A trip to Mars could take years and cost billions of dollars. If NASA and the European Space Agency are going to commit to such an ambitious endeavor, they should try to get the most out of their investment. That's why, according to astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the first Mars pioneers should stay there permanently.
US astronaut Edwin "Buzz" AldrinAldrin, who in 1969 became the second person to walk on the moon, told the AFP that Mars, with its "near terrestrial conditions," would be a much better place to start a colony than the moon or any other space-based location.
Aldrin's 238,000-mile trip to the moon on Apollo 11 took eight days roundtrip. In contrast, a flight to Mars would be anywhere between 34 million miles and 400 million miles, depending on the orbits of Earth and Mars. Even at the shorter distance, that means it would take a year and a half to travel roundtrip.
Just to get humans to Mars and ensure their safety with advanced life-support systems will take decades of research. NASA and the European Space Agency tentatively hope to launch a manned Mars mission around 2030 or 2040 with about a half dozen astronauts.
"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?" said Aldrin.
Some scientists argue that a manned mission to Mars would be a waste of money compared with robotic missions that could uncover more scientific findings without having to risk human life. Others are worried about the risks from psychological stress and DNA damage due to cosmic rays.
But Aldrin believes that a manned Mars mission would be worthwhile because it is innovative and pioneering - and building a permanent colony on Mars would be even moreso.