Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk the moon, said he would encourage the next U.S. president to commit to colonizing Mars within the next 20 years.
When asked about the importance of public and private partnerships for space exploration, Aldrin said the private sector usually does a better job.
“Your greatest legacy is in front of you by making a commitment within two decades for the United States to lead international humans to permanence on the planet Mars,” Aldrin said when asked by his son, Andrew, how he would justify the need for human presence on Mars to the next president.
“This can be your legacy and the legacy of the first pilgrims that stepped foot there because we know the disadvantages of landing and then bringing people back and then landing again, and that’s wishy-washy. What do you want to do? Do you want to colonize or not? If you don’t, stay in orbit, that’s nice and safe, but somebody else will go down there. That doesn’t mean spend years in orbit. Go in there because we have fixed the surface to be a very acceptable, habitable location for growing people,” he added.
Aldrin’s comments were made at the Human to Mars Summit 2015, hosted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and George Washington University (GWU). His son, Andrew, the current president of Moon Express, moderated the discussion.
Aldrin, 85, was asked why he prefers human space exploration instead of remotely exploring space via satellites and other technology.
“We explore or we expire. It is built into our human genes, the curiosity to look elsewhere to find better locations. What’s on the other side of the mountain? What will enable me to begin to continue to explore? Then sometimes people say we want to preserve the human race against pestilence, nuclear war, the impact of large objects,” Aldrin said.
“If a big one is coming, a big one, really big, the latest thinking – and I had to listen to some of these experts – is we’re going to use nuclear detonations with shockwaves, not to blow this thing into little pieces, that makes things a whole lot worse but supposedly it can be diverted by a big shockwave. The last time I checked NASA did not have any of those. NASA doesn’t have people on alert but the Defense Department does — and that to me, the highest level of national security, is where our planetary protection should be located,” he added.
During the event, a member of the audience asked Aldrin about the advantages or disadvantages of government agencies and private companies venturing deeper into space.
“Both of them – it’s how they are going to get along, and they must get along. We can’t do things with just government. We’ve done enough government projects to know that usually the private the sector can do a better job,” Aldrin said to applause from the audience.