Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration

Buzz Aldrin is one of a handful of men who have visited the moon, and of even a smaller number who have set foot on our satellite.  He relishes the memory of those glorious days, and proposes in this book that the US divert huge amounts of money from fruitful scientific investigation of space by robots toward human exploration projects. he wants to go back to the moon and especially to Mars. In my opinion, Aldrin and others who favor putting people on Mars are campaigning for an anti-science agenda.  Ask yourself what our human explorers of the moon learned about that satellite that could not have been learned sooner, cheaper, and better by the robots like those that we have sent to Mars.  Does anything at all come to mind?  I didn't think so.  Aldrin's arguments for sending people to Mars are not scientific: (1) it will remind Americans that nothing is impossible (2) it captures the imagination of youth (3) it fuels the American workforce with high technology and (4) it fosters international cooperation [which seems inimical to (3)!]. It seems to me that science is fostered by projects like the Mars Rovers, the Hubble space telescope and it successor, Kepler and by robotic exploration of asteroids. Aldrin also has a proposed mechanism to shuttle and supplies from Earth to a Mars orbit, using a path that takes advantage of the gravitation fields of both planets to slingshot a spaceship between them, thereby using much less fuel that a direct takeoff-and-landing would require.  He claims that his method would do away with the waste of a throwaway launching system, but that is not true; even replenishment of the International Space Station requires rockets that consumed and discarded. Rendezvous with his cycling orbiter would take even higher velocities for human-containing package to catch up. Aldrin's scheme doesn't put any footprints on Mars for many years.  An intermediate step would be to "land" on Mars' moon Phobos, which has almost no gravity, so "landing" really isn't the right word. The Aldrin Earth-Mars Cycler would take about six months in each direction.  You may have noticed that astronauts are not photographed standing up after they land following a couple of months in orbit.  There is a reason for that - and there won't be a rehabitation hospital ready to receive them on Phobos or Mars.  

Publication Date: 
Monday, September 23, 2013