Our future is in space, astronaut says
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.