Mars, Why Now?
I want to share with you my vision of our future in space. But before that, let’s first roll back the calendar.
For me, speeches by President John F. Kennedy back in 1961 and 1962 set the tone for shaping America’s space agenda. We chose to go to the moon, the president said, not because it was easy, but because it was hard to do.
Those powerful words from over 50 years ago still inspire me, and they need to be evoked again. It’s time to relight the can-do spirit of space exploration, one that is focused on a determined goal that makes possible the first footfall on Mars.
I am a very fortunate person. When Neil Armstrong and I became the first humans to walk on the moon in July 1969, that milestone of progress was a transformative moment … for all of humanity. People often ask just how lonely it was to be so far from Earth, taking in stride the eerie surroundings of what I called “magnificent desolation.”
Yes, we stood there alone, taking in the moon’s inhospitable landscape. However, along with our Apollo 11 colleague, Mike Collins who remained in lunar orbit, we three made that journey thanks to the tireless effort of some 400,000 people. We were in the hearts and minds of close to a billion people back on Earth that monitored our journey of exploration.
All of us shared a universal dream of accomplishing a great goal. Project Apollo represented America at its best—a unified enterprise that relied on teamwork. That effort spotlighted that humankind can undertake difficult and seemingly unattainable ambitions … and succeed.
I consider myself a global statesman for space. In my travels throughout the country and the world, it’s clear there’s need to remind people what a strong, vibrant and cutting-edge space agenda means for the 21st century. A vision-focused, well-funded American space program represents U.S. global leadership, adds to the country’s technological strength and promotes educational excellence.
I contend that there’s a countdown under way, an ideal time to seize a moment in all the history of humanity.
The occasion is the 50th anniversary of humanity’s first landing on the moon. The U.S. president can utter these momentous words: “I believe this nation should commit itself, within two decades, to commencing an America-led, permanent presence on the planet Mars.”
Last August, I was very pleased to formalize with Florida Institute of Technology the establishment of the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute. Our joint task is to promote the settlement of Mars through research. Such a plan makes use of my concept called Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars. That proposed architecture establishes pathways of progressive international missions to low Earth orbit, cis-lunar space, asteroids, Venus, to Phobos—a moon of Mars—and eventually to the initial landing and eventual permanence of humans on the surface of the red planet.
That challenge is not only monumental, but historic.
It is worth remembering that FIT was founded on Sept. 22, 1958. A little over a week later, on Oct. 1, 1958, that was the official start date of NASA. So by tapping not only FIT’s heritage but its wellspring of gifted students, faculty and alumni, I look forward to working together on establishing a pathway to homesteading Mars.
Of late, I have embraced a view—one that fits well with the FIT watchwords of “high tech with a human touch.” And that is, “no dream is too high for those with their eyes in the sky!”
Buzz Aldrin, best known for his Apollo 11 moonwalk, holds a doctoral degree in astronautics and continues to wield influence as an international advocate of space science and planetary exploration. Aldrin has joined the university faculty as Florida Tech Research Professor of Aeronautics and will serve as Senior Faculty Advisor for the Institute. Buzz Aldrin and co-author, Leonard David, wrote Mission to Mars – My Vision for Space Exploration, published in 2013 by the National Geographic Society. Aldrin’s new children’s book, Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet, co-authored with Marianne Dyson, was published in September 2015.