Human Exploration

Taking Humans Further Than Ever Before

Who landed on Mars first? We did. In partnership with NASA, we have supported every Mars mission to date. But deep space human exploration is more than traveling to space tourist destinations. Our job is to get explorers where they need to go, safely, to accomplish their mission - with the ability to get back home.

Our deep space road map to get explorers to outer space includes a lunar gateway, a lander and Orion, the only exploration spaceship specifically designed and built to withstand the punishing environment of deep space.


NASA’s Orion spacecraft is the only capsule specifically designed and built to withstand the punishing environment of deep space. We designed Orion with the technology needed for the extremes of deep space, such as life support, navigation, radiation shielding, communications and its heat shield. The next test flight of Orion, on a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, called Exploration Mission-1, will take the uncrewed Orion beyond the Moon and back over a three-week mission.

Orion Quick facts:

  • Orion has 30 percent more habitable volume (316 ft3) than Apollo, which allows for the transport and safe return of up to four astronauts to deep space and back to Earth.
  • Orion was designed to accommodate 99 percent of the human population.
  • It takes about three years of training for astronauts to train and prepare for a mission on Orion.
  • The Launch Abort System (LAS) immediately pulls the crew out of harm’s way in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent.
  • The Orion life support system recycles air, detects and recovers from hazardous situations, and is capable of clearing heat, moisture and odors generated during physical activity, allowing crews to exercise.
  • The Orion crew module environmental control system protects astronauts from extreme temperature changes, sound and vibration.

Lunar Exploration


Lunar Orbiting Platform-Gateway

Lunar Gateway

NextSTEP Lunar Habitat

As part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program, we are studying the capabilities needed to support human pioneering in deep space. Habitats, known formally as “exploration augmentation modules,” are essential for the exploration of the outer bounds of space. Through this partnership, not only are we working with NASA to understand and research the challenges of a lunar gateway, we are also investing significant amounts of our own money to advance our design and build something that will serve commercial applications in addition to NASA’s.  As a force multiplier, this makes every dollar invested by NASA go even further. 
As our work on the NextSTEP Habitat in Phase II continues, it will lay the groundwork for the next generation of deep space habitation systems, such as improving various interfaces and creating module configuration options for the Orion spacecraft and commercial ventures.
Beginning in early 2018, we began work on a full-scale prototype of the deep space habitat which is being built at Kennedy Space Center. The Lockheed Martin team will have the opportunity to refurbish the Donatello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) and demonstrate capabilities necessary to support deep space exploration
We are also building a Deep Space Avionics Integration Laboratory in Houston to demonstrate command and control between the gateway and Orion. Through the use of integrated flight software and simulated hardware, the lab will help reduce risk associated with critical data interfaces between gateway elements. It also has an Orion cockpit thatprovides an environment for astronauts to interact with the software and train for various mission scenarios.

Power, Propulsion Element

Power is critical for any gateway activity because there will not be crew present 24/7 – that is where the Power, Propulsion Element, or PPE, comes in. We are uniquely positioned to develop this for NASA based on our planetary heritage – and developing spacecraft that have to operate autonomously at distances well beyond the Moon.

Our technical discriminators based on past performance and heritage robotic systems, like Juno and MAVEN, we can provide affordable operations, robust fault management and safe human interfaces. With advanced solar electric propulsion, the gateway or other Lunar architectures can move across various orbits which supports the mission to be scalable and flexible.

An advanced PPE will help provide robust capabilities for a range of upcoming robotic and human exploration missions.


Our conceptual vision for the first interplanetary voyage to Mars is called Mars Base Camp. While in orbit around the Red Planet, Mars Base Camp will provide astronauts a home away from Earth, a platform for conducting critical science and a base to send humans to the surface and back during its three-year mission. Mars Base Camp leverages the Orion spacecraft and the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway and its elements to start human exploration of Mars. A safe, affordable and achievable concept, our Mars orbiting outpost is designed to be led by NASA and its international and commercial partners.

Model-Based Artificial Intelligent Assistant (MAIA)


Imagine you’re in orbit around Mars, some 140 million(ish) miles away from Earth, and then something goes wrong. You can’t pick up the phone because it’s going to take 20 minutes for your signal to reach Houston. So, what do you do? You turn to all the data right at your fingertips – meet MAIA! Lockheed Martin Space is working on a technology initiative called MAIA (model-based artificial intelligent assistant) which is an onboard virtual reality and augmented reality system that is essentially a digital ecosystem of data. This gives astronauts a real-time, interactive representation of the vehicle and its environment; providing predictive capabilities for crew and vehicle alike. By utilizing the convergence of new tools like high-power computing, AR and VR our experts are exploring ways to create a system that is constantly learning and providing meaningful information for the crew – transforming human spaceflight like never before.

Learn More: How AR and VR could Help Get Humans to Mars

Human Interface


Machine Learning


Factory of the Future




Thought Leaders

Lockheed Martin engineers are mission planning visionaries

We are performing studies and creating designs that will take maximum advantage of all of the programs and contracts that are a part of to maximize our research and development. For example, we are working to determine how the Orion spacecraft and future habitats will need to interface; and how the life support, radiation protection, thermal control, power, rendezvous, proximity, operations and docking, EVA airlock,  and communication systems would best work in the environment of deep space.

Want to learn more – contact one of our mission area experts:

Portrait of Rob Chambers
Rob Chambers

Rob is the Director of Human Spaceflight Strategy and Business Development at Lockheed Martin Space. In his role, he is focused on Lockheed Martin’s blueprint for deep space exploration, leveraging the company’s proven heritage in robotic and human spaceflight to extend humanity’s understanding of our solar system to answer fundamental questions about where we come from, where we’re going, and whether we’re alone in the universe.

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Kerry Timmons
Kerry Timmons

Kerry is a Systems Engineer in the Advanced Programs group at Lockheed Martin Space where she leads a team of engineers working towards an avionics and software architecture that will support deep space exploration missions to the moon and beyond. She joined the company in 2004 and her previous job experience includes systems engineering tasks in support of design, development and test of the Orion Avionics, Power and Wiring systems.

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Timothy Cichan

Timothy Cichan is the Space Exploration Architect at Lockheed Martin Space. In this role he leads a multi-disciplinary team of engineers who figure out how to affordably, safely and efficiently help astronauts and robots visit the Moon, asteroids, and Mars. Tim was formerly the Orion Spacecraft Systems Architect and is a lead point of contact for human spaceflight mission planning.

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William (Bill) Pratt

As a member of the Lockheed Martin Space Advanced Human Spaceflight team, Bill is leading the team’s efforts on the NextSTEP Lunar Habitat. Bill has a systems engineering background with more than 15 years of experience in mission analysis, systems integration and project management with particular emphasis in developing mission concepts for deep space exploration.

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Josh Hopkins
Josh Hopkins

Josh Hopkins is a Proposal Manager in the Deep Space Exploration group at Lockheed Martin Space. He is one of the engineers responsible for developing concepts and writing proposals for science-driven robotic planetary missions to explore worlds all across the solar system. He started his career as a trajectory engineer working on commercial launch services, and later was responsible for astronaut exploration mission planning.

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