Buzz Aldrin's Timetable for Colonizing Mars

The other day I had the honor of speaking with Buzz Aldrin, the first man on the moon along with Neil Armstrong.

I was interviewing Aldrin for an article I'm writing for the NOVA website on whether we should consider a one-way manned mission to Mars -- one in which pioneer astronauts remained on the Red Planet to launch a colony that would later grow into permanent settlement. (Initial shock aside, most experts agree we could do a manned mission a lot sooner and a lot cheaper if it wasn't round-trip.)

With the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's famous go-to-the-moon speech approaching in 2012, I asked Aldrin if he thought we should, to paraphrase Kennedy, go to Mars in this decade.

"No, it's probably going to take three decades," Aldrin said, and went on to outline his proposal for securing a lasting human presence on Mars.
Exactly 50 years after Kennedy's announcement, on September 12, 2012, Aldrin says, the U.S. President should proclaim a "global space doctrine." The doctrine would serve as a road map for space exploration, including a stepped program to put human residents on Mars. The President should reaffirm that doctrine eight years and two months later, on the 50th anniversary of the fulfillment of Kennedy's goal -- the 1969 moon landing. And then every five years after that, until the 70th anniversary of his and Armstrong's first steps on the moon.

"It was 66 years from the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk to landing at Tranquility Base," Aldrin says. It's good to put a number in people's minds, he added, and 70 years feels about right to him to get to the start of a sustained human outpost on Mars.

America should act now, Aldrin says. With the Apollo program 40 years ago, the U.S. gained a dominant position in space exploration. But other countries, including the foursome loosely known as BRIC -- Brazil, Russia, India, and China -- have their eyes on space. ("You might call them the wannabes of space leadership," Aldrin told me.) Russia, for one, plans to send a soil-sampling mission to Phobos, one of the martian moons, in 2011. Aboard will be a Chinese satellite to orbit the Red Planet.

"If we don't shape up what we're doing, we're going to find the Russians clearly leading missions to Mars," Aldrin says.

In a speech last April, President Obama outlined an ambitious plan for exploring the solar system that included a manned flight to Mars sometime after 2030. But he did not provide a detailed road map of how to get there.

And what of sending colonizing astronauts one-way to Mars? For Aldrin's position on that, you'll have to wait for the article to appear in early October. You might be surprised.

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User Comments:

we need to go to mars soon if there is away to live there

Space exploration is a worthy persuit and we need to take the lead and discover the unknown and increase our knowledge and technology. More space and less defense jobs.

Like the idea...always wished we have been living on the moon some 20 years by now...but...keep up the effort Buzz...


The most recent release of researcher data and imaging at SEM and EM size scale gives the impression to professionals that there may be a growth process on Mars which resembles growth items on Earth.

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