Thank You, Mr. President; Now It’s Up to Us

Thank You, Mr. President; Now It’s Up to Us

For decades, supporters of a strong American space program have dreamed of an American president throwing the weight of his office behind sending humans to Mars, developing a new deep space vehicle and the heavy lift booster to carry it beyond the Earth.

Thursday was that day.

At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, President Barack Obama called our nation to a bold new direction for our civil space program. He set a goal of developing the design of a heavy lift booster with advanced capabilities within the next five years, and a manned mission to rendezvous with an asteroid by 2025. Stepping stones to a mission to the moons of Mars, and then the Red Planet itself. I was honored to be his guest as he set before us his vision for the future.

Earlier, aboard Air Force One en route to Florida, I had the cherished chance to speak with the president and share some of my ideas with him. Together, we talked about space as we walked up the stairs to board the great presidential plane. This young president is very informed about the space program and understands the need for a strong effort to strengthen our economic and national security. He is conversant in terminology, technology and content. Overall, I was impressed.

But now that the president has spoken and challenged us, the real hard work begins. I know many of my former colleagues, such as my former mission commanders on Gemini 12 and Apollo 11, Jim Lovell and Neil Armstrong, as well as my former colleague Gene Cernan, have expressed their doubts about Obama’s new direction in space. I take their concerns seriously, but I know that when they look carefully at what our president is proposing, they will see as I have seen a fabulous new opportunity unfolding before us.

But I predict here on AOL News that it won’t take us five years to design that new booster. If we start out with a design that uses our shuttle heritage, we can be flying within five years, hauling lots of supplies to the space station and the first equipment for our deep space vehicle.

The trimmed down Orion capsule that Obama announced Thursday can be quickly adapted for use with that deep spacecraft, docked to it and serving to help aero capture the duo back from its deep space test flights. I see the ships looping around the moon at first before the first manned voyages to rendezvous with an asteroid in 2025 — heck, I bet we beat that timetable, too. Once we get a close-up and detailed look at an asteroid, we may be able to figure out what they are made of — a solid rock or bits and pieces held together? That way, we may be able to learn how to deflect any of them that might threaten Earth someday.

Obama’s idea for in-flight refueling of new rocket stages suggests there will be the need for a tanker ship at least, and possibly a gas station. Sounds like yet another opportunity for a space entrepreneur to get into the business. Will they clean the ship’s windows, too, while filling ‘er up?

But none of these great dreams will come to fruition unless we get Congress behind the president’s plan. My friends on Capitol Hill should expect to see and hear a lot from me in the weeks ahead, as I do all that I can to bring humans to Mars ever closer.

Thank you, Mr. President; now it’s up to us.

AOL News readers, will you join with me to advance our nation’s future in space? Are you ready to set sail again for distant destinations beyond the moon?

As Yuri Gagarin said 49 years ago: “Let’s go!”

Buzz Aldrin was the lunar module pilot for Apollo 11, and he and Neil Armstrong were the first two men to set foot on the moon. Aldrin is author of several books, including, most recently, “Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home From the Moon,” as well as two children’s books, “Reaching for the Moon” and “Look to the Stars.” Learn more at

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