Aldrin: 'Mars is the Next Frontier for Humankind'

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Buzz Aldrin fields questions at a Hollywood premier in 2008. Today he has issued a public statement on the realities of spaceflight (Ian O’Neill)

This certainly isn’t a surprise, considering Buzz Aldrin has been advocating manned missions to destinations other than the moon for some time, but it’s certainly worth hearing what the second man on the moon has to say about today’s announcement about NASA’s shake-up.

In a nutshell, Aldrin supports President Obama’s revised vision for NASA space exploration. This means canceling a return trip to the lunar surface and concentrating on other destinations first, pushing the envelope of human endeavor.

Here’s the full text of Aldrin’s press release (via The Office of Science and Technology Policy):

Statement from Buzz Aldrin: A New Direction in Space Today I wish to endorse strongly the President’s new direction for NASA. As an Apollo astronaut, I know the importance of always pushing new frontiers as we explore space. The truth is, that we have already been to the Moon – some 40 years ago. A near-term focus on lowering the cost of access to space and on developing key, cutting-edge technologies to take us further, faster, is just what our Nation needs to maintain its position as the leader in space exploration for the rest of this century. We need to be in this for the long haul, and this program will allow us to again be pushing the boundaries to achieve new and challenging things beyond Earth. I hope NASA will embrace this new direction as much as I do, and help us all continue to use space exploration to drive prosperity and innovation right here on Earth. I also believe the steps we will be taking following the President’s direction will best position NASA and other space agencies to send humans to Mars and other exciting destinations as quickly as possible. To do that, we will need to support many types of game-changing technologies NASA and its partners will be developing. Mars is the next frontier for humankind, and NASA will be leading the way there if we aggressively support the President’s plans. Finally, I am excited to think that the development of commercial capabilities to send humans into low earth orbit will likely result in so many more earthlings being able to experience the transformative power of spaceflight. I can personally attest to the fact that the experience results in a different perspective on life on Earth, and on our future as a species. I applaud the President for working to make this dream a reality. Buzz Aldrin Feb. 1, 2010 [Full text PDF can be downloaded from the OSTP.gov website]

I personally agree with many of his points, especially the part about “pushing the boundaries to achieve new and challenging things beyond Earth.” However, I’m dubious as to when this new and invigorated vision for NASA is going to take shape.

Scrapping the Constellation Program (or a large portion of it) is one thing, developing a more realistic replacement is quite another. I suppose we’ll have to remain patient to see how Congress reacts to the White House’s new vision before we can start over-analyzing the future of manned exploration of the solar system.

What do you think? Is Buzz’s enthusiasm on the money? Or do you think it’s misplaced? Canceling a 9 billion dollar program just to start over may sound wasteful, but will a fresh look at this challenging issue stimulate not only NASA but develop an exciting prospect for commercialized spaceflight?

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