Updated: September 1, 2015 12:40:14 pm
On August 27, Aldrin and the Florida Institute of Technology announced the opening this fall of the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute, which will develop “a master plan” to set up a human settlement on Mars by approximately 2040. Aldrin wants the mission to reach fruition specifically in 2039 — the 70th anniversary year of his historic July 20, 1969 walk on the Moon with Neil Armstrong.
ALDRIN, 85, said he hoped the master plan would be accepted by NASA and the US, with international inputs. NASA is already working on a spacecraft and rockets to get astronauts to Mars by the mid-2030s. The celebrated astronaut, who has a doctorate in science from MIT, will be a research professor and senior faculty adviser at the Florida Tech institute in his name.
MARS has been on Aldrin’s radar for decades now. In 1985, he started to chart out a plan for an “Aldrin Mars Cycler”, a spacecraft that would be locked into a cycling orbit and shuttle continuously between Earth and Mars. “I am proud of my time at NASA with the Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 programmes but I hope to be remembered more for my contributions to the future,” he said.
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The trip to Mars is envisioned to last 10 years, with the colonisation attempt beginning with Phobos and Deimos, Mars’s two moons, serving as stepping stones to the Red Planet. The Curiosity Rover that drilled into the Buckskin Rock in Mars’s Marias Pass has, using its ‘Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons’ tool, detected a large store of water under the Martian surface.
The Red Flag
The key to whether Aldrin’s idea can actually be executed lies in governments’ willingness and ability to pursue it. Vast mineral wealth is believed to lie on heavenly bodies in the asteroid belt, and space exploration and colonisation plans are likely to be powered as much by the spirit of scientific inquiry as by a quest for these resources.
A MISSION called Mars One planned by the Dutch company Lansdorp has been criticised as being short on both technological know-how and financing. Initial assessments of Aldrin’s plans have been favourable, saying it appears more do-able than the Mars One idea.
SUPPLIES will be the other big challenge. Earth to Mars is a nine-month voyage one way, and Aldrin would have the spacecraft’s crew stay on there for a decade. They can’t carry unlimited food and water, and would have to find ways to grow food. NASA has successfully grown space lettuce at the International Space Station.
India’s own Mars Orbiter continues its journey around Mars. It has just emerged from a ‘blackout’, during which it moved behind the Sun from an Earth perspective, as a result of which no signals from it were received at the ground stations. It is now out of the blackout, and on July 24, ‘tweeted’ its first picture. Signals have been reestablished, and payloads have been reactivated.
The Orbiter entered the Martian orbit on September 24, 2014, and has completed its scheduled life of six months. But it has enough fuel to continue for another six months. ISRO has made an Announcement of Opportunity for scientific and educational institutions to access the vast amount of data and pictures sent by the Orbiter, and to utilise it for their analyses.
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