It seems the space race 2.0 is on the way! While Elon Musk and SpaceX planning to send humans to Mars as early as 2024, the American global aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technologies company Lockheed Martin has also revealed animations of a reusable rocket to colonize the red planet. The American company has teamed up with NASA, to build a space station (Mars base camp) orbiting Mars and a reusable, water-powered lander. The goal is to send humans to Mars only in a decade.

Space Race 2.0: Mars Lander and Orbiting “Base Camp” Visualized by Lockheed Martin. Concepts for a single-stage lander and an orbiting “Mars Base Camp” have been revealed by Lockheed Martin. This is the company’s “vision of how to send humans to Mars in about a decade,” in partnership with NASA.

The two companies planning to send a 6-person crew to orbit Mars by 2028. The orbiter, actually a space station (they call it Mars base camp) will scout a suitable site for the first human landing by the 2030s. It is also much easier to control the robots on the Mars surface from orbit. During that orbital mission, Astronauts can also make spacewalks and explore the red planet’s two moons, Phobos and Deimos. The base will also be a haven for future landing missions.

Lockheed Martin Mars orbiter (space station)
Space Race 2.0: The space station in Mars orbit will be a haven for future landing missions. Image concept showing two landers docking at Mars Base Camp. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

Then, following the first mission, a single-stage surface lander will be sent. The lander will be reusable and water-powered. It can hold up to 4 people. Astronauts could land on the Martian soil using the lander and then return back to the base camp in the orbit. Each surface mission could last around two weeks and could be safely aborted at any time. At the end of the surface mission, the ship would launch to the base camp in the orbit to refuel and prepare for another mission.

Lockheed Martin and NASA are planning to begin building the base camp in 2021. The SLS rocket (Space Launch System) Notes 1, which will be the strongest rocket system ever built when completed, will launch pieces of the base camp into Earth’s orbit. There, the base camp will be fully assembled before flying to Mars.

Other concepts include a single-astronaut “Maneuvering Unit” for close-up study of Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and drones to scout out new landing/exploration sites.

Space race 2.0 - Lockheed Martin Mars lander with astronaut
Following the first mission, building a permanent base in the orbit (a space station around Mars), a single-stage surface lander will be sent which will be reusable and can hold up to 4 astronauts.

Space Race 2.0

The question is: will Lockheed Martin and NASA beat SpaceX on the way to Mars? Because SpaceX recently announced that they are planning to land humans on Mars as early as 2024. But, either way, it seems the Space Race 2.0 version is on, and that’s very exciting!

The previous space race in the cold war years has gifted us many technologies like communications and weather satellites, and many others. It also paved the way for human space presence on the International Space Station. The space race also sparked increases in spending on education, science, and research and development, which led to beneficial spin-off technologies. That space race version 2.0 will also change our lives in many ways, for sure.

Space race - Moonwalk - Apollo 17 Mission image
Moonwalk, December 13, 1972. View of Station Lunar Module, Commander Astronaut Eugene A. Cernan, USA Flag, and Lunar Roving Vehicle. The photo was taken during the third Extravehicular Activity (EVA 3) of the Apollo 17 mission. Original film magazine was labeled E film type was SO-368 Color Exterior, CEX, Ektachrome MS, color reversal 60mm lens with a sun elevation of 36 degrees. Image source: (by NASA)


  1. The Space Launch System (SLS) is an American Space Shuttle-derived heavy expendable launch vehicle. It is part of NASA’s deep space exploration plans including a crewed mission to Mars. SLS follows the cancellation of the Constellation program and is to replace the retired Space Shuttle. NASA says the maiden flight of the Space Launch System will be in 2019.


M. Özgür Nevres
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