Friday, 24 October 2008

Looking to get away from it all? Some advice from Buzz:

Send astronauts to Mars permanently: Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin reckons there's no point in just visiting Mars as the year and a half journey there and home is just such a long time they might as well live there permanently (with some company). Or they could think of coming back at age 65... for retirement on Earth I guess. (Hey, at least we should have moved on from the financial crisis by then! And on to another one...)

The first astronauts sent to Mars should be prepared to spend the rest of their lives there, in the same way that European pioneers headed to America knowing they would not return home, says moonwalker Buzz Aldrin.

[He] said the Red Planet offered far greater potential than Earth's satellite as a place for habitation.

With what appears to be vast reserves of frozen water, Mars "is nearer terrestrial conditions, much better than the Moon and any other place," Mr Aldrin, 78, said in a visit to Paris.

The distance between the Red Planet and Earth varies between 55 million kilometres and more than 400 million kilometres. ...this means a round trip to Mars would take around a year and a half.

"That's why you [should] send people there permanently," Mr Aldrin said.

"If we are not willing to do that, then I don't think we should just go once and have the expense of doing that and then stop."

He asked "If we are going to put a few people down there and ensure their appropriate safety, would you then go through all that trouble and then bring them back immediately, after a year, a year-and-a-half?"

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are sketching tentative
plans for a manned mission to Mars that would take place around 2030 or
2040. ...the mission would entail about half a dozen people, with life-support
systems and other gear pre-positioned for them on the Martian surface.

Mr Aldrin said the vanguard could be joined by others, making a colony of around 30 people.

"They need to go there more with the psychology of knowing that you
are a pioneering settler and you don't look forward to go back home
again after a couple of years," he said.

"At age 30, they are given an opportunity. If they accept, then we
train them, at age 35, we send them. At age 65, who knows what advances
have taken place. They can retire there, or maybe we can bring them

Many scientists argue that sending humans to Mars is a waste of money compared with unmanned missions that deliver more science and point out the risks from psychological stress and damage to DNA from fast-moving sub-atomic particles called cosmic rays.

Mr Aldrin, though, argued that given the time lag in communications between Earth and Mars, it made sense to have human explorers who could make decisions swiftly and on the spot.

'So mate, whadaya reckon? Bout time for a beer?'