockheed-designed Phoenix Mars Lander. Phoenix landed on Mars in 2007 where it dug up and analyzed ice, something the new lander will also do, but with the addition of a video camera this time around.   

"We are excited to have been selected by Mars One for this ambitious project and we're already working on the mission concept study, starting with the proven design of Phoenix," said Ed Sedivy, Civil Space chief engineer at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "Having managed the Phoenix spacecraft development, I can tell you, landing on Mars is challenging and a thrill and this is going to be a very exciting mission."

Surrey Satellite Technology will develop the communications satellite for the 2018 Mars One launch. This satellite will provide a high-bandwidth communication system to relay data and live video from the lander back to Earth.  

The Mars One Foundation also launched an Indiegogo campaign today to raise $400,000 for the 2018 launch.  The Foundation's financial model relies on a variety of funding sources, among them sponsorships and partnerships for a reality TV show based around selecting which of the Mars One applicants will be sent up.  Mars One says it will cost $6 billion to launch the first manned mission.   

Mars One also announced today that the first manned mission will be pushed back two years, landing the first four humans on Mars in 2025. After the first humans arrive, a new group of four will be sent up every two years until there are 20 Mars settlers. 

"Our 2018 mission will change the way people view space exploration as they will have the opportunity to participate," Lansdorp said. "They will not only be spectators, but also participants."

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