Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin says America must commit to establishing a human colony on Mars if it wants to maintain its leadership role in space exploration. Testifying on Tuesday in Washington before the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, the 85-year-old Aldrin said: "American leadership is inspiring the world by consistently doing what no other nation is capable of doing. We demonstrated that for a brief time 45 years ago. I do not believe we have done it since."
Aldrin and Apollo 11 crewmate Neil Armstrong became the first humans on the moon on July 20, 1969. "In my opinion there is no more convincing way to demonstrate American leadership for the remainder of this century than to use 20 July 2019 to commit to and execute a permanent presence on Mars," he testified.
NASA says it plans to send astronauts to Mars and its moons by the 2030s. Aldrin said he's not advocating "another Apollo moment" of putting flags and footprints on Mars. He says America must have a broader plan: "The huge cost driver for Mars missions is the cost of bringing everyone back home after a relatively brief stay. I envision a program of settlement that schedules most of the crews who go to Mars will remain and establish a permanent settlement there."
— Debbie Pettit and James Eng