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Buzz Aldrin on Why We Should Go to Mars

The Apollo 11 astronaut who walked on the moon dreams of a future where Americans are the first to walk on Mars

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Absolutely.

How can people be persuaded to do that? You’d be asking them to sacrifice a lot. It’s a big step.

It wouldn’t be a problem, getting volunteers, fully capable people, to assume that mission for the rest of their lives. They will realize that they will go down in history. The pilgrims were a big step, too. Columbus was a big step. Magellan was a big step.

Why should humans colonize another planet?

There may be diseases, there may be nuclear conflict or there may be an impact by a very large asteroid that endangers the human race. Stephen Hawking says we have about 200 years. And I said to him, I think we could make it to another planet in less than 50 years.

President Kennedy famously announced in 1961 that we should send a man to the moon by the end of that decade. Do you think we need a similar declaration in order to kick start the Mars mission?

That is my goal. A leader on Earth who makes such a commitment will go down in history more than Alexander the Great, Queen Isabella or almost anyone. The 50th anniversary celebrations of Apollo 11 through Apollo 17, between 2019 and 2022, should be a very significant time period for the leader of a country on Earth to make a commitment for human beings to establish permanence on another planet in the solar system. But instead of the one decade that Kennedy used for the moon, we would probably require two decades.

You’ve been a big supporter of space tourism, but so far it’s only been available to a wealthy few. Do you think it can lead to innovation?

Certainly it can, by inspiring young people, industry and the government. One of the first space tourists [Dennis Tito], buying his own ticket to fly on the Russian spacecraft to the Russian-augmented United States space station, is the initiator and the leader of “Inspiration Mars,” a proposal to fly a married couple around Mars and back in 2018.

What do you think of that idea?

About Amy Crawford
Amy Crawford

Amy Crawford is a Boston-based freelance journalist writing about government, education and ideas. Her writing has appeared in Smithsonian, Slate, Boston Magazine and the Boston Globe.

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