Buzz Aldrin, the second human to grace the surface of the moon, was most recently in the public eye for taking a spot on Dancing With the Stars. But despite his apparent transition from moon-bouncing to moon-walking, Aldrin has not relinquished his astronomical interests. In an impassioned op-ed at AOL News, Aldrin argues that the U.S. can do better than NASA's goal of getting to Mars "step-by-step."
Aldrin lays out his "unified space vision" for a manned mission to Mars, a mission he claims could be accomplished by July 20, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The former moon-walker spells out the features of his plan to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Incorporate Private Commercial Carriers
Under my plan, commercial carriers would fly our astronauts and cargo up to the space station, but NASA would stay in the human spaceflight business by designing and building the Exploration Module, or XM.
Push the Boundaries of Construction and Propulsion For Deep-Space Travel..
The prototype of this craft, which would operate only in space, could be built using excess modules and parts left over from constructing the station itself. Brought up as cargo aboard the space shuttle... the XM would be docked to the station and outfitted by astronauts. Once a rocket engine is attached to the prototype XM, we could take it out for a spin, cycling between the station and the moon.
... But Don't Forget The Shuttles
At the same time, I also call for not abandoning the technology we've derived over the past 30 years of shuttle operations -- the first shuttle, named Enterprise, rolled out in 1976! -- but evolve the shuttle into an unmanned heavy lift booster ... Why should we abandon something before a replacement ship is available? Sure doesn't make much sense to me.