Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who completed the world's first successful working spacewalk and who walked on the moon with Neil Armstrong has a new frontier in mind – he believes the United States should be the first country to put people on Mars.
Aldrin, who is launching a new book "Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration" told Newsmax TV that it's crucially important for the United States to take the lead on Mars, despite the unclear future for NASA's manned space flight programs.
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But he doesn't think the United States should send astronauts back to the moon.
"(We) should help to organize other nations, make our contributions to lunar exploration for others, bring people together, but not expend major resources there," he said. In addition, he's not sure that sending a human mission to try to capture an asteroid furthers the country's exploration efforts as much as a planned trip in January 2018 that will send a married couple to fly round Mars in a year-and-a-half long mission.
"I'm trying to find a way of using them in a very interesting mission which will also excite people about the objective of our growing capability of transporting people to Mars," he said.
In his book, Aldrin makes a case that it's important for the United States to lead the mission, and to have the first manned presence."
Meanwhile, he said, nations such as China, Japan, and India and the European Space Agency will be busy establishing prestige for themselves through missions to the moon, "ably assisted by us but not with great expenditure of funds."
Instead, Aldrin said, the United States should use the funds to build up capability to land humans on the moon of Mars."
The space race is not as competitive now as when NASA and the U.S. were trying to reach the moon first, but the second man on the moon said there is still competition among countries for activities on the moon.
But cooperation among the countries may prove more important than competition, he said.
"I believe there's a principle for a nation, and maybe internationally, to compete at the design and the details of a capability and then cooperate on the utilization of those results of the competition at the early stage of development.
"That way we don’t produce a lot of things that are competing against each other in a finished position where much more testing and financial investment has been necessary."
NASA Chief Charles Bolden last month said there won't be manned missions to the moon any time soon, and Aldrin said that's because Bolden knows robots can do a great deal on the surface of the moon.
Meanwhile, even though Mars isn't always visible to the naked eye, getting there is getting closer in the near future, Aldrin, now 83, says.
He noted the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have accomplished a great deal in five years.
"The program manager, Steve Squyres, has said in writing that what they accomplished in five years could have been done in one week if we had human intelligence at Mars controlling them from an orbit around Mars.
"That’s the power of getting human intelligence to operate remote devices from an appreciable distance but not the hazards of going through a landing and then bringing those people back again."
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