Rob Chambers can’t think of any coworkers who didn’t want to be an astronaut when they were a kid.

Of course, like many of the engineers at Littleton-based Lockheed Martin, Rob Chambers ultimately had to make a choice between two paths.

“You can either be an astronaut, or you can design and build the things that allow the astronauts to do what they do,” Chambers said.

Rob Chambers chose the latter. Now, he’s the production strategy lead for Orion, NASA’s first spacecraft designed for deep space exploration and the vehicle that will ultimately take astronauts to Mars.

“Exploring Mars and putting boots first on Mars is a vision that most of us have kept deep in our hearts,” Chambers said, speaking for himself and coworkers at Lockheed Martin.

For many, humans setting foot on Mars is still just a vision seen in sci-fi movies and NASA animations. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama made the vision a goal, penning an op-ed for CNN about the next steps in exploring Mars.

He wrote, “we have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America's story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time.”

Reading Obama’s op-ed, Rob Chambers was reminded of the words former President John F. Kennedy famously delivered at Rice University in 1961 about sending a man to the moon.

“When you look at what we still had to develop to get to the moon within a decade back when JFK put his thoughts forward, and you look at what technology we have to develop to get to Mars, we are closer to Mars than we were to the moon at that time,” Chambers said.

In his op-ed, President Obama also wrote about working with private companies on the next step of developing new habitats for astronauts for “long-duration missions in deep space.”

Rob Chambers said Lockheed Martin is working on the initial designs of those habitats now.

“We’re working on prototypes that we’ll have ready on the ground within about a year and a half and the goal is to fly those in about, let’s say four or five years,” Chambers said.
Chambers said the habitats would initially be tested in lunar orbit before making the trip to Mars.

“What we’re starting to build now is the precursor to those actual habitats that will ultimately be on the surface of Mars,” Chambers said.