Buzz Aldrin, the second astronaut to walk on the moon, discusses his new book, space policy, Mars and the impact that man’s first step on the moon, had on the Cold War. For his first interview on The Global Townhall please visit this page.
Gabrielle Reilly: Tell us about your new book.
Buzz Aldrin: Well the new book has eight chapters that basically build a case for US capability. Things we’ve done in the past, things that we aim to achieve in the future… and it begins to explain, pictorially and with words, just what the implements and spacecraft will be, that will carry out the sustained transportation systems to ensure US led permanence of human beings on the surface of Mars.
Gabrielle Reilly: Right.
Buzz Aldrin: That’s Why It’s Called a Mission to Mars. I wish that I had been able to make a very small change by adding an “s” to mission, making it “missions” because it’s many, many, many missions off into the future of transportation. Missions transporting people from Earth to the surface of Mars through a sustainable cycling orbit that I pioneered. And the University of Purdue has very ably assisted, at my great admiration, improvements to those continuously cycling back and forth between Earth and Mars. This enables us to join up with this cycling spacecraft and within 5 to 6 months have the landers separate from the settling spacecraft and make their entry into the atmosphere and land directly on the surface of Mars.
Gabrielle Reilly: Fascinating, I look forward to reading it! The Global Town Hall is about collecting the best ideas in the world from the most amazing people like yourself. Give me one of your favorite ideas at the moment.
Buzz Aldrin: Well let me give you one really current example. I have long felt that we have done at the moon what we can do with humans. Maybe much more cheaply over the long-haul... could be done with robotics. Now that’s not true with other nations who have yet to put human beings from their nation on the surface. So in going beyond to Mars, we shouldn’t ignore the moon, we should help the other nations form an international lunar development corporation or authority and help them. At the same time learn how to assemble things on the surface robotically from a distance away.
We can practice that on the big Island of Hawaii with the big optics that we have to bring together and hook up and make it complete for a simulated base. Then we do that on the moon for the other international partners but we, the United States, learns how to bring together these big objects. That’s exactly what we need to do at Mars, from the close moons of Mars.
So it’s kind of a three-step major expansion outwards starting with the earth, the moon and Mars that helps other nations, it helps us learn to be very talented in very difficult activities on the surface remotely and it helps further one of the most important principles. Everything that we do should be guided by expansion of human activities outward in the solar system and providing global leadership for the United States which brings together not only all of the English-speaking nations but brings together all of those other nations who need to have a unity of purpose and objectives in outer space, beyond low earth orbit.
And if we can establish a cooperative sense between all nations in space, perhaps it will filter down to the surface of the earth where probably there will always be human rights violations. There will probably always be international pirating of technical knowledge of other nations. There will probably always be territorial aggression, trying to take some of the land on earth away from someone else because of the dispute as to who really owns it.
So I think many of, many services to future mankind, can come from this space operation. Now specifically the world leader of an organization like the United States can go down in history for hundreds of thousands of years as being the one earthling who committed earthlings to establishing permanence on another planet in the solar system. Now certainly those pilgrims who began to carry that out are going to be remembered because of modern communications but it’s most important that the leader who makes a commitment that is carried out, probably not during their term of office, but beyond and those who have helped bring that about should also be recognized.
That brings us to the present administration, to the president who replaces President Obama, who will be running for re-election in 2020. Now that happens to be halfway between the first and the last lunar landing. That’s the 50th anniversary of these momentous events of six out of seven successful landings. It’s an ideal time before the election or after the election if it hasn’t been done by the previous president.
So it makes major space commitments and achievements right at the White House level and the electorate gets to see what those running for office or re-election in 2020 will do for the future of the United States in the one area that we have invested so much of our resources, 4% during the Apollo years as contrasted with one half of a percent of financial development of space activities in the present day. It’s just weakening our future by underfunding what we commit to be able to do.
Gabrielle Reilly: Right. And so how do you think it’s working at the moment with Russia taking over the transportation up to the…
Buzz Aldrin: Well that’s extremely regrettable. Both the accident on Board of Columbia on the 1st of February ’03, and the accident on board in November of that year led to the retirement of the space shuttle orbiter at the end of 2010. President Bush, a month later, introduced a vision for space exploration called Constellation. Now the implementation of that in the next four years was so flawed and so inadequate that President Obama had to cancel the major portions of that activity and kind of wonder what we could do in substituting human landing on the moon by 2020. He said, “Well let’s send humans to an asteroid in 2025.”
Now that sounds rather noble. It turns out that that’s a very difficult thing to do and hardly contributes to exploration outward towards Mars. It does help test the spacecraft, the interplanetary spacecraft, but should not be done in a way that doesn’t directly contribute. And I think going to the moon of Mars, Phobos is a far better objective. Now suddenly came on the scene a proposal for January 2018, a short time from now, to fly a married couple around Mars and back in a 500 day mission.
Now that will do tremendous things to bring the attention of the American public and the international people of just exactly what our intentions are. I think that can be followed by certain exciting missions that bring about the development of interplanetary capability. We can establish a port on the far side of the moon, not on the surface, that can begin to assemble the base upon the surface of the moon.
That’s a tremendous achievement and it’s a contribution by the United States to the activities of let’s say China, Japan, India and the European space agency. The major entities other than the United States who want to send international people for prestige and really that’s what the purpose was of the Apollo program, - to establish our prestige as being more technically competent than the Soviet Union. And we did do that and it’s helped to bring about the end of the Cold War.
Gabrielle Reilly: Can you tell our younger readers how it helped end the cold war?
Buzz Aldrin: Well it was a bitter setback for the Soviet Union that had nuclear weapons and the capability to destroy major elements of the United States, a strategy of MAD -Mutual Assured Destruction. They had a space program also that achieved many firsts but behind that was a very impoverished nation without the strength of the economy that could support those activities. Therefore Gorbachev was able to pioneer the breakup of the Soviet Union and make activities to bring down the Berlin Wall and to begin to make peace with the United States and other nations involved in the Cold War.
I really believe that the disillusionment of the higher people. By the demonstration from the United States of such magnificent capability by landing people on the moon within the time period specified by the president and under budget. Those were miraculous days as we look back on them and that was when America was showing its finest. Those days, those accomplishments, are within our grasp right now if we will only take advantage of them and they’re our great heritages for a leader, a president now, his replacement, and perhaps the defeat of his replacement if things are not done properly in 2020.