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America’s premier space pioneer has a vision for space exploration.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin has been there. A veteran of Gemini 12 and Apollo 11, Aldrin was the second man to walk on the Moon after Neil Armstrong and has since been a vocal proponent of manned space exploration.
And it shows, in his breathtaking new proposal for man in space entitled Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration. Not only does Mission to Mars lay out the reasons for why we should go, it also goes into meticulous detail as to how it could be done. Aldrin earned his Doctorate of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying orbital rendezvous, and earned the nickname “Doctor Rendezvous” during his time in the astronaut corps for his expertise on the subject. He’s definitely the copilot we’d want on a journey to the Moon or anywhere else in the solar system, and Aldrin lays out a brilliant case on just “how the solar system could be won”.
Should a manned mission the Red Planet be direct, or done in stages? Is the Moon a worthy target to return to and explore? Should we go to Mars simply to “plant a flag,” or are one way missions such as those proposed by Mars One a valid idea? Aldrin delves into all of these and more, including the roles that new and established startup corporations such as SpaceX, Orbital Sciences and many more are set to play in future space exploration.
One particularly interesting point that Aldrin makes is the possible establishment of an “orbital pipeline” throughout the inner solar system. These are routes, known as Mars-Aldrin Cyclers, can be used to achieve an optimal trajectory between Mars and Earth with minimal fuel and energy expenditures. Aldrin envisions a transportation highway through the inner solar system comprised of way point stations located at the Earth-Moon Lagrange points and orbital taxis playing catch-up with a series of interplanetary cycling spacecraft.
Aldrin also notes the potential roles that the Martian moons of Deimos and Phobos may play in the exploration of the Red Planet. With a negligible gravitational field – you could achieve escape velocity from either moon via automobile without breaking your neighborhood speed limit – both moons are much more accessible as initial stop off points for visiting astronauts.
Aldrin also points out that man’s destiny lies in the exploration of the planets, and ultimately the stars. He points towards research stations in the Antarctic and the International Space Station as good models for what might eventually exist on the Moon and Mars: an international research station hosting a rotating crew of visiting scientists, (and one could hope, the occasional visiting science journalist!)
But perhaps the biggest take away lesson from book is that we could be preparing techniques now concerning how to “live off the land” once we arrive on the Moon and Mars. Many plans call for fuel, water and air production to happen in situ, but we’d love to see a machine that can take rocks and soil into one end and spit useful products out of the other… that crucial middle step of “how” is often missing from plans, but this is something we can be working on now, before the first crewed rocket to Mars ever reaches the pad.
Be sure to read Buzz Aldrin’s Mission to Mars for a fascinating look at the future of space exploration by one of its greats!