Aldrin Says First Manned Mission to Mars Should be a One Way Trip

Illustration for article titled Aldrin Says First Manned Mission to Mars Should be a One Way Trip

Buzz Aldrin has stepped from his pedestal once again to talk about the space program. No longer content to bash science fiction for destroying interest in real space exploration, Aldrin has turned his attention to a crewed mission to Mars, saying that if we do send humans to the Red Planet, we shouldn’t bother bringing them back to Earth.In 1969, it took just eight days to reach the moon but, as Aldrin notes, getting a manned spacecraft to Mars would take the better part of a year. After all that time and expense, a trip to Mars might not be worthwhile unless the astronauts were there long term:

"That's why you [should] send people there permanently," said Aldrin. "If we are not willing to do that, then I don't think we should just go once and have the expense of doing that and then stop." He asked: "If we are going to put a few people down there and ensure their appropriate safety, would you then go through all that trouble and then bring them back immediately, after a year, a year and a half?"

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Currently, NASA’s Constellation program plans for a manned mission to Mars in 2030. Under the current plan, the crew’s return vehicle would arrive ahead of the actual expedition ship. But NASA is also scheduled to break ground on the lunar outpost in 2019, and there could be a fully operational base on the moon by 2024. If the lunar outpost proves a success, it might make sense for humans to erect similar colonies on Mars, where oxygen and water are more readily available. Of course, the challenge would be finding colonists willing to sacrifice a terrestrial existence in the name of the Martian frontier:

"They need to go there more with the psychology of knowing that you are a pioneering settler and you don't look forward to go back home again after a couple a years," he said. "At age 30, they are given an opportunity. If they accept, then we train them, at age 35, we send them. At age 65, who knows what advances have taken place. They can retire there, or maybe we can bring them back."

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Mars pioneers should stay there permanently, says Buzz Aldrin [Physorg via Universe Today]

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DISCUSSION

Read Dan Simmons' book The Terror to learn a little about doing this kind of manned "exploration" in a truly hostile environment. Then imagine the challenge of doing it without air. These people started expeditions prepared to be on the ocean for YEARS, yet dozens of well-equipped crews looking for the Northwest Passage starved within 20 miles of previously stashed food and supplies once bad weather locked them up. Problems are inevitable and in an environment like this, everybody dies. Now that it's no longer necessary to take those kinds of chances, why risk lives?

Survival needs food, potable water, shelter, power and air. Right now, Mars provides none of those. Starting with robots and automated equipment means there's a good chance that Mars could have shelter, power, potable water and air by the time people are ready to arrive. Food is even a possibility, though I wouldn't exactly count on it for the early trips. By letting machines create a monitored environment, we learn a hell of a lot about running zero-maintenance sustainable environments in such a way that stupid mistakes and oversights don't kill people.