NASA Commissions 'Deep Space Habitats' for Journey to Mars

nasa mars habitat Boeing space
A concept image of Boeing's prototype habitation module. Boeing

NASA has commissioned six major aerospace firms to develop "deep space habitats" in order to advance its Journey to Mars program.

Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Bigelow Aerospace are among the companies selected to develop and test habitats that could be used in transit to—or on the surface of—the red planet.

"NASA is on an ambitious expansion of human spaceflight, including the Journey to Mars, and we're utilizing the innovation, skill and knowledge of both the government and private sectors," said Jason Crusan, director of NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems.

"The next human exploration capabilities needed beyond the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule are deep space, long duration habitation and in-space propulsion."

The contract calls for space habitats that can be used by humans to live and work for months or years at a time, without the need for cargo supply deliveries from Earth. Approximately $65 million will be split among the six companies over the next 24 months to develop the habitats.

Both NASA and private firms like SpaceX see Mars as the next step in humanity's permanent migration into space.

NASA's chief technologist David Miller has said that the space agency's Journey to Mars program is laying the groundwork for a much more important goal of humanity's ability to survive indefinitely, no matter the fate of Earth.

"NASA really views our Mars mission as humanity permanently moving out into the solar system—not going to grab a rock, plant a flag and come home. This is to permanently make humanity a multi-planet species," Miller told IBTimes UK in 2015.

"Civilization has always been challenged by crossing big rivers and traversing mountain ranges and sailing vast oceans, but every time we do it, in the long run the growth of civilization has been positive."