The Trump administration has committed NASA to landing “the next man and the first woman” at the south pole of the moon by 2024 as part of a program in which the space agency and its international and commercial partners will establish a lunar base.
Buzz Aldrin, who nearly 50 years ago became the second man to walk on the moon, has published a piece in the Washington Post calling for not just sending astronaut explorers to Mars but establishing a settlement there.
Aldrin supports the lunar effort, but as a stepping stone for Mars. He stated:
“Meanwhile, another looming orb — the red one — should become a serious focus of U.S. attention. Mars is waiting to be discovered, not by clever robots and rovers — though I support NASA’s unmanned missions — but by living, breathing, walking, talking, caring and daring men and women.”
“To make that happen, members of Congress, the Trump administration and the American public must care enough to make human exploration missions to Mars a national priority. To be clear, I do not mean spending billions of taxpayer dollars on a few hi-jinks or joy rides, allowing those who return to write books, tweet photos and talk of the novelty. I mean something very different.”
That something different is “the great migration of humankind to Mars.”
Aldrin believes that making Mars a second home for humans would unify the nations of the Earth with a common goal. Space visionary Robert Zubrin once reached back to the Turner Thesis to advocate for settlements on the Red Planet.
At the end of the 19th Century, a history professor named Fredrick Jackson Turner opined that the western frontier was the source of America’s culture of democracy, freedom and innovation.
Zubrin suggested that the establishment of Mars as a new frontier would spark a similar cultural effect, this time for every country on Earth.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wants to build a city on Mars and is building a giant rocket ship in South Texas for that purpose.
Musk believes that a Mars settlement would prove to ensure the long-term survival of the human species in the event a catastrophe takes place on Earth, either natural or human caused.
None other that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a man who might have been president (and still might in the future) has offered legislation that will, among other things, support Mars as a long-term goal.
He supports the lunar program, but only as a way station for missions to Mars.
The vision of sending human beings across the interplanetary void, a trip lasting months, to explore and eventually settle the Red Planet is heady stuff.
The goal has led Buzz Aldrin to some stranger places than the Sea of Tranquility which he explored along with Neil Armstrong before the eyes of the world 50 years ago.
In 2010, President Barack Obama abruptly cancelled President George W. Bush’s Constellation program, which envisioned missions to the moon and Mars.
The outcry from both Congress and the public was such that Obama was obliged to fly to the Kennedy Space Center and announce a new goal.
We would no longer go back to the moon, since we had already been there.
Instead, we would go to Mars.
Obama had none other than Buzz Aldrin in tow for the speech.
Aldrin had broken with his fellow Apollo astronauts, all of whom had decried the cancellation of Constellation, and supported the new goal, which eventually came to be called the Journey to Mars.
Aldrin, to his sorrow, discovered several things.
He was being used as a political prop to sell a fake space program.
The Journey to Mars never received any serious money.
The program was a means to divert attention from the fact that Obama disdained the idea of space exploration, Astronauts raising the American flag on other planets smacked too much of American exceptionalism, a concept that Obama detested.
Moreover, several months later, MIT released a study that suggested that the easiest way to get to Mars would be to stop by the moon first, mine its poles for ice, and refine it into rocket fuel.
Thus, the Mars spacecraft would not have to carry the fuel all the way from Earth.
When President Trump signed the executive order to send Americans back to the moon, Buzz Aldrin was in attendance.
Now he has gone full circle, advocating for going to Mars, via the moon.