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Buzz Aldrin: U.S. Can No Longer Afford $3.5B a Year International Space Station

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin holds a T-shirt at the Humans 2 Mars Summit at the George Washington University in Washington, on May 9, 2017. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca/Sipa via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk the moon, said the International Space Station should be retired because it has become too expensive to operate.

NASA currently pays Russia about $70 million per seat for rides to the ISS through 2019.

“We must retire the ISS as soon as possible. We simply cannot afford $3.5 billion a year of that cost. We can accomplish the objectives in LEO [Low Earth Orbit] at far less cost with far greater contributions to the future with cycling pathways to occupy Mars using commercial modules,” Aldrin said at the Humans to Mars conference last Tuesday in D.C.

Aldrin said the goal is for these modules to operate “independently” of the ISS.

“They should not be in the high inclination orbit of the ISS. I believe these modules should fly at a 30-degree inclination. This will make them much more accessible to cooperation with the Chinese,” he said.

Aldrin wants cyclers to eventually replace the ISS in a “gradual way.”

“The foundation of human transportation is the cycler – very rugged, so it’ll last 30 years or so, no external moving parts,” Aldrin said. “The cycler is an evolutional spacecraft concept which begins as a commercial low earth orbit cycler, which replaces the ISS in a gradual way. And it evolves to house crew and tourists up and down, and eventually tourists cycling around the moon and back, and eventually going to the moon and staying on the moon for a period of time. This is a bit more mature.”

Aldrin estimates that an early version of “a commercial low orbit cycler” could be tested before President Trump’s first term is over in 2020.

“I believe we can dispatch a robot two days before a crew leaves and they arrive two days before the robot in 2020. They will be on their way back before the election in 2020. It’s not going to be done with the current systems that we have, but if we really want to do something like that it can be done,” he said. “We need to use the Moon to test our systems and operations for Mars, but we need to be clear that anything we use on the Moon must be testing Mars operations and systems.”

Aldrin explained how the cyclers would eventually travel between Earth and Mars.

“The key concept of this is we only have to accelerate several small vehicles that we call the ‘cab lander’ to rendezvous with the Earth-Mars cycler and this will be very light, it only has to supply the crew for a short while before it gets to the Earth-Mars cycler and it requires only an arrow capture heat shield for Mars because it’s going to rendezvous with the lander that has the heat shield from orbit on down,” he said. “That arrow capture will also get it back to earth where it arrow captures at Earth – somebody comes up and brings them home.”

Aldrin told the crowd, “Let me leave you with my appeal to the stars, with Stephen Hawking and whoever is above Stonehenge: get your ass to Mars.”

Last month, Aldrin met with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House. PJM asked Aldrin’s spokesperson if he has plans to meet with Trump in the near future but she did not reply before press time.