Buzz Aldrin, the American astronaut who was the second man to walk on the moon, said at a conference in Washington DC on Wednesday that the US and NASA should focus on establishing a permanent colony on Mars by 2040.
A manned mission to Mars has been seen as the next step in human space exploration ever since NASA made its historic first trip to the moon back in 1969.
But one of the men at the forefront in that giant leap for mankind believes that the time has come for the US to start taking significant steps towards conquering the Red Planet.
Speaking at a conference of space experts in Washington DC on Wednesday, Buzz Aldrin, the American astronaut who was the second man to walk on the Moon, urged the US and NASA to dedicate resources towards not just to sending people to Mars, but building a permanent colony on the planet.
"The US needs to begin homesteading and settlement of Mars," the 83-year-old said at the Humans to Mars conference at George Washington University. "It is within reach."
'Very little new research required'
According to Aldrin, most of the technology needed to send people to Mars already exists, with cash investment and political will the only barriers to such a mission.
"There is really very little new research that is required," Aldrin said.
Once humans have reached Mars, establishing a permanent settlement on the planet should be the goal, said the former astronaut.
"We are talking about multiple missions to eventually settle and colonise Mars," said Aldrin.
"We should focus our attention on establishing a permanent human presence on Mars by the 2030-2040 decade.
"The United States will be a beacon for the development of humanity.”
Man on Mars by 2030
Although Aldrin’s advocacy for a Mars colony may sound ambitious, NASA itself believes a manned mission to the planet is well within reach.
The organisation and US President Barack Obama have outlined plans to launch the first such mission by 2030.
Speaking at the start of the start of the Humans to Mars conference on Monday, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said that despite hard economic times the United States is committed to breaking new boundaries in space exploration.
"A human mission to Mars is today the ultimate destination in our solar system for humanity, and it is a priority for NASA. Our entire exploration program is aligned to support this goal," Bolden said.
However, unlike Aldrin, he acknowledged that there are “technological gaps” that must be overcome before a manned mission to Mars can go ahead.
"And so every single moment of our time and every single dollar of our assets must be dedicated to developing those technologies that allow us to go beyond low Earth orbit, beyond the Moon," said Bolden.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-05-09