The first astronauts sent to Mars should be prepared to spend the rest of their lives there, in the same way that European pioneers headed to America knowing they would not return home, says moonwalker Buzz Aldrin.
In an interview with AFP, the second man to set foot on the Moon said the Red Planet offered far greater potential than Earth’s satellite as a place for habitation.
With what appears to be vast reserves of frozen water, Mars “is nearer terrestrial conditions, much better than the Moon and any other place,” Aldrin, 78, said in a visit to Paris on Tuesday.
“It is easier to subsist, to provide the support needed for people there than on the Moon.”It took Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins eight days to go to the Moon – 380 000 kilometres from Earth – and return in July 1969, aboard Apollo 11. Going to Mars, though, is a different prospect. The distance between the Red Planet and Earth varies between 55 million and more than 400 million km.
Manned mission to Mars around 2030
Even at the most favourable planetary conjunction, this means a round trip to Mars would take around a year and a half. “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?” Nasa and the European Space Agency (Esa) are sketching tentative plans for a manned mission to Mars that would take place around 2030 or 2040.
Based on experience culled from a planned return to the Moon, the mission would entail about half a dozen people, with life-support systems and other gear pre-positioned for them on the Martian surface. Aldrin said the vanguard could be joined by others, making a colony around 30 people. – news24