Celebrated American astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, while attending the ongoing Paris Air Show, called for space agencies to colonize Mars, saying that this should take place over the next 25 years.
The astronaut who, along with Neil Armstrong, was the first astronaut to set foot on the moon in 1969 but following this feat, it seems that the space race, borne from the Cold War, ran out of steam, with no new manned mission returning to the moon in recent history and the exploration of the solar system largely entrusted to robotic emissaries.
The 83-year-old Aldrin was at the Paris Air Show to promote his new book, "Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration," in which he outlines how and why humanity should begin to look at its neighbor, the Red Planet, as a permanent settlement sometime in the next quarter century.
Speaking to the BBC, Aldrin said, "Why did the pilgrims on the Mayflower set out to open up the New World? Because it's in human nature to explore, to find a location to begin a settlement. And it is in reach.”
Mars, the fourth planet from the sun, has so far been explored through a number of probes, orbiters and rovers, with the latest mission to the planet being NASA’s rover, Curiosity, which has been on the Red Planet for close to a year now. Of course, while the rover has made some groundbreaking discoveries, Aldrin argues that had the mission been manned, many of the tasks the rover is carrying out would have been done in half the time.
Of course, a manned mission to Mars represents both a technological as well as financial challenge, but the lunar astronaut contended that the United States would at some point commit to such an enterprise. Aldrin said he believes the US is the country to do it, adding that the private sector has also shown interest in Mars, with the recently announced Dutch initiative to send a manned mission to the Red Planet in the next decade or so.