Buzz Aldrin just announced plans for the most realistic private pathway to Mars we’ve ever heard: opening a research program at a university.
Its student body is charged with figuring out how to build a successful colony on the red planet. And Aldrin — the second person to set foot on the moon — will serve as one of the professors.
The institute isn’t open yet, and we only have a brief outline of how Aldrin thinks it will help get us to Mars. But it’s clear Aldrin’s program already has a much better shot of building a colony than Mars One, a controversial company that has captured news headlines but struggled with funding and a realistic plan over the past five years.
His plan consists of increasingly difficult stepping stones: Return to the moon, catch some asteroids, get to the Martian moon Phobos, and then land people on Mars.
Also essential to long-term success, as he explains in a post at BuzzAldrin.com, is a “robotic cycler” between Earth and Mars — sort of like a van that runs a constant loop between an airport and a hotel. “[It] will revolutionise the economics and safety aspects of human missions to Mars,” he told the US Senate.
Finally, Aldrin envisions his space institute working closely with NASA to put boots on Mars by 2039 — just in time for the 70th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, when Aldrin and Neil Armstrong first landed on the moon.
Meanwhile, entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp thinks he can put the first settlers on Mars by 2027 — no stepping stones or NASA assistance required.
Aldrin has already filed patents for a space station, reusable rockets, and ships to carry crews. Mars One hasn’t because it’s planning to outsource all the technology it will need to get humans to Mars. That includes rockets and space capsules from billionaire Elon Musk’s company SpaceX. But one SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket costs about $US60 million, and — to the best of our knowledge — Mars One has raised less than $US1 million through donations.
The are other major differences between Aldrin’s and Lansdorp’s plans. Aldrin wants to collaborate with NASA to develop space travel technology to not only survive on Mars but return. Mars One, meanwhile, only plans to offer colonists a one-way ticket. The company is also planning on turning the colonists into reality show stars in order to finance the trips, while Aldrin’s plan has colonists focusing on research and exploration.
Although the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute is brand-new and seems like a (much) safer bet than Mars One on getting to the red planet first, we’re still waiting to hear from SpaceX. That company plans to reveal its Mars colony plans sometime this year, and it could knock both Aldrin’s program and Mars One out of the running.
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