It's strange to think that a man who went to the moon and wants to colonize Mars could be delayed by some snow.
But Buzz Aldrin did get stuck in snow - or the traffic it caused, anyway - and was about 30 minutes late to his talk on "unified space vision" in the University of Colorado Boulder's Macky Auditorium Tuesday evening. But the second person to step foot on the moon is allowed to be a little late, and the Apollo 11 mission footage set to dramatic music that was playing for the crowd was a reminder of that. It was about the best introduction anyone can get ... not to mention a good way prepare the crowd for his proposal.
Aldrin was in Boulder to talk about doing the impossible. He used the "impossible" word again and again, explaining how he, his fellow astronauts, NASA and the United States had done the impossible by putting mankind on the moon, and how he believed it was vital that we again "do the impossible" and colonize Mars.
"Apollo could never have been done without the efforts of many, many people working together toward a shared goal ... I believe that a future leader could have the vision, the determination and the courage to do it again, only this time, to go beyond the moon," he said.
That all sounds vague and grandiose, but Aldrin's "unified space vision" is very real, very technical, and not at all vague. Unfortunately, the Macky soundsystem was less than crisp and Aldrin turned away from the podium to face his slideshow while explaining the more technical points. Fortunately, buzzaldrin.com decently sums up his ideas, even outlining the possible added bonus of saving the Earth:
"A prototype XM (Exploration Module) could be based on NASA's canceled space station Habitation Module. It could be launched as early as 2014 and attached to the space station for a long-duration shakedown test. Extended flights around the moon with second-generation XMs would serve as dry runs for its first real mission in 2018: a one-year flight culminating in a 30,000 mph flyby of the comet 46P/Wirtanen.
In 2019 and 2020, the asteroid 2001 GP2 will come within 10 million miles of Earth, in position for a month-long rendezvous with the XM. In 2021, the mission would be a manned approach to 99942 Apophis, the asteroid that will just miss the Earth in 2029 and has a tiny chance of hitting man's home in 2036. If a 2036 impact looms, the 2029 mission could be used to divert the 820-foot-wide rock.
The last step toward Mars, around 2025, would be a landing on the planet's 17-mile-wide moon, Phobos, which orbits less than 4,000 miles above Mars. A Phobos base would be the perfect perch from which to monitor and control the robots that will build the infrastructure on the Martian surface, in preparation for the first human visitors."
In this way, Aldrin said, we could establish a permanent presence on Mars by 2040. He set a deadline for a president to make that commitment: July 20, 2019.
But why? That's the big question, as people volunteer to die on the red planet. Aldrin pointed out that a great deal of scientific and technological advancement comes from exploration beyond our atmosphere, including developments in areas that affects our everyday lives, such as cell phones, computers and GPS.
Aldrin remarked that a photo of the Curiosity rover on the Martian surface "doesn't look hospitable" and that, even decades from now, the lifespan of a human on Mars would only reach about 85 years, but that anyone living on Mars will be "too busy" to care about that shortened lifespan. And when a little girl asked him if it was scary, looking out into space, he said, "I wasn't scared. You won't be scared."
And that's why, at the age of 85, Aldrin is tirelessly promoting missions to Mars. He created the Share Space Foundation to encourage curiosity in kids and emphasize education in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. Aldrin is also calling for a nonprofit that would study past and current space policy and inform the public, called the United Strategic Space Enterprise, or (and here he paused for effect) the USS Enterprise.
A big part of this, beyond science, is about space exploration as a way to unify humanity. It's about American leadership "inspiring the world by doing what no other nation is capable or willing to do," he said, and the likely fact that the first people on Mars will be an international crew.
And, of course, it's about doing the impossible.
"Apollo was the story of people at their best, working together for a common goal," Aldrin said. "We can do these kinds of things again. I know. I'm living proof that it can be done."
Source: Denver Post/Ashley Dean