Buzz Aldrin wants mankind to one-up him.
In a Reddit Ask Me Anything post Tuesday afternoon, the former NASA astronaut said he believes that human beings can make it to Mars within the next two decades. Aldrin was the second person to set foot on the moon after Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. He logged onto Reddit to promote a social-media campaign aimed at celebrating the 45th anniversary of the July 20 moon landing.
"There is very little doubt, in my mind, that what the next monumental achievement of humanity will be the first landing by an Earthling, a human being, on the planet Mars," Aldrin wrote, adding that Elon Musk's space transportation company SpaceX could contribute "considerably, enormously" to building a human colony on Mars. Last month, Elon vowed to send people to Mars in the next 10 to 12 years.
And once humans get to the red planet, Aldrin says, that's it:
The first human beings to land on Mars should not come back to Earth. They should be the beginning of a build-up of a colony/settlement, I call it a "permanence." A settlement you can visit once or twice, come back, and then decide you want to settle. Same with a colony. But you want it to be permanent from the get-go, from the very first. I know that many people don't feel that that should be done. Some people even consider it distinctly a suicide mission. Not me! Not at all.
Aldrin believes the federal government should push strongly for a Mars mission—and pour more money into NASA's budget:
Returning to the Moon with NASA astronauts is not the best usage of our resources. Because OUR resources should be directed to outward, beyond-the-moon, to establishing habitation and laboratories on the surface of Mars that can be built, assembled, from the close-by moons of Mars. With very little time delay—a second or less. Much better than controlling things on the Moon from the Earth. So when NASA funding comes up for review, please call your lawmakers to support it.
Aside from missions and money, the former astronaut gave his Reddit audience a list of his favorite space movies, which include 2001: A Space Odyssey. His all-time favorite, however, is much more recent:
I thought that the movie Gravity, the depiction of people moving around in zero gravity, was really the best I have seen. The free-falling, the actions that took place between two people, were very, I think, exaggerated, but probably bent the laws of physics. But to a person who's been in space, we would cringe looking at something that we hoped would NEVER, EVER happen. It's very thrilling for the person who's never been there, because it portrays the hazards, the dangers that could come about if things begin to go wrong, and I think that as I came out of that movie, I said to myself and others, "Sandra Bullock deserves an Oscar."
And no AMA with an Apollo astronaut would be complete without a description of what it's like to walk on the moon:
My first words of my impression of being on the surface of the Moon that just came to my mind was "Magnificent desolation." The magnificence of human beings, humanity, Planet Earth, maturing the technologies, imagination and courage to expand our capabilities beyond the next ocean, to dream about being on the Moon, and then taking advantage of increases in technology and carrying out that dream—achieving that is magnificent testimony to humanity. But it is also desolate—there is no place on earth as desolate as what I was viewing in those first moments on the Lunar Surface.
Because I realized what I was looking at, towards the horizon and in every direction, had not changed in hundreds, thousands of years. Beyond me I could see the moon curving away—no atmosphere, black sky. Cold. Colder than anyone could experience on Earth when the sun is up—but when the sun is up for 14 days, it gets very, very hot. No sign of life whatsoever.
That is desolate. More desolate than any place on Earth.
Mars will be just as desolate when the first earthlings arrive, whenever that may be.
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