Recently Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, sat down for an extensive interview with The Fix. The interview was wide-ranging, including Aldrin’s struggles with alcoholism when he returned from the moon. Naturally, the subject turn toward NASA’s Journey to Mars, for which he is a passionate advocate in the winter of his life. Aldrin had an interesting observation concerning why astronauts should return to the moon first before going to Mars. 

Aldrin suggested that the first people to go to Mars should participate in missions in both lunar orbit and on the moon’s surface beforehand.

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The idea is that by doing long duration missions in orbit of and on the moon, they will gain experience solving the kinds of problems that they will face on Mars, where contact with Earth will be limited since radio signals will take as long as 20 minutes to travel across the interplanetary gulfs.

Aldrin’s observation was ironic since six years ago President Barack Obama used him as a living, breathing prop during his now infamous speech at the Kennedy Space Center when he abjured going back to the moon as part of the Journey to Mars or for any reason whatsoever.

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Thus, Aldrin joined some of the other Apollo astronauts, including Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan, Apollo 13 hero Jim Lovell, and his old Apollo 11 crewmate, the late Neil Armstrong, in at least by implication criticizing the president’s ill-advised decision.

Others have taken up the idea that a return to the moon is a crucial step on the Journey to Mars, to test equipment and to get at the stores of water that exist on Earth’s nearest neighbor that can be refined into rocket fuel.

Aldrin is perhaps the first to point out that the lunar surface makes a great low gravity venue to train for Mars. 

Aldrin made his observation at a time when a presidential election provides an opportunity for a course correction for NASA’s deep space exploration plans. Whoever becomes president, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, will have a chance to repair some of the damage that Barack Obama inflicted on NASA.

Aldrin has shown at least part of the way.  

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