Buzz Aldrin is one of the original men on the Moon. In July 1969 he and Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface for the first time, taking a giant step for mankind in the process.
He was a leading American astronaut throughout NASA’s Apollo programme, and now, aged 83 his enthusiasm for human space exploration remains strong.
In his latest book ‘Mission to Mars’ Aldrin outlines his vision for the permanent human settlement of Mars.
Jeremy Wilks, euronews: “When you think about Mars, why send men to Mars? Given that it’s expensive, it’s dangerous, the robot missions that have gone there – Curiosity is there at the moment doing a good job – the ExoMars mission from Europe is going to go and search for life, so why bother sending humans?
Buzz Aldrin, NASA astronaut: “I have no doubt that humans will go to Mars. And I feel that America has led so many things in space – we have invested so much, and we have a lot to gain – that America could and should be the nation that should lead the settlement of Mars.
“And I don’t mean just to go and visit once and then come back. Unless we are able to commit to a permanent growing settlement, then I don’t think just going there with humans and coming back is worth doing.
“The expense of planning to come back is like the people who left Europe to come to America and then to turn around and go back to Europe, it really doesn’t make any sense at all. There weren’t any ships doing that and there probably won’t be ships coming back from Mars, because it takes a whole setup to support that.”
euronews: “OK, I’m a rich entrepreneur, I’ve got lots of money, I can buy you a ticket, would you like to go?”
Buzz Aldrin: “No, because I don’t have that youth to be able to readjust and to make a commitment to do that. My value is more in the planning than in the execution.”
euronews: “Are you a big fan of the privatisation of the space industry, SpaceX etc? Do you think that’s the right way to go?”
Buzz Aldrin: “Not necessarily, I think we can rely on the companies that have been around a long time, and we have to make a balance. So I can’t say that it’s one way or the other, it’s going to be a competition to decide which is the best way. And if I knew what the answer to that was then that would be my plan, but I don’t know what the answer is.”
euronews: “When it comes to humans, going into space, we’re not really made for staying there for a very long time. Our bones start to lose mass, our muscles start to waste away, it’s not very healthy for us, the radiation environment either.”
Buzz Aldrin: “There are a lot of reasons for not doing something. And if humanity had come up with all the reasons for not doing something we wouldn’t have spread across the Earth the way we have. There’s a curiosity, and I would submit that that curiosity will put human beings on the surface of Mars. And it is my opinion that if you put people there they should be permanently there. But I think that history, 100, 200, 500 years, 1,000 years, will certainly record the time when human beings left the planet Earth to permanently occupy another planet. When? I think the time is now, and it can be now.”
euronews: “We have to talk about going to the Moon, your personal experience of going to the Moon. Now, looking back over those decades, what are the strongest memories that come out to you now from that personal experience of being there on the surface of the Moon?”
Buzz Aldrin: “You’re asking a very personal question and I’l give you a very personal answer, and that is a great pride and a great good fortune to have come along in my career, to have been a part of a great team effort that resulted in success. Six out of seven times we landed successfully. I wanted to be a part of that and I was a part of that, so my personal feeling is of great gratefulness for having somehow been in a position to have been given the opportunity to be on that first landing. That’s a marvelous experience for a little kid that grew up in New Jersey. So I’m very thankful, and I asked the whole world to give thanks once we successfully landed.”