BY CHRISTOPHER ESSNER
“One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Those were the iconic words spoken by Neil Armstrong as he became the first human to step foot on the moon. It marked a new day in the age of humanity; a day of historic scientific achievement; a new age of exploration. The Apollo 11 moon landing was over 40 years ago, and Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, believes it is time humans set their sights on Mars.
In his new book, “Mission to Mars: My vision for Space Exploration” Buzz Aldrin, a native of Glen Ridge, N.J., lays out a plan for NASA to reach the red planet within the next 20 to 25 years. This will not be an easy task however as NASA has been forced to deal with large budget cuts and dwindling public interest regarding human space exploration.
Human lunar landings have been absent since the iconic Apollo program was completed, and the much of NASA’s space exploration projects have included machines, rovers, satellites. Some would like to see NASA astronauts return to the moon before any thoughts of a Martian mission are considered, but Buzz Aldrin believes this would be a mistake.
“Do not put NASA astronauts on the moon. They have other places to go,” Aldrin said in a statement to Fox News.
This is not the first time Aldrin expressed his desire to see NASA astronauts explore our celestial neighbor. In the 1980s Aldrin conceptualized the “Aldrin Mars Cycler,” a spacecraft transportation system cycling between Earth and Mars that would ferry astronauts back and forth.
Exploration is intertwined with human history. Humans have always have the drive, want and need to explore new lands, see new things, and go one step beyond what was previously thought possible.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson believes that a manned Martian mission has the ability to re energize the United States the same way the Apollo missions did in the late 60s and early 70s.
“During the Apollo era you didn’t need government programs trying to convince people that doing science and engineering is good for the country. It was self-evident,” said Tyson. “ Fully funded mission to Mars and anywhere beyond low earth orbit commanded by astronauts who would now be in middle school would reboot America’s capacity to innovate as no other force in society can.”
The future of space exploration may not lie with government funded programs however. As programs like SpaceX continue to grow we may see a greater shift towards the private sector. Millionaire Dennis Tito is planning to launch a Mars mission that would send to people into orbit by 2018, and non-profit organization Mars One is looking to land four people on the planet to begin colonization. The catch to the 2023 plan is that it may be a one way trip.
Whether you believe a Mars mission should be undertaken by NASA or private organizations, one thing is certain. Humans will always have that hunger to go beyond what was once thought possible. As technology continues to advance this undertaking may not seem so impossible.