Moon-walking astronaut Buzz Aldrin on Tuesday predicted people will be on Mars within two decades, but said those Red Planet pioneers "should not come back to Earth."
Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon (after Neil Armstrong
) during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, responded to questions on the website Reddit's
"Ask Me Anything" feature, promoting the 45th anniversary of the historic moon landing July 20.
"There is very little doubt, in my mind, that the next monumental achievement of humanity will be the first landing by an Earthling, a human being, on the planet Mars," Aldrin wrote, adding: "I expect that within 2 decades . . . America will lead an international presence on Planet Mars."
And they should stay put, he says.
"I have considered whether a landing on Mars could be done by the private sector," he wrote. "It conflicts with my very strong idea, concept, conviction, that the first human beings to land on Mars should not come back to Earth.
"They should be the beginning of a build-up of a colony/settlement, I call it a 'permanence.' A settlement you can visit once or twice, come back, and then decide you want to settle. Same with a colony. But you want it to be permanent from the get-go, from the very first."
"Tourism trips to Mars and back are just not the appropriate way for human beings from Earth — to have an individual company, no matter how smart, send people to Mars and bring them back, it is very, very expensive. It delays the obtaining of permanence, internationally."
Aldrin also says he loved the movie "Gravity" and had a blast yelling at the moon with Tina Fey on an episode of "30 Rock."
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"My father, in 1925, 1926, in the Reserve of the Air Corps, worked as Aviation Fuel Manager for Standard Oil of New Jersey, that's where I lived at that time, and he would go into NYC and work at 30 Rockefeller Plaza," he wrote.
"So when I was asked to consider participating, I jumped for joy, and I can't remember a more pleasant episode of discussions with Tina Fey as we talked about her fictitious mother's (I think it was) love affair that she had with me, Buzz Aldrin. And then we looked at the moon, and we both sort of cursed at it for various reasons and said — I'll never forget the line — 'I walked on your FACE!"
He said the depiction of people moving around in zero gravity in "Gravity" was "really the best I have seen," though he thought it "probably bent the laws of physics." He also said the hazards portrayed would make an astronaut "cringe looking at something that we hoped would never, ever happen."
"It's very thrilling for the person who's never been there, because it portrays the hazards, the dangers that could come about if things begin to go wrong, and I think that as I came out of that movie, I said to myself and others, 'Sandra Bullock deserves an Oscar,'" he wrote.
He even confesses to a frightening moment during the Apollo mission and acknowledges it was all his fault.
"After leaving the surface of the moon and completing a successful rendezvous with Mike Collins in the command module, as we approached connecting/docking, the procedures in the checklist said one thing, and I thought maybe doing it a slightly different way, rolling and pitching instead of something else, and I thought that was better on the spur of the moment!" he wrote.
"It turns out that it was not a good thing to do, because it caused the platform to become locked, and we were not able to use the primary thrusters, the primary guidance, to control the spacecraft, to its final few feet to dock and join the other spacecraft. That was my mistake.
"I suggested to my commander that we do it differently, and it was his mistake to assume that I knew what I was talking about. So, we both made mistakes — brought about by me! We recovered successfully on the 'abort guidance' system."
He says he doesn't admit the goof-up to many people, though "I'm sure the mission controllers in Houston, while it was happening or certainly afterwards, they certainly knew what had happened, but fortunately they didn't squeal on us."
The moon experience itself, he wrote, was both "magnificent" and "desolate."
"My first words of my impression of being on the surface of the moon that just came to my mind was 'magnificent desolation'," he wrote.
"The magnificence of human beings, humanity, Planet Earth, maturing the technologies, imagination and courage to expand our capabilities beyond the next ocean, to dream about being on the moon, and then taking advantage of increases in technology and carrying out that dream — achieving that is magnificent testimony to humanity. But it is also desolate — there is no place on Earth as desolate as what I was viewing in those first moments on the lunar surface."
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