First, a four- to six-person crew would safely enter orbit around Mars inside the Mars Base Camp mothership.
Next, two or three of the astronauts would board an excursion vehicle tipped with an Orion capsule, which would rocket away from the mothership and toward a moon of Mars.
"The gravity is pretty weird around these things, so you have to keep your distance," Cichan says of Phobos and Deimos.
After the excursion vehicle pulls up, an astronaut would don a standard extravehicular spacesuit and exit the capsule through an airlock. She would then climb around to the Spider Flyer-Walker, strap in, and detach from the capsule.
The Spider Flyer would have small thrusters in it, so the astronaut could then propel toward the moon all on her own.
The suit's eight legs would splay out ahead of a soft landing:
Once on the surface, the suit's thrusters would fire continuously and gently to press the spider legs into the loose soil below. This would pin the Spider Flyer to the moon while allowing an astronaut to move her arms and legs.
"We can also articulate those spider legs. We can even do a little bit of walking or hopping along the surface," Cichan says, adding that the astronaut could bend over to scoop up soil samples along the way.
Once her science mission is complete, the astronaut would zoom back toward the excursion vehicle with bags of Martian moon grit.
Will NASA buy it?
The idea isn't as out there as it might seem, since Lockheed has a solid track record when it comes to rocket-powered spacesuits.
For example, the company designed and built the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU). The device was used by astronauts during three space shuttle missions in the 1980s.
"Bruce McCandless used an MMU to become the first untethered astronaut in space," says Cichan. (The 1984 excursion led to the famous photo of an astronaut floating above the Earth against the blackness of space.)
This history of reliability, combined with the ostensible cost savings and reduced weight of sending a small spacesuit instead of a large lander, should be attractive to NASA — but it remains to be seen if the space agency selects the idea.
Cichan sounds confident NASA may go for it.
"From a technology development point of view, particularly for an orbital mission, we have almost everything we need today, or we're on a development pathway to get it," he says. "Mars really is within our reach within about a decade, and these ideas are us making the most use of funding that Congress has laid out."
Quelle: Business Insider