Archive for August, 2017

Buzz Aldrin on how, why and when you will get your ass to Mars

Monday, August 7th, 2017

The new space race is on. “We can establish permanent habitats on Mars by 2039, and I have a plan to achieve it.”

So says Dr. Buzz Aldrin, best known for being one of the first two humans to walk on the Moon when, on 16 July, 1969, he spent two-and-a-half hours on the lunar surface with Neil Armstrong. Three years previously in another huge tech landmark Aldrin took the first space selfie.

Aware that a manned mission to Mars is now right at the top of the tech agenda – thanks in part to the ambitious plans from Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos (and even the United Arab Emirates) – Aldrin is less concerned with who will be the first to Mars, and more with making us stay put on the red planet. ‘Flags and footprints’ is how he refers to the Apollo missions now, and he’s desperate for the same thing not to happen to a manned mission to Mars.

Mars: why go, why stay?

Before we get in to the detail, it’s worth remembering just why we need to go to Mars. While Elon Musk thinks Earth will suffer an extinction-level event and Jeff Bezos hates that idea but thinks we’ll need to go looking for more sources of energy, Aldrin’s take is far more simple.

“We explore or we expire,” says Aldrin about why humanity needs to reach for Mars. “We have been stuck in low earth orbit for too long and I believe that we need to break this malaise.”

OK, but why do we need to establish a permanent settlement?

“Any expeditionary missions may go there once or twice and never go back,” says Aldrin, who has a plan to affordably send multiple spacecraft to Mars.

“It is vastly more expensive to send people up there with all their infrastructure in one spacecraft, and the quality of the science would be dramatically lower,” he says.

“Once you have the right kind of surface and transportation infrastructure the cost of sending individual astronauts up there is much lower.”

Aldrin’s plan

Aldrin’s concept to create a permanent human settlement on Mars revolves around the concept of what he calls Cycling Pathways.

“I believe we can have one or two Earth-Mars ‘Cyclers’ taking astronauts to Mars on a three-month trip every two or four years,” he explains. They can only travel when the two planets align favorably, which happens every 26 months.

“Crews will be transported to the Earth-Mars Cycler with a single launch, with refuelling in Earth orbit.” He reckons that his plan will mean the cost of sending an astronaut to Mars will be an order of magnitude cheaper than the expeditionary architectures often discussed by NASA.

Instead of a costly and pointless one-off mission, Aldrin favors developing deep space cruisers that continuously cycle first between Earth and the Moon, then between Earth and Mars, to constantly move people, equipment and supplies. The end result? A ‘triad of worlds’ in the inner-Solar System supporting people and trade.

Creating Martians

Technicals aside, Aldrin is obsessed with one type of futuristic human; Martians. He’s dedicated much effort to his non-profit ShareSpace Foundation, which raises money to drive education and help develop the next generation of space innovators who will lead humanity to future habitation of Mars. He’s funding his current project – producing Giant Mars Maps (25x25ft vinyls with the location of every lander marked upon it) to take around schools – by hosting a star-studded Apollo 11 Gala each year at Kennedy Space Center. He calls it his ‘red carpet for the red planet’. Held last month, he even got Jeff Bezos and Michael Collins, his command module pilot on Apollo 11, to turn-up for a chat.

Mars and mentality

So what kind of people should go to Mars? “That’s a really important question and I do not think we really have the answer yet but I can tell you that psychological aspects and mental health will be incredibly important,” says Aldrin, though he stresses the need for potential Martians to be versatile.

“They will need to be scientists, engineers, physicians, carpenters, plumbers and many other things all rolled in to one,” he says.

“The truth is, for long duration missions – certainly to Mars – we will probably be much better off with some diversity in the crew composition.”

Is that because of the necessarily cramped conditions?

“Most concepts have spacecraft that are considerably larger than some of the capsules you see today,” says Aldrin. “In my concept we would have at least one module that would be considerably larger than one of the ISS modules, so I think that confinement will not be a problem during transit.”

Aldrin thinks the bigger problem will be the surface habitation systems.

“In my concept we would pre-deploy several habitat systems derived from the in-space habitation systems,” he says.

“These modules would be arrayed in a hexahedron configuration allowing up to six separate connections, so there would be lots of opportunity for expansion.”

Venus first

He’s obsessed with Mars, but for Aldrin, a manned mission there means first visiting the planet Venus. It gets a bad rap from potential colonizers because of its super-hot, thick atmosphere and sulphuric acid rain, but a manned flyby could prove pivotal on the path to Mars.

“A Venus flyby mission is a relatively straightforward and low-cost means of testing out the deep space performance and operation of the spacecraft without committing to go all the way to Mars,” says Aldrin.

“There is also the accomplishment of flying by another planet in our solar system.” Aldrin thinks that if men are going to Mars, then it should be women who go to Venus.

“I have been telling people that this mission should be conducted by an all-female crew, but that is really more for the entertainment value,” he says.

Such a test of the Cycler would have to be done very precisely. Since Venus orbits the Sun ever 225 days, spacecraft can only be launched there from Earth during a window that lasts just a few days every 19 months. Elon Musk recently described Venus as like a ‘hot acid bath’ and ‘not at all like the goddess’ as a simple answer to the question ‘why Mars?’

Space tourism and Moon bases

Billionaires and Mars go together well, but not just Musk and Bezos. If reusable rockets are to change the economics of space exploration, SpaceX, Blue Origin and others will all need to make low-Earth orbit into an marketplace.

“I think human commercial activities in low-Earth orbit (LEO) will be very important in the future. Tourism will be among those activities,” says Aldrin, though he thinks that manufacturing and research will be more significant fundraisers than space tourism.

“Human commercial activities in LEO, and on the Moon, promise to considerably lower the cost of the ultimate journeys to Mars,” he says. “A significant portion of the investment in commercial human spaceflight will benefit Mars missions.”

Elon Musk’s plans

If Aldrin has penciled-in 2039 and NASA is talking about the 2030s, then there’s a chance that the first Mars colonizer will be Elon Musk. The SpaceX supremo has recently issued a paper outlining plans to use reusable rockets to launch cargo, propellant tankers and people into orbit to create a 1,000 spacecraft-strong Mars Colonial fleet that would leave for the red planet every 26 months. Tickets to Mars would cost US$200,000. With 100-200 on each flight, he thinks he can put a million people on Mars in 40-100 years.

“Elon’s plans for Mars are certainly ambitious, and I am delighted that he has many people talking about large numbers of people living their lives on Mars,” says Aldrin.

“He has really driven the conversation away from just expeditionary missions.” However, Aldrin is not convinced by the details, particularly in the wake of a Purdue team of students reviewing the plans and telling Aldrin that Musk’s plan is not feasible. “I think he is reaching well beyond our grasp in the foreseeable future,” says Aldrin.

Buzz on Bezos

Not that Musk will be put-off; SpaceX has confirmed that it will test-launch its huge Falcon Heavy rocket in November, a vehicle designed with a manned mission to Mars in mind. Fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos also has plans that have caught the attention of Aldrin.

Blue Origin, his semi-secretive rocket company, is building ever-larger reusable rockets near Kennedy Space Center, and recently outlined plans for a Blue Moon cargo-delivery service to the surface of the Moon. “Jeff Bezos told me on my recent visit to Blue Origin that he’s been dreaming of space since the age of five years old,” says Aldrin.

“He watched Neil, Mike and I journey to the moon during Apollo 11 in 1969 … he’s been quietly breaking barriers with Blue Origin, but it can’t do it so quietly any more.” Bezos was at Aldrin’s Apollo 11 Gala to talk-up colonising not just Mars, but the entire solar system.

Presidential pledge

Aldrin’s chosen target to land on the red planet is 2039, which just so happens to be the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s Moon landing. He thinks that would be the perfect time for the US to make the decision to colonize Mars.

“I am personally very committed to the idea that the President should, and indeed must, announce a major US commitment to Mars permanence by the 50th anniversary,” says Aldrin.

“I believe that a Presidential commitment is essential to force us to make the hard choices we must make in order to get to Mars in the next 20 years.” Although Aldrin was present at the signing of the reestablishment of the National Space Council by President Trump in June, he doesn’t expect it to fundamentally change the US Space Program.

However, if Mars is on the table, things would change.

“The Space Council will really become critical if the administration decides to fundamentally rethink major aspects of our civil and national space programs,” he says.

Lunar legacy

Aldrin knows that when a human does set foot on Mars, his own ground-breaking achievement will have been surpassed. However, he knows what he wants his legacy to be, and it’s got nothing to do with the Moon.

“I want to be remembered as the man who led the world to Mars, for a permanent settlement,” he says.

“I have been a very very lucky person and I’m trying to make the most of it,” he says, but at 87 years old, this old astronaut is getting impatient.

That’s why he wears a t-shirt with a blunt message: Get Your Ass To Mars.

Read the original article at

Buzz Aldrin: We Will Have Humans on Mars in the Next 20 Years

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

The Quest For Another Earth

Humankind is eager to step out into the cosmos and wander across the deserted plains of the Red Planet. According to most reports, Elon Musk is leading the waywith SpaceX; however, a number of other orginizations—NASA, China’s Space Agency, The Mars Society—are training, deploying prototypes, and working on the plethora of questions and challenges that we will face when attempting to bring the first human beings to Mars.

But, as much as it might seem natural to get entrenched in the details of how we will actually get humans off of planet Earth (and keep them mentally and physically healthy throughout the duration), it is critical that we remember whywe’re going in the first place.

In a recent interview, Buzz Aldrin—the renowned astronaut, engineer, and (of course) the second human to ever step foot on the Moon—explained why exploration and discovery are so important, touching upon why we should (and why we will) have humans on Mars in 20 years…

We’ve now surveyed and scrutinized almost every inch of this planet, but there is so much we have yet to learn.

Aldrin begins by stating that, from both a scientific and technological perspective, we are at the perfect juncture to push the boundaries of exploration. He asserts that, thanks to recent advancements, for the first time in human history, voyaging to other worlds is truly within our reach: “Now is the time to start thinking seriously about what life on Mars might look like. We have never been closer to knowing and exploring another planet.”

When asked just how close we really are to achieving this feat, Aldrin was quick to respond with his timeline, saying that we could “have the first Human Martians at Mars by 2040.”

Aldrin continued by segueing into a discussion of why venturing to other worlds is important, noting that, in many ways, our planet is ancient and familiar and the other bodies in our solar system are, for all intents and purposes, virgin territory: “Space travel and exploration represents the final frontier – we’ve now surveyed and scrutinized almost every inch of this planet, but there is so much we have yet to learn.”

However, Aldrin states that the most notable aspects of this quest are about far more than just acquiring knowledge for the sake of knowledge or conquering new worlds. The journey to Mars will bring with it reignited excitement for science and innovation, creating a generation of young people who have ingrained within them a thirst for understanding and exploration.

Remembering A Race

When Buzz stepped onto the Moon in 1969, countless youth were captivated by the story and went on to pursue careers in STEM fields, hoping to achieve monumental feats of similar proportions.

Indeed, Aldrin is very aware of the impact that action in science has on the youth, stressing that, “we can only get there [to Mars] if we start investing in future generations.” Ultimately, as previously noted, he says that this investment is the key to long-term success: “In 1903, man learned to fly airplanes. Only 66 years later, we walked on the Moon. In order to help the next generation to make giant leaps like these, we must educate, enable and inspire them to be passionate about subjects like science, technology, engineering, art, and math.”

Aldrin notes that he has devoted himself to helping foster such a desire in young people, saying, “That’s the mission of the SpaceShare Foundation, and it’s one I wholeheartedly support.”

Terraforming Mars: How to Turn the Red Planet Blue from Futurism on Vimeo.

Aldrin’s Space Share Foundation is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to inspiring children’s passions for science and technology by providing educational tools to educators across the country at no cost. The goal of this work is to ensure that all young people are given the resources that they need to live up to their potential. After all, one never knows who the next Carl Sagan could be.

As Former President Barack Obama noted in a speech at the Frontiers Conference, “America is about Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers—but we’re also the place you can grow up to be a Grace Hopper, or George Washington Carver, or a Katherine Johnson, or an Ida B. Wells. We don’t want somebody with a brilliant idea not in the room because they’re a woman. We don’t want some budding genius unavailable to cure cancer or come up with a new energy source because they were languishing in a sub-standard school as a child. Because we’re going to be a better team if we got the whole team.”

Aldrin echoes these ideas, noting that, while reaching Mars in the next 20 years is extremely likely, it will only happen if we ensure that young people are given every opportunity to be the best that they can be: “Sometimes I can’t believe this lucky kid from New Jersey got to land and walk on the Moon…work hard and keep reaching for the stars.”

Read the original article at

Buzz Aldrin: One small step for man — closer to Mars

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

Forty-eight years ago, on July 20, 1969, I know exactly where I was: standing on the Moon with my fellow space traveler, Neil Armstrong. Our Apollo 11 colleague, Mike Collins, was circling high above the barren lunar landscape I described as “magnificent desolation.”

America’s Apollo program was a team effort, tapping into the talents of 400,000 people that bonded together to make real a vision. It was a unified undertaking, a blend of government, industry and academic wherewithal to turn a long-held dream into a reality.

But that was then — today it’s time to rejuvenate the country’s space program.

I was very pleased to see the White House in late June revive the National Space Council, to be chaired by the vice president. It was high time to resurrect this council and once again guide American space policy to regain and retain U.S. leadership in space. Our nation has suffered by not having such a council to ensure that a vibrant, resolute and true trajectory for NASA’s civil program is put in place.

A number of action items should be taken by the National Space Council. Firstly, in my view, steps must be taken to recognize China’s impressive space exploration agenda. This view was fortified a few months ago when I took part in a major Global Space Exploration conference held in Beijing. Space agency leaders from Italy, Germany, Japan, Russia, Canada, France, South Africa, the European Space Agency, as well as China took part. Embarrassingly, missing in the interchange was the United States.

I think the National Space Council could exert a strong position of leadership by pulling together space-capable nations to forge a partnership — one that utilizes low Earth orbit and the Moon as a testing ground for technologies needed to make possible footprints on faraway Mars. The United States is the experienced and potential leader of this coalition of space-capable countries. Doing so could decrease the cost of many activities in Earth orbit and at the Moon in preparation for Mars.

Now, back here on Earth. I have two words for Washington: fiscal discipline. The second word is not embraced in the nation’s capital, so let’s call it fiscal responsibility.

The programs that we have right now are eating up every piece of the NASA budget. It’s got to be reduced if we’re ever going to get anywhere new. People, companies, NASA itself, don’t like to have things reduced. But if we don’t, we’re going to continue spending to keep the International Space Station going. We’re going to keep the Orion piloted spacecraft, a project that is too expensive and too late. And we’re going to keep the Space Launch System flying once a year at a hefty price tag of billions of dollars. Again, we’re not going anywhere if we don’t do something about these issues.

I pride myself on thinking out of the box, of being innovative and a lover of long-range aims. Having farsighted goals and objectives is a trait of bold space exploration planning.To that end, for over 30 years now, I have championed the call for establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars. Striving to do so, I strongly believe, summons the very best of humankind to transform this lofty ambition into reality.

In my blueprint for the Red Planet, the plan projects we’ll have people on Mars by 2039. It is a plan to create a sustainable path to permanent inhabitation of Mars. This time no flags, footprints and scurrying back to Earth like we did in the Apollo program. I call the plan “Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars.” It is a bridge-building plan that links the Earth, the Moon and Mars and paves humankind’s road to another planet.

To occupy Mars is a task like no other. This enterprise can unite the great nations of the world in a cooperative way. Setting sail to Mars, putting in place a thriving civilization on that far-off world, is a peaceful pursuit that’s unparalleled in history. It is time to place spacefaring nations on that trajectory.

Given the reactivation of the National Space Council, I call upon them to help secure a bold presidential commitment. That is, on the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo landing on the Moon in 2019, to commit to a continued occupation of Mars with international crews. Through U.S. leadership, we can facilitate and sustain the arrival of humans on Mars.

I have always appreciated British essayist T.S. Eliot who pointed out: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”

Indeed, the task ahead is daunting. But what’s a future for if not to dream big? I passionately believe it is our rendezvous with destiny.

Apollo 11 moonwalker, Buzz Aldrin, is an international advocate of space science and planetary exploration. Aldrin has authored and co-authored several books including “Mission to Mars – My Vision for Space Exploration,” children’s book “Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet,” and “No Dream Is Too High: Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon.” Follow him on Twitter at @TheRealBuzz

Read the Original Article at The Hill