Apollo 11 moonwalker and true-blue American icon Buzz Aldrin is never shy about broadcasting his opinions on any range of topics, from his recollections of the moon landing to hope for a Mars colonization, the existence of extraterrestrial visitors and pitching for a return to the moon. Being an outspoken advocate for continued science education in schools and the profound wish for a vital American space program are agendas this 85-year-old astronaut takes very seriously. To celebrate World Space Week, Aldrin chatted with AOL on his enthusiasm for the future and his new endeavor to help NASA in its trek toward Mars and the stars beyond.
Here are excerpts from his inspiring interview with AOL:
First of all, I want to salute the efforts of the World Space Week that embraces the activities of some 80 countries around the globe. This initiative helps focus attention by everyone to the innumerable space exploration events that continue to surprise, puzzle, and motivate all of us year after year.
On one hand, we celebrate each year the solid progress of international space science and technology that helps to improve the human condition – not only to make Earth a better place, but also to stretch our collective imaginations beyond low Earth orbit to worlds beyond. I am fortunate to have been on the first landing crew to step onto and explore the "magnificent desolation" that is the Moon – and it's been over 45 years ago! Since the Apollo 11 landing in July 1969, I have had a long-held belief that Earth isn't the only world for us anymore. In my view, we must all strive for a continuously expanding human presence in space.
Secondly, I see America's global leadership role in space as one that that translates into it being a global "team player" for space. That includes the U.S. collaborating with India, China, South Korea and other spacefaring nations to strengthen an American-led international permanence on the planet Mars. And there's much work to be done. We need to spark global thinking and support for building a sustained human presence on the Red Planet.
For my part, I have been blueprinting a vision for the Red Planet: Establishing Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars. When I look into the coming years, I envision a sequential buildup of a cycling spaceship network. The Earth, the Moon, and Mars become interlaced and will be a busy nucleus of people, cargo and commerce that navigate throughout the inner Solar System.
The challenge ahead for all of us is not only monumental, but historic. Similarly, Apollo 11 symbolized the ability to envisage a truly path-breaking idea, prioritize it, create the technology to advance that inspiration ... and then ride it to a finishing point – the Moon.
But the first footfalls on Mars will signal an "earth-shattering" milestone. That is, by accomplishing that goal -- and then building upon that first step – it will represent a global, human enterprise that required tenacity matched with technology.
After Mars ... what next? Humanity then has the ability to reach from the Red Planet into the resource-rich bounty of the Martian satellites and the nearby asteroids. These invaluable resources can be tapped to sustain increasing numbers of Martian settlers from Earth. From there, it's quite literally the stars. Thanks to such undertakings as World Space Week, the quest to expand our frontiers into space becomes a shared vision. My last thought and a take home message: No dream is too high for those with their eyes in the sky!
Are you an admirer of Buzz Aldrin, and what do you think of this spacefaring octogenarian's youthful optimism?