Mars One is a plucky not-for-profit organization that wants to turn the colonization of Mars into a worldwide reality TV show -- and it appears to be making headway.
On Tuesday, Mars One announced it had contracted Lockheed Martin to develop a mission concept study for a Mars lander to be launched in 2018.
(Click through the photo gallery above to see an image of the proposed lander).
Lockheed Martin is the company that tested and operated the 2007 Phoenix Mars lander for NASA.
"We're already working on the mission concept study, starting with the proven design of Phoenix," said Ed Sedivy, Lockheed Martin's civil space chief engineer in a statement. "Having managed the Phoenix spacecraft development, I can tell you, landing on Mars is challenging and a thrill."
Mars One made headlines this spring when it began accepting applications for the first round of Mars colonizers. Anyone on the planet over the age of 18 was invited to apply, regardless of whether they had previous experience in engineering, medicine, planetary science or really anything.
Applicants were asked to submit videos in which they explained why they wanted to go to Mars and how they felt about never returning to Earth. (Mars One does not envision sending anyone home.)
By the time Mars One stopped accepting applications in September, 202,000 people had expressed interest in being among the first humans to step foot on the Red Planet.
Eventually, Mars One will whittle down those applicants to about 40. Those selected will train in groups for seven years. And, if everything goes according to plan, at that time a global audience will vote on which group will go to Mars.
In the meantime, Mars One needs to prove that a Mars colony is technologically possible, and that's where the proposed lander comes in.
The unmanned lander that Mars One hopes to launch in 2018 -- the first private unmanned mission to Mars -- will be equipped with a suite of tools to prove that the Red Planet would be habitable for humans. Specifically, it will demonstrate how humans might extract water from the Martian soil.
"The demonstration of water production on Mars is crucial for manned missions," said Mars One co-founder Arno Wielders in a statement.
And because of the whole reality-TV angle, the lander also will be equipped with a video camera for continuous documentation.
Mars One announced it was working with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. to create a demonstration satellite to relay a live video feed from Mars back to Earth.
If you are wondering how Mars One plans to pay for its ambitious plans, you are not alone. In a news release, the nonprofit said it would look for funding in exclusive partnerships and sponsorships, as well as an Indiegogo campaign.
Are you an aspiring planetary explorer? Follow me on Twitter for more like this.