With enough money and enough might, humans could probably get to Mars in the next couple of decades. It's a proposition made all the more relevant by the continuing findings of the rovers Opportunity and Curiosity. It would be a mammoth undertaking, but it's possible, at least in concept. But should humans go, and should we stay? Will we? Buzz Aldrin thinks so.
Aldrin releases a new book today, "Mission to Mars," in which he argues a future U.S. president should commit by 2019 to sending humans to Mars, and not returning them safely to Earth. It will take a brave leader to suggest something like this, but brave leaders have sparked space exploration before, he says.
His plan centers around something called a Mars Cycler, which Aldrin first conceived of nearly 30 years ago. It would create a "celestial triad of worlds," hubs for the ebb and flow of passengers, cargo and commerce among Earth, the moon and Mars. The ships would be new designs--he says he's "incensed" that most current space exploration prototypes look like Apollo--and he doesn't want them to use solid rocket motors, a "technology that keeps popping up out of the casket."
"Let's take a page from commercial airliners and ratchet ourselves up from the disposable Dixie-cup model," he writes.
The Cycler would need several steps to get off the ground. First, the project would include a practice run on the big island of Hawaii. A habitat module or some other system component would be remotely delivered by some robotic technology, probably controlled by a satellite or via radio link from Houston. Secondary components would have to be air-dropped together, with extreme precision. Then things get real. The first off-planet element would be a control center or habitation module, delivered to the L2 Earth-moon gravity-balancing point. That, in turn, would become a place from which controllers would manage the remote landing of the first moon habitat. Eventually, all this practice would lead to a remotely controlled delivery of the first stages of a Mars base.
I was intrigued, so I decided to ask to him about this. It turned out Buzz was eager to talk. As I quickly realized, conversations with Buzz are not necessarily back-and-forth. When he's excited about something, he's going to tell you about it, tangents and all. I wanted to ask if I could yell at the moon with him, but we didn't get that far before his people pulled him offline for another interview.
PopularScience.com: Why would you want humans to stay on Mars permanently?
Buzz Aldrin: The uniqueness of that has yet to be fully reached. We bring people back. But the purpose of going to Mars is for humans to first begin to occupy, permanently, another planet in the solar system. The astronauts or pilgrims, whatever you might call them, are going to be very historically unique human beings. And the leader of an Earth organization who makes a commitment to history--of humans living on Earth, to begin permanent settlement/occupation of not the moon, but of another planet--this leader will have a legacy for history that will supersede Columbus, Genghis Khan or almost any recognized leader. I guess religiously, that might include Jesus Christ and Mohammed and Abraham and David. They are obviously going to be remembered for their contribution to human history.
This will probably take two decades from commitment, and result in the non-return of humans from the surface of Mars. They would occupy a permanent Mars base, built previously from a moon of Mars, and my favorite selection is the inner moon, Phobos. Over a period of three different visits to the moon Phobos, the Mars base will be assembled remotely, from sequentially-landed large elements, habitats and whatever else, that are to become the permanent base.
How would the Mars Cycler get people to Mars?
Aldrin: I was motivated to improve the U.S. strategy of going back to the moon in 1985. That's a long time ago. Going back to the moon would be a great achievement for tourism adventure flights. But it resulted in the Aldrin Cycler, which was published in '86. It included cycling spacecraft between Earth and Mars, back and forth. It was really the first major disclosure of a new strategy of transportation for permanent transportation economics, of delivering human beings from the Earth to Mars.
The cycler consists of two mated together, side-by-side connected, interplanetary spacecraft. It's the very basic component of future projections by my USV, unified space vision, which is my personal-experience replacement for President Bush's vision for space exploration.
I tried to change the name of the book, but it was just too late to add an "s," so it would be "Missions to Mars," not "Mission." My plan for the future is unique in a sense, because it implies human permanence at Mars. Humans transported to the surface of Mars by cycling spacecraft. It's kind of complex, but every other synodic period, a cycler delivers to Mars. That means you would need two cyclers, one for the first, third, fifth, ninth odd number of 26-month opportunities, and the other cycler, for 2, 4, 6 even-numbered synodic periods. It's a major improvement on the Aldrin Cycler, that was first discovered/invented/worked out, but not patented, in 1985.
What's your Unified Space Vision?
Aldrin: It unifies five elements of space policy: 1) exploration; 2) science; 3) development; 4) commercial; and 5) security. Many, many people have verified that that is national space policy, those five items. We unite those five elements strategically by comparing and integrating our five elements of space policy with every other country internationally. Like ESA, JAXA, China, India, Germany--all of those space policies of other internationals are essential to be integrated into my unified space vision, because of the moon. At the moon, the U.S., in my opinion, needs absolutely to lead an international lunar base. This discourages commercial human landings on the moon by government subsidy. Let's not have the taxpayers paying for a big rocket, a lunar landing, so that commercial human beings from the U.S. can dig up and mine and occupy the international lunar base.
In the book you mention that your nickname at NASA was "Dr. Rendezvous," because your MIT doctoral thesis was about two piloted aircraft meeting in space. Is that why are you interested in this cycler concept?
Aldrin: It's ironic. My selection as an astronaut was unique because I had not been trained as a test pilot. So my application, along with Ed White, my very close friend who graduated West Point and was killed in the Apollo  fire, he and I applied in 1962 for the second group. Ed was selected, I was not. I made it in the 1963 selection of astronauts, because of the change of not requiring test pilot training, which I had intentionally avoided. But I had written my thesis on space rendezvous at MIT, and was very motivated for the space future, in the Air Force or anywhere else.
That's some background as to why you are interviewing me after two autobiographies. In 1973, I wrote "Return to Earth," which was made into a movie in 1976. But it dealt only with mental health issues and depression. It did not include alcoholism recovery, and I now have 34 years of sobriety from alcohol. The most recent autobiography, "Magnificent Desolation," described my recovery from alcoholism.
What do you think of space tourist Dennis Tito's plan to swing around Mars and back? Is this how you envision a future Mars Cycler working?
Aldrin: Sort of. It has the essence of a gravitational swingby of Mars, to bring the spacecraft back in as short a time as possible. Those times occur in 2016 and 2018 but not again until 2031. We probably can't make 2016, but we can make 2018. That would bring the spacecraft back, if successful, just prior to the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing.
Does the cycler plan borrow a page from modern airlines?
Aldrin: Absolutely. Airlines, private industry, followed the government system of airplanes to deliver the mail. The government system to deliver the mail from one city to another, and then reuse the airplane. It led obviously to transporting not just mail, or cargo, but the private delivery of human beings between city and city and back.
Now there is the commercial potential of transportation of human beings from the surface of the Earth, to Earth orbit and potentially to swing by the moon, and back to Earth. Or to swing by Mars and return to Earth, and be the delivery system of us, or international human beings, from Earth to Mars. Then we're not expending the vast resources that would be needed to bring people back from Mars.
How should we get started? What's the most important aspect?
Aldrin: The first element, before the retirement of space shuttle, was supposed to be to deliver a test bed to the space station. Long-duration life support systems, separate from the station but connected. The second element would be a prototype of an interplanetary habitation module, delivered to the space station, which could become a safe haven for astronauts at the station to abandon a disabled space station, separate in this hab module, and be returned to Earth. The third, fourth and fifth iteration is further testing of the interplanetary space vehicle, referred to in my book, in low-Earth orbit, to the moon, in cycling orbits, to L2 and L1, and to lunar surface as the first element of the international lunar base. That would be to test radiation, systems, etc to support other nations' human beings on the surface of the moon.
July 2019 would be the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. It would be the ideal time, in my estimation, for the president elected in 2016 and 2020, from whichever party, to gain the legacy of the two-decade commitment to permanence of human beings on the planet Mars. That is the essence of Buzz Aldrin's Unified Space Vision. It's a very unique and beautiful opportunity for U.S. leadership.
Lots of wool-gathering in this plan and not a few elements of scam, but he needs themoney and it makes for a nice PopSci item so what the hell.
Anyone else notice Buzz is starting to look an awful lot like Joe Biden?
Interesting conversation with Buzz from the article; I like to read his book. I do hope humanity does settle on Mars and or in space!
Looks a lot like a copy of the Mars One plan but then carried out by government. Yet he is just suggesting. Like he has been ever since the Apollo program. Suggestions in an age where NASA`s budget keeps falling won`t do much. NASA has said many times they don`t have enough to build the Space Launch System (SLS) but congress has literally ordered them to build it. Ordering someone to build something on too small a budget is asking for delays and problems. And that doesn`t even begin to pay for cost overruns and the actual missions or the actual components and development of components for a manned mars mission. Lets be realistic.
So delays will continue just as Dragon manned is already pushed back from 2014 to now 2017 at the earliest because of lacking NASA funding from Washington. Spacex says it requires about 3 Billion Dollars from NASA to make it`s vehicle capable of manned launches.
The experts agree with me.
We choose to go to Mars and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone.
The JFK speach is still relevant now as it was then.
"Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.
So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this State of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward--and so will space."
"It is the Mission Objective of Mars One to establish a human settlement on the planet Mars in 2023."
The new TED talks by Taylor Wilson: My radical plan for small nuclear fission reactors.
Could not only power a Mars community it could also allow a plane to fly off of earth to get there. While at the same time make it cost effective, by converting water from the moon or even Mars into hydrogen and oxygen fuel. Large bags of fuel outside the atmosphere rocket themselves to a plane like spaceship one and fuel its trip into the stars. This would also provide a vehicle capable of gliding to the surface of mars. One or two of these reactors could create and fuel a space plane Moon and Mars program for sixty years.
Once a community is established on Mars creating large permanent steal structures in space is then possible because of the low gravity. Even the Idea of Terraforming Mars can be revisited Perhaps a large water vapor cloud could be kept close to the sun to block solar winds reaching Mars and throwing off its atmosphere. The cloud is kept in place with small nuclear explosions that also buffer against large solar flares.
Sorry it's a 30 year reactor
Buzz Aldrin's new book "Mission to Mars:My Vision for Space Exploration also discusses the strange object on Phobos Buzz calls the Phobos Monolith. What I found fascinating about his comments is the idea that the Phobos Monolith may not just be a rectanular rock. Buzz says that while some people consider the Phobos Monolith to be a rectanular boulder,it still needs to be catagorized. In my mind that opens up the possibility that this structure could be an alien artifact.
People I'd like to see on a one-way trip to Mars:
1. Justin Bieber
2. Ariel Castro
3. Senator Harry Reid
Please add to the list!
The first step in this process should be a large space habitat with lunar-equivalent artificial gravity. This would serve two key purposes: (1) To determine if humans can adapt to lower gravity levels over a long time period; and (2) Serve as a prototype for a Moon or Mars habitat. This can likely be achieved for about $2B.
To see how this would work visit spacehabitat.org or visit the Space Habitat group on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/groups/Space-Habitat-4860183/about).
I find it appalling that there are so many comments that poke fun at Buzz Aldrin's idea as if he were some un-credentialed crackpot. Every step in colonization has been constituted with a one way trip. But, I have been around long enough to remember virtually identical derisive laughter when JFK said said we were going to the moon. I am surprised that people, with such limited vision, read PopSci. Oh, wait, likely the same ones who continue to swallow the Global Warming hoax!(3 degree C temp drop in US over in the last year. Not valid? No less so than claiming that a one degree increase over the last CENTURY indicates warming)
Dr.Aldrin is the father figure for a whole generation of human space activity lovers, here in America and all over the world. He clearly articulates the American spirit in this 21st century, when leaders here and abroad seem to have lost it,projecting a very foggy vision for humanity's future, with rampant economic myopia. And our dear silver-haired congressmen, lacking vision, have all turned into bean counters and austerity mongers. They are worried about how to pay for it all while forgetting that we have a duty to build an awe inspiring future for our children and grandchildren. How can the nation compete without spending to build large infrastructures that only the government can do ? America is known around the world for dreaming big, not just big as in big cities, big planes and cars, big houses but big hearts and big minds, really capable of imagining mind stretching visions made real by wielding the newest technologies for our future. And what better arena than space and what better activity than human space activity to really show the world the true meaning of freedom and the way forward ?! Dr. Aldrin shows off his practical side by suggesting an evolutionary approach as well(Apollo training!): from LEO to the Moon, then Mars.....and so on. Our engineers know how to do this step by step..because good engineering relies entirely on hard data, fed back diligently by progressive simulations, building one on top of the other...just like Apollo. If only we had a dozen Buzz Aldrins walking the halls of congress ?...we could use a bit of lobbying...or is it brainwashing..or brain clearing ?
I don't believe the native Martians would be interested in permanent earthling settlers to take their land - unless NASA sends extra women.
On a lighter note, here is a great read:
(Married) life on Mars: Did you try to kill me again last night, dear?
Being locked in a space capsule for 501 days, says Scott Feschuk, can give you the ‘us time’ you’re craving
Hope you enjoy!
At first I thought the idea of sending humans one way was a bit "inhumane". And after you get past the idea of using a space elevator or rail gun to actually expedite the long list of "candidates" you could come up with, you'd have to figure there would actually be a long list of volunteers, nuts as you or I would judge them to be.
But look at the colonization of Jamestown, VA. The first colony failed, yet others signed up to go and take their place. Now we have a continent-full. I can't go - I wouldn't give up chocolate.
We could resort to the old fashioned way: send POMEs. Prisoners of Mother Earth. And I think we could spare a few "leaders" to take with them. I have some suggestions for who.
One way trip?!! ...no thank you.
I've got an idea...lets perfect electrogravitics; tapping into the electromagnetic zero-point field, and actually go somewhere inhabitable! Or at least making it practical to mine Mars and other planets/moons, for us here on earth.
Gosh! If they're really careful, the first settlers can enjoy farming that is free from aphids, whitefly, locusts and other insect pests.
More for the list,
ALL of One Direction
Whoever invented Cumulative Finals!
At this time we know Mars and such to be uninhabitable. I to believe that we can artificially inhabit other worlds.
Discovering the truth about how our own planet really works first would make this endeavour much more plausible.
BruceVoigt wrote: Dec 26 2006
To Reason with Anything One Must First Know
and Understand the True Reason
Unknown to education and science are the true workings of fire, water, air, light, magnetism, sound, sight, cold, hot, electricity, earthquakes, tides and I could go on and on. I ask you, without knowing the truth of such things, how in bloody hell can one determine the simple working of our universe?!
Dark matter of outer space is made up of info cells of all Earth. We are not made for this planet but are made of it, tis the reason for the familiar make up of life in times past.
If there is a nook or cranny any where in our Universe that conditions will allow evolution of Earth life, it has happened.
What I am excitingly waiting for is news that one of our robots has successfully penetrated another universe. If so this would confirm that our info cells known as dark matter or energy also could and life as we know it will be.
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