News Column

Apollo astronaut wants life on Mars

July 18, 2014

Buzz Aldrin was asked: Weren't you scared, in that little spacecraft, descending to the surface of the moon and not knowing for sure that you'd ever make it back to Earth?

"Fighter pilots have ice in their veins," Aldrin answers. "Fear is a disabling emotion. It prevents you from thinking clearly."

Sunday will mark the 45th anniversary of the moment the world heard those amazing words from Aldrin's Apollo 11 crewmate, the late Neil Armstrong - "Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed." - that marked the first lunar landing.

Aldrin, now 84, is making much of the anniversary. He hopes to drop into the White House and that President Barack Obama will use the anniversary to announce new ambitions for Nasa and human spaceflight. Aldrin wants to see humans travel to Mars - and stay, permanently, something he thinks the US government could accomplish in an international partnership that could include China.

He'd like Obama's successor to use the 50th anniversary of the landing - July 20, 2019 - to say something Kennedyesque, such as, "I believe that this nation should commit itself within two decades to leading |international permanence on the planet Mars."

The people who go must be prepared for it to be a one-way trip, living out their lives on Mars, he said. That's more doable than round trips and would keep funding flowing to Mars exploration, unlike a flags-and-footprints stunt.

"If we go and come back, and go and come back, I'm sure Congress will say, 'Oh, we know how to do that, let's spend the money somewhere else.' And everything we will have invested will be sloughed aside," he said.

Aldrin has launched a social media campaign featuring a YouTube video in which celebrities and scientists relay their memories of Apollo 11.

"I feel we need to remind the world about the Apollo missions and that we can still do impossible things," Aldrin says in the video.

In his book Mission to Mars: My vision for space exploration, Aldrin recalls that his Mars ambitions weren't shared by Armstrong, who thought the US should focus on returning to the moon for longer-duration missions.

Of Nasa, Aldrin said, "I believe that we are - in other people's terminology - adrift right now. We cannot take our own people to the space station. We invested $100 billion." (Nasa pays Russia to launch American astronauts to the International Space Station.) - Washington Post

Pretoria News

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Source: Pretoria News (South Africa)

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