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Elon Musk's SpaceX isn't the only company aiming for Mars

SpaceX is working on huge rockets to take us further than ever before, but Lockheed Martin has a plan for how astronauts could actually live on Mars.

Elon Musk and SpaceX are building huge rockets to get to the moon, Mars and anywhere on Earth in under an hour, but so far Musk has offered few details on how living at Mars would actually work. 

Fortunately for aspiring Martians, Lockheed Martin has been working on an orbiting Mars Base Camp concept, and it revealed the latest details at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia on Thursday, the same conference where Musk showed off plans for his so-called BFR (short for Big F***ing Rocket).

The Base Camp is designed to integrate with NASA's planned Orion spacecraft and Deep Space Gateway approach that involves a small space station in orbit around the moon serving as a staging area for missions to Mars and elsewhere. 

Mars Base Camp would be built up at the Deep Space Gateway around the moon before being deployed to orbit Mars. At first, the Base Camp would orbit Mars, but it can also carry a surface lander with it. The reusable lander can ferry astronauts to the surface of the Red Planet for stays up to two weeks long for a crew of up to four. It can then return the team to the Mars Base Camp to refuel and prepare for the next mission. 

It could also be possible to operate robots on the surface from the Mars Base Camp to perform science operations from the relative safety of Martian orbit.

Lockheed Martin says Base Camp could be used as a place to analyze soil and rock samples from the surface and to pick out ideal landing spots for future missions in the 2030s.

It's not nearly as ambitious as Musk's grandiose visions of a Martian metropolis, but it seems a heck of a lot more realistic and achievable. After all, a really big rocket can take you places, but there's no real point if there's not a plan for what happens once you're there. 

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