A reusable, water-powered Mars lander that will allow humans to explore the Red Planet from an orbiting 'base camp' as early as the 2030s was unveiled Friday by US defence giant Lockheed Martin.
Governments and private firms are collaborating on projects to send humans to new frontiers, with NASA planning missions into the space between Earth and the Moon for the next decade to prepare for trips to Mars.
Lockheed Martin has been working on its "Mars Base Camp", a science laboratory that will orbit the planet, with the crewed lander set to descend to the surface on repeated missions.
"It looks a bit like Jules Verne, but it's actually more like an aircraft that we've flown in the past," Lockheed Martin's human spaceflight strategy chief Rob Chambers said, at a gathering of the world's leading space experts in the Australian city of Adelaide.
Up to four astronauts could join each two-week surface mission, while liquid hydrogen generated from water would fuel the spacecraft, he added.
"We can create that fuel. We can power this entire spacecraft system just with water," said Chambers, describing it as a "water-based economy".
Lockheed Martin is among several companies working on deep space habitats with NASA, which hopes to send the first astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.
Chambers called the Mars vision "a transformational event for our generation", adding: "It's literally (the) dawn of the new age of discovery about ourselves and about our solar system and about our place in it."
The International Astronautical Congress concludes on Friday with a presentation by SpaceX's Elon Musk, who will outline a new design for an interplanetary transport system to take humans to Mars....