Lockheed Martin developing new space habitat designed as 'proving ground' for Mars

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Apr 14, 2016, 4:53 PM EDT

Along with developing NASA’s Orion crew capsule, Lockheed Martin is also working on a new space habitat the company believes could be the “proving ground” for the technology that will get us to Mars.

Dubbed The Outpost, the deep space habitat would potentially be stationed in orbit around the moon — a location far enough away from Earth that an easy escape wouldn’t be possible. Here’s the idea: A team of four astronauts would, essentially, have to “stay and fight” for up to 60 days on this station. The lonesome locale would mirror how a potential mission to Mars might work, with the crew forced to work together on their own in a small space. Think those psychological experiments that strand people in the Arctic, but actually in space.

The Outpost would launch as two separate units that would mate in space and provide a location to try out tech and processes that will be used for a Mars trip. Lockheed Martin’s program manager Bill Pratt said he believes The Outpost could provide the “next steps in the proving ground on the way to Mars.”

“The moon is an ideal place to practice,” Pratt said via The Washington Post. “It’s far enough away that you can't just push a button and come home in an emergency. You have to be more self-sufficient and able to troubleshoot problems without having to rely on the ground control."

Though it seems like a cool idea, and mirrors the thinking of some other space folks in regard to using the moon as a staging site to develop the technology for Mars, any potential implementation is still probably a decade or so from execution. Right now, it’s just an idea on the whiteboard. 

Do you think something like The Outpost would be a good direction for NASA to pursue?

(Via The Washington Post)