Buzz Aldrin calls for “an American colony” on Mars

(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon, writes in an opinion piece at the Washington Post that “it is time we were bold again in space.”

Aldrin’s vision, “Time to Boldly Go Once More“, advocates creating an American colony on Mars in 20 years. He believes if the United States space program “avoided the pitfall of aiming solely for the moon, we could be on Mars by the 60th anniversary year of our Apollo 11 flight.”

Aldrin thinks NASA plans to re-explore the moon is a “dead end”. Instead, Aldrin says we should commit our nation to establishing “an American colony” on Mars.

Aldrin writes:

Forty years ago today, Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and I began our quarter-million-mile journey through the blackness of space to reach the moon.

Neil and I walked its dusty ancient soil, becoming the first humans to stand upon another world. Yet today, no nation — including our own — is capable of sending anyone beyond Earth’s orbit, much less deeper into space.

For the past four years, NASA has been on a path to resume lunar exploration with people, duplicating (in a more complicated fashion) what Neil, Mike and our colleagues did four decades ago. But this approach — called the “Vision for Space Exploration” — is not visionary; nor will it ultimately be successful in restoring American space leadership. Like its Apollo predecessor, this plan will prove to be a dead end littered with broken spacecraft, broken dreams and broken policies.

Instead, I propose a new Unified Space Vision, a plan to ensure American space leadership for the 21st century. It wouldn’t require building new rockets from scratch, as current plans do, and it would make maximum use of the capabilities we have without breaking the bank. It is a reasonable and affordable plan — if we again think in visionary terms.

Instead of racing other nations to the moon, Aldrin writes the U.S. should join an international coalition to establish a scientific base on the moon. “The moon should be for all mankind”, he writes.  

As part of an international team, American astronauts could test “the tools and equipment that we will need for our ultimate destination: homesteading Mars by way of its moons.”

Let the lunar surface be the ultimate global commons while we focus on more distant and sustainable goals to revitalize our space program. Our next generation must think boldly in terms of a goal for the space program: Mars for America’s future. I am not suggesting a few visits to plant flags and do photo ops but a journey to make the first homestead in space: an American colony on a new world.

Even though NASA has been successful in exploring Mars with robotic missions, Aldrin believes “the best way to study Mars is with the two hands, eyes and ears of a geologist, first at a moon orbiting Mars and then on the Red Planet’s surface.”

Aldrin’s reasons to colonize Mars include, to understand the earth’s “own climate evolution”, “inspire America’s young students”, and “renew our space industry”. He believes setting Mars as our target would “galvanize public support for space exploration”.

While I doubt there is anything that could persuade some Americans that a Mars program would be a worth while investment for the U.S., I think Aldrin is right that Mars would be more inspiring than just returning to the moon. More importantly, I think there would be significant benefits to the United States and the earth with establishing a Mars colony.

Since, as a nation, the U.S. seems determined to have the highest military-industrial spending in the world, I think diverting some of that money for a Mars colonization program would be a better use of that money. Not only would it keep the Military-Industrial-Complex (MIC) busy, it would be a beneficial refocusing away from engineering more and more lethal means to kill people, to sustaining life in a hostile environment. Not only would this help “renew our space industry”, but also, if Congress makes it necessary, create jobs for Americans.

I have advocated before that the U.S. redirct its Military-Industrial-Complex to address climate change and, likewise, technologies developed to support human life on Mars will likely prove beneficial to us living on the earth as well, especially on a warming earth that will become increasingly less hospitable to human life.

Likewise, Aldrin’s thinks the “Mars could be a virtual laboratory to study these vast planetary changes” as climate change. Efforts to terraform Mars, essentially shaping the planet’s atmosphere and climate to be hospitable for human life, could be essential to addressing our the problems we create for ourselves with the earth’s climate.

For those of us who follow the news about the earth’s collapsing environment and ecosystem, the future can look bleak. I feel it is our responsibility to try to leave our planet in better shape than it is today. I feel we need to provide hope to future Americans and their brothers and sisters across the planet.

Exciting children about science and engineering through a Mars mission will help inspire them to pursue science and engineering as a career. I believe an increased American involvement in science and engineering is essential for the continued survival of the United States. Not only are we depending, in part, on the scientific and engineering communities to help find solutions to global warming, we are also looking to these men and women to grow the economy and create new industries and jobs. I think as the 21st century unfolds, the nations that focus on science and engineering will be the world leaders by century’s end.

On the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing, Aldrin challenges us and “America’s leaders to think boldly”. So yes! Let us dare to dream and do the impossible once again.


Cross-posted at Daily Kos.



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    • Adam on July 16, 2009 at 23:13

    Too much risk of crew taking high levels of radiation in a very long trip several month long trip to Mars. Need to be able to make a spacecraft go a lot faster than we can go right now.

    • Edger on July 17, 2009 at 00:05
  1. Let’s try spending a boatload of money on things like universal health care, a national public transportation system, “clean” energy, and the like.  As far as determining impacts re global warming, we’d likely get a lot more bang for our buck exploring our own oceans, nearly all of it yet unexplored.  It’s sucking up a whole lot of the extra CO2 we’ve been pumping into the atmosphere and we don’t yet have a good idea exactly where it all is, or how much longer the oceans can continue to hold excess CO2.

  2. But only if I get to be Boss of the planet.

    I have pockets full of PROMISES!

  3. There was a NASA publication, from the mid-1970s I believe, that laid out a detailed plan for manned planetary exploration that was something along the lines of: earth orbiting space station, then Moon bases, then Mars and beyond. I have it somewhere, but it’s a hopeless task locating it so I’m sorry I can’t quote from it. The idea was that the space stations would provide a launching pad to the Moon, the Moon bases would provide resources for more space stations as well as a launching pad for further exploration. The Space Shuttle was supposed to be the first step in putting together the orbital stations, I believe.

    The plan made sense given the relatively deep gravity well that has to be overcome to get from the surface of the Earth even to LEO. The Moon offers a much reduced gravity well to be overcome, as well as raw materials that would otherwise have to be brought up from Earth’s surface (Oxygen, Iron, Aluminum, Titanium, Silicon, Magnesium, Calcium among other things were found in the samples returned from the Moon).

    As for faster vehicles, that has it’s own trade-offs. Every m/s of increased velocity is another m/s that has to be scrubbed at the other end so the fuel requirements (i.e.: mass) increase accordingly. Again, this makes the Moon a better starting point for planetary missions, as well as a source for additional shielding (like Lunar soil).

    The technology that would have to be developed for such an undertaking would certainly be a better investment than building things that go boom in foreign lands.

    • Robyn on July 17, 2009 at 07:10

    We really need to take national boundaries off-planet?

    Pardon me while I go puke.

  4. Native Americans?  Isn’t it a bit presumptuous to make the mission an established colony?  

  5. on mars, colonization is simply not in the cards.  Mars doesn’t have enough oxygen  for long term settlement.

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