Buzz Aldrin is most famous for being the second man to walk on the moon. Well into his 80s now, he has become a tireless advocate for further exploration into deep Space. Aldrin is particularly keen to start the settlement of the Red Planet Mars. He recently opened his mind about this vision in a Washington Post op-ed. Much of the proposal consists of space missions of increasing scope and sophistication leading to the first boots on the Martian surface, with international partnerships and commercial participation.


One crucial element of Aldrin’s vision is an early return to the moon. Aldrin, who has some personal experience in the matter, has concluded that not only is developing commerce, science, and technology on the moon a worthy notion for its own sake, but such is needed to support the push to Mars.

Aldrin’s conclusion that the moon lays square in the path on the journey to Mars is the result of a personal journey he has been on ever since President Barack Obama used him as a living prop for his now infamous speech at the Kennedy Space Center in which he cancelled President George W.

Bush’s Constellation program. While Obama did lay out Mars as an eventual space exploration goal, he explicitly ruled out the moon as a destination for American astronauts. “We have already been there. Buzz has been there.”

Sitting in the audience that day, nearly six years ago, Aldrin must have started to feel the first whispers of regret for having allowed himself to be coopted by the wily, unscrupulous president. His involvement in the decision to end the return to the moon caused a rift between Aldrin and other Apollo moon walkers, including his old shipmate Neil Armstrong, who spent the rest of his life campaigning to get the decision reversed.


A number of subsequent studies, one by MIT, have concluded that Mars would be a more difficult destination to get to without using lunar resources to support the effort. Lunar water, for example, can be refined into rocket fuel that spacecraft headed for Mars and other destinations can use to top off their tanks. More voices are urging that the moon be placed back on the manifest.

Aldrin will not live to see the first footsteps on Mars or even, likely, the first back to the moon. But when these things do happen, Aldrin’s spirit and example will ride with those future space explorers.