Lockheed Martin shared more information about its Mars Base Camp (MBC) architecture and operation plans at this year's International Astronautical Congress, as reported by Space. The concept images shared by Lockheed reveal a platform from which large interplanetary ships, as well as surface landers which can ferry passengers back and forth from the station.
The Mars Base Camp plan isn't new, but we are learning more about it, including how it would act a staging ground for longer missions to Mars' surface, but first would focus primarily on short trips for small crews, before graduating to multi-week missions with larger, four-person crews. A reusable lanyard called the Mars Ascent/Descent Vehicle (MADV) would bring cargo and personnel to and from the MBC to the red planet.
Lockheed Martin also described a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellant system which would source fuel from water sources within reach, including frozen ice found on asteroids, after exhausting an initial supply brought from Earth. The water would be brought to the station using another purpose-built craft, called a "Water Delivery Vehicle" (WDV), which would be run by a separate company. Lockheed definitely sticks to the basics when it comes to its naming practices.
Lockheed would start with the design used for NASA's Orion deep space crew capsule when creating the MADV's interior space, and getting to and from the MBC would also make use of the Space Launch System currently being developed by NASA to propel astronauts into space for further out exploration. It would also work with NASA's planned Deep Space Gateway, which is designed to be a station orbiting the moon, and which could act as a waypoint en route to Mars.
Astronauts and researchers working from the MBC itself could also have direct access to Mars via rovers and other vehicles and sensors on the planet's surface, increasing their ability to study and cutting down on work time and degraded data.
Elon Musk is also set to reveal additional details about SpaceX's plan to get to and eventually colonize Mars and make humans an interplanetary species, so it'll be interesting to see how the two approaches from either company compare. We'll have updates on the SpaceX announcements available on TechCrunch later this evening.