Our fu­ture is in space, astro­naut says

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ARTS & LIFE -

visit an as­ter­oid, then land on one of the moons of Mars.

Each of th­ese voy­ages would per­fect the tech­nol­ogy needed for the ul­ti­mate goal: the hu­man set­tle­ment of Mars it­self.

For the most ef­fi­cient means of in­ter­plan­e­tary travel, Aldrin has con­ceived what he calls a “cy­cler sys­tem.”

In Aldrin’s con­cep­tion, re­us­able space­craft would per­pet­u­ally cy­cle be­tween the Earth and the moon, and be­tween the Earth and Mars. With­out get­ting bogged down in the physics of this con­cept, Aldrin ex­plains that the space­craft are sus­tained in their or­bit through grav­i­ta­tional forces, greatly re­duc­ing the need for fuel.

“This is a ‘waste not’ phi­los­o­phy,” Aldrin writes. “It’s a mix of beau­ti­ful sim­plic­ity melded with a ballet of grav­i­ta­tional forces that moves hu­man­ity out­ward to Mars.”

The cy­cler sys­tem is Aldrin’s key con­cept, the ba­sis for his vi­sion of an ex­panded hu­man pres­ence in space.

Linked by the cy­cler sys­tem, Earth, the moon and Mars form “a ce­les­tial triad of worlds. They will be busy hubs for the ebb and flow of pas­sen­gers, cargo and com­merce travers­ing the in­ner so­lar sys­tem.”

Aldrin sug­gests that the U.S. should help to form an in­ter­na­tional con­sor­tium to ex­plore and de­velop the moon.

The con­sor­tium would make use of the space pro­grams of China, Europe, Rus­sia, In­dia and Ja­pan to es­tab­lish a per­ma­nent hu­man foothold on the moon.

The in­volve­ment of the U.S. would be limited to robotic base build­ing.

In Aldrin’s vi­sion, the ex­plo­ration of the moon by sev­eral coun­tries would even­tu­ally cre­ate the con­di­tions for a role for the pri­vate sec­tor — com­mer­cial min­ing of the re­source-rich moon.

In or­der to keep Amer­ica fo­cused on space ex­plo­ration, Aldrin says, a United Strate­gic Space En­ter­prise (USSE) should be in­sti­tuted. This would be a think tank com­posed of space au­thor­i­ties who would pro­vide over­sight and guid­ance to Amer­ica’s space pro­gram.

Clearly, Aldrin has a lot of ideas, but he doesn’t have too much to say about how they will be funded in this era of govern­ment deficits. At one point he does say that the Amer­i­can space pro­gram will cost each U.S. tax­payer “pen­nies per day.”

What are the ben­e­fits for the U.S. of a re­newed com­mit­ment to space ex­plo­ration?

De­vel­op­ing the tech­nol­ogy to ex­plore space will cre­ate spinoffs to im­prove life on Earth.

But there is a less tan­gi­ble ben­e­fit: “It re­minds the Amer­i­can pub­lic that noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble if free peo­ple work to­gether to ac­com­plish great things.”

Per­haps most im­por­tant, mov­ing to Mars and be­yond, Aldrin says, will pro­mote the sur­viv­abil­ity of our species.

Aldrin has ar­tic­u­lated a com­pre­hen­sive vi­sion for an Amer­i­can — in­deed an in­ter­na­tional — fu­ture in space. His pas­sion and sci­en­tific rigour make Mis­sion to Mars a com­pelling work.

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