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goldlizard

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From Popular Science

Buzz Aldrin Wants To Send People On A One-Way Trip To Mars





In a wide-ranging interview with PopularScience.com, Aldrin talks about a mission to Mars, 34 years of sobriety and the future of American leadership in space.

By Rebecca BoylePosted 05.07.2013 at 12:00 pm11 Comments


The Second Man on the Moon
The Second Man on the Moon BuzzAldrin.com

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.


Aldrin's New Book
Aldrin's New Book: National Geographic
“If we persevere on this path, we can reach out some 200 million miles to Mars before 2035--66 years after Neil Armstrong and I flew the quarter-million miles through the blackness of space to touch down onto Tranquillity Base,” Aldrin writes. “There’s a historical milestone in the fact that our Apollo 11 landing on the moon took place a mere 66 years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight.”

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.



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Science, Rebecca Boyle, astronaut buzz aldrin, buzz aldrin, mission to mars, missions to the moon, popsci q&aWhat’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 [1] 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.


Buzz on the Moon
Buzz on the Moon: In the new book "Mission to Mars," moonwalker Buzz Aldrin argues for a new "Unified Space Vision" that ends in a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet. Photo Courtesy of NASA

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.
 
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JPVegh

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If the human race survives it will eventually end up with a system similar to this with permanent settlements on other bodies. I have my doubts that we will make it that far. A significant adjustment to the world population is probably going to have to happen for the human race to survive. Such an adjustment will undoubtably set back the time table for technologies like manned interplanetary space travel.

I think we may have missed our window for doing the really big things like sending people to Mars. Maybe if we had continued on with Apollo and the logical follow on manned programs we would have developed a cost effective system by now. To try to develope such a program in todays political and economic enviroment just doesn't seem very likely to happen. Right now we have to concentrate on solving the problems on this world before reaching out to the next.

Maybe we can get to Mars before 2112, just in time for the Overture.
 

goldlizard

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I agree, we lost the window and very doubtful we will ever have another one. With politics and politicians unable to agree that the sky is blue or the grass is green, we will never have a real space program again. The private sector is the future of space in America, maybe they can get a handle on the costs and truly have affordable space flight, maybe within our lifetime.
Once we get there comes the big question, "will we be able to live and survive in that environment". Food, water and oxygen are the biggest obstacles we will have to overcome in order to colonize the planet. That is where the greatest challenge lays.
 

JStarStar

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No way in the world a one-way mission plan ever gets significant public support.

Like it or not, a one-way mission is, in fact, a suicide mission -- even if the eventual method of death turns out to be old age.

Opponents of the project would glom onto the catch phrase "suicide mission" and pound it into the dust.

Even if the participants knowingly and enthusiastically accept the terms of the mission, getting public support (i.e., $$$) will be a whole 'nother deal.

Buzz also wildly overestimates public enthusiasm over commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

By 2019, anybody old enough to really remember Apollo 11 will be 55 or older and most over 60. They will think back fondly on those glorious days but if they are asked to support 12-digit outlays (hundreds of billions) of tax money on a one-way Mars mission IMO their enthusiasm will drop real fast.

Reestablishing a presence on the Moon by the early 2020s would be a far more feasible goal (and frankly I ain't even very optimistic about that either).
 
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fyrwrxz

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I ran into a 20's something guy the other day who actually did NOT know we had a space station orbiting the Earth. I was shattered and heartbroken we've fallen so short of our ideals in the 60's. If you ask around, you may be as depressed as I was about the general lack of knowledge about our quest for understanding the universe. It shows in our 'space program' already. Glad I'm gonna be dead before "everybody knows plants crave electrolytes"...
 

dlazarus6660

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Like the moon, what is there to do, except explore the terrain, on Mars? I wake up, look out the window, see a red sky, eat breakfast, do the three SSS's, go explore the terrain, come home, fix supper, check the mail(e-mail) go to bed. Exciting!
 

boomtube

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Imagine having to rely on your technology just to breath. One little glitch and you’re a dead.

Sure, we rely on tech to keep us alive in many situations like flying and nothing ever goes wrong with jet liners. Or submarines etc etc.

We suffer an electrical blackout and we don’t have TV or air-conditioning for a few hours or days. Those folks on Mars become fatalities.

And all of this is predicated on an assumption we have no right to make; that humans can adapt and survive in a gravitational field substantially lower than the one we evolved in. Can you imagine the s&*t storm if after the “Colonists” had been on Mars for a year or so they begin to suffer from irreversible bone density loss or a collapse of their immune system? We get to watch in Prime Time the slow ugly death of these people.

And I don’t think that even Mr. Aldrin has thought through the enormous tonnages of supplies that would have to be continually sent to Mars* so any colonists could possibly even survive much less live a life that was anything but brutal, ugly and short.

*Read up on just how many tons per person has to be supplied each year just to keep one individual alive at any of the Antarctic research stations. And at least the people at the Antarctic have a breathable atmosphere outside their living quarters.

I have said this may a time; we will ever be able to explore or exploit our solar system, at least with manned spacecraft, until we can develop some form of drive system that can get us to Mars in a matter of days and the outer reaches of this system in weeks. Along with this we’ll have to come up with a means by which we can put tons into orbit for what we now pay to put pounds there.
 

Sully

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No way in the world a one-way mission plan ever gets significant public support.

Like it or not, a one-way mission is, in fact, a suicide mission -- even if the eventual method of death turns out to be old age.

I agree that getting people to Mars seems like a near-impossibility today, but if the resources can be found, and a feasible plan put together, I think that getting people willing to go would not be difficult. Our country, like others, was settled by people who made a "one way trip" that everyone else thought was crazy. They'll have more than enough volunteers. The tricky part will be finding enough people who are capable of the physical, emotional, and intellectual challenges of colonizing Mars (or the Moon).

And if dying from "old age" is a "suicide mission," then I guess we're all already on one! We're just a bunch of really smart apes helplessly sitting on a rock that twirls around a star, waiting for the clock to run out. Kind of a bleak way to look at it, I think.
 
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shrox

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...Like it or not, a one-way mission is, in fact, a suicide mission -- even if the eventual method of death turns out to be old age...

Not even! For the people that blaze trails, staying home is suicide. Going away to find home is living.
 

bobkrech

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It s really exciting life. Once you're on the space ship you will never take a breath of fresh air. You can never go outside. You can never leave your 1housand cubic foor pressure vessel, or see anyone else other than the ones stuck in there with you. It's not exploration, it's groundhog day, every day. It's hell, being trapped alive in a coffin.

Bob
 

shrox

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It s really exciting life. Once you're on the space ship you will never take a breath of fresh air. You can never go outside. You can never leave your 1housand cubic foor pressure vessel, or see anyone else other than the ones stuck in there with you. It's not exploration, it's groundhog day, every day. It's hell, being trapped alive in a coffin.

Bob

I would hate it. That's why I won't be blazing that trail...
 

JStarStar

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No doubt they could get plenty of volunteers who would say, and probably believe in their own minds, they were 100% fine with the one-way concept.

But it is inevitable some of these people, over the course of years, would find they hadn't really prepared themselves, couldn't adjust to changing conditions, or just plain changed their minds. And then you would have people on Mars who decided they didn't want to be there and basically now looked at the rest of their lives as a prison sentence -- or a death sentence. That wouldn't exactly be positive PR for the program.

The problem would not be in getting potential participants, it would be in getting public support, namely money. No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

The public is never ever going to widely support a program which can easily be painted as ritualized suicide. And that's exactly how the opponents would paint it.
 

Zonie

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I Dont' think so. If there were a group of people willing to go to Mars to live and Die there, regardless whether they A) make it there, B) Survive the landing, C) live a few days, or D) persevere until old age, Funding for such a mission is possible. There is not enough Poo-pooing that would actually stop that. Academia, Nasa, etc. already spend a lot of money sending crap to mars, and really the only thing keeping us from sending people is how to get them back. Mars' Gravity is still 60% of Earth so all of these movies with people leaving mars in something akin to a moon lander ain't gonna happen. Not gonna reach escape velocity in a 20 year old abandoned Russian lander with a monkey on the computer screen telling us the battery is dead. Need at least something the size of the Falcon9 or a Titan Missile to get them back out of the atmosphere and on an intercept orbit with whatever return vehicle is up there waiting to take them home. Hence the problem. It is hard enough to build a man-rated rocket here on Earth to get people out of Earth's gravity well, so we are not about to do it on mars.

Now, Sending some Hab missions there and a group of people to land there later and assemble it and live there, with no plans to ever leave the red planet, but instead traipsing around and testing the dirt, etc. and sending back regular reports, now that would be fascinating for the world to see on a scale that we were all watching Apollo. I think If we sent basically a big RV type thing that could be assembled, and serve as both transportation and shelter, then the Mars Colonists could really do a lot. A lot more interesting than a rover anyway.

Really the only thing we need to figure out is how to keep everyone from starving and killing each other on the trip there.

Are we there yet? Don't make me come back there!

No way in the world a one-way mission plan ever gets significant public support.

Like it or not, a one-way mission is, in fact, a suicide mission -- even if the eventual method of death turns out to be old age.

Opponents of the project would glom onto the catch phrase "suicide mission" and pound it into the dust.

Even if the participants knowingly and enthusiastically accept the terms of the mission, getting public support (i.e., $$$) will be a whole 'nother deal.

Buzz also wildly overestimates public enthusiasm over commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

By 2019, anybody old enough to really remember Apollo 11 will be 55 or older and most over 60. They will think back fondly on those glorious days but if they are asked to support 12-digit outlays (hundreds of billions) of tax money on a one-way Mars mission IMO their enthusiasm will drop real fast.

Reestablishing a presence on the Moon by the early 2020s would be a far more feasible goal (and frankly I ain't even very optimistic about that either).
 
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aerostadt

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Thanks, Goldlizard, for your summary of Buzz Aldrin's latest book! I like Aldrin's enthusiasm and the notoriety that he brings to the subject. That is good.

I recall one of Aldrin's ideas in Popular Science about ten years ago or so. It was like a giant space station that was in orbit around the sun that passed by the Earth and Mars at different times in its orbit. That way astronauts would rendezvous from Earth with the Cycler on the way out and depart on arrival at Mars and people could come back in reverse.

Another good book is "The Case for Mars" by Robert Zubrin. I really like Zubrin's approach, because he talks about taking 6 tons of liquid hydrogen and a nuclear reactor. After 6 months the power plant produces 108 tons of methane and oxygen from the transported hydrogen and the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere (the atmosphere is about 95% CO2). One could also make water, if you don't think Mars has it. The expedition now has methane and oxygen not only for a return flight, but also for powering a Mars rover. There is also the possibility of making oxygen to breathe. Once the commitment is made to use nuclear power this way, a Martian expedition takes on a new level of reality.
 
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