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Mission to Mars human settlement asks Surrey to do the talking

PUBLISHED: 11:31 11 December 2013 | UPDATED: 11:31 11 December 2013

Humans will live on the Red Planet if the Mars One project succeeds

Humans will live on the Red Planet if the Mars One project succeeds

Bryan Versteeg @ spacehabs.com

Long known as the home of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds, Surrey could soon play a part in something of a role reversal if ambitious space plans come to fruition.

The privately funded Mars One project aims to establish a human settlement on the Red Planet and has chosen Guildford’s Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd to look into the development of its interplanetary communications system.

“SSTL believes that the commercialisation of space exploration is vital in order to bring down costs and schedules and fuel progress,” says Sir Martin Sweeting, executive chairman of SSTL.

“This study gives us an unprecedented opportunity to take our tried and tested approach and apply it to Mars One’s imaginative and exhilarating challenge of sending humans to Mars through private investment.”

SSTL will analyse the mission requirements and concept design for satellites that would provide the back-bone of communications between the Mars settlers and Earth.

The study will also provide the technical specifications for a communications satellite that will be launched in 2018 together with a Mars lander from Lockheed Martin, as a demonstration mission for Mars One.

“We’re very excited to have contracted Lockheed Martin and SSTL for our first mission to Mars,” says Bas Lansdorp, Mars One co-founder and chief executive.

“Both are significant players in their field of expertise and have outstanding track records. These will be the first private spacecraft to Mars and their successful arrival and operation will be a historic accomplishment.”

Formed in 1985, originally as a spin-off company from the University of Surrey, SSTL is said to have changed the economics of space by pioneering ‘off-the-shelf’ satellite technology - often adapting consumer products for use in space.

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