While the ranks of humans who can boast of a new perspective after living on the ISS (International Space Station) or orbiting the Earth in a spacecraft has grown, only 12 humans have ever viewed our world from the surface of the Moon. Now one of the most famous among their ranks, Buzz Aldrin, is calling for a new approach to putting humans in space that could accelerate the colonization of space by decades.
In an editorial in the New York Times, Aldrin lays out a broad vision for putting humans back on the Moon that would include the establishment of what he calls an International Lunar Development Corporation. Crafted in the same model as the ISS, the ILDC would work to include even emerging space programs from countries such as China and India. Aldrin wrote, "I call for an international effort to further explore and utilize the Moon. It would be a partnership that involves commercial enterprise and other nations building upon the Apollo legacy."
However, Aldrin's most passionate entreaties are reserved for Mars. Aldrin believes that the true future of humanity lies in becoming essentially extinction level event proof by establishing our species on another planet. In fact, Aldrin believes this issue is so urgent that we should ramp up our plans and establish a human settlement on Mars within the next 25 years.
Aldrin wrote, "U.S. resources are better spent on moving toward establishing a human presence on Mars. I envision a comprehensive plan that would lead to permanent human settlement on Mars in the next 25 years. To get under way, the International Space Station can serve as a test bed for long-duration life support and for technologies that can safely, reliably and routinely transport crews to the distant shores of Mars."
Aldrin also describes a kind of shuttling system of spacecrafts that would be devoted to continuously traveling back and forth on a loop between the Earth and Mars. If anyone is in a position to rationally call for such an intense increase in our efforts directed toward Mars, it's Aldrin. However, based on current realities, his hopes may ultimately fall on deaf ears.
Currently, plans for a manned Mars mission, mentioned by president Obama, won't occur until sometime in the 2030s. But even then, that would only represent the first steps toward any meaningful human presence on the red planet. So, at least in the short-term, it's likely the Aldrin's best hopes lie more realistically with a commercial space effort like SpaceX or Virgin Galactic than with the global government-backed programs that kick-started our species' journey into space.