Buzz Aldrin, the second man to step on the moon, has long been one of the biggest defenders of the colonization of Mars. The Buzz Aldrin’s Space Institute has now joined with the Florida Institute of Technology to complete his master plan to establish colonies on Mars by 2039, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the first man on the moon. And unlike Elon Musk, Aldrin’s plan doesn’t involve nuking the Red Planet.
As detailed in his book Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration, the most innovative point of Buzz Aldrin’s colonization project is the use of two robotic spacecraft “cyclers” engaged in a permanent round-trip rotation between Mars and Earth. As each cycler passes close to Earth, three landers will leave Earth’s orbit to intercept the cycler in a hyperbolic rendezvous, transporting either cargo or up to three crew members per lander. These same landers would then disengage the cycler before arrival at Mars, either to land on Phobos or on Mars itself.
This system design would be a revolution both in cost savings and crew security for an interplanetary voyage. The following video shows the path of the cycler ships, whose outbound trips would last around 150 days (5 months) and return trips would last around 650 days (21.6 months).
The complete plan consists of several phases. The first phase corresponds to the establishment of a Bigelow inflatable space habitat at the Lagrange points, and a station on the lunar surface, where the technology and necessary vehicles will be tested. Next, the cycler ships will be launched in permanent rotation between Earth and Mars. Subsequently, an initial six-member crew will land on the moon Phobos, with a third unmanned lander sent to land its cargo on Mars.
The crew on Phobos will connect various habitat modules to form the Mars Operations Complex (MOC), where they will control the robotic assembly of the first Martian base (without the delays associated with a control from Earth). At this point, the first humans may already step onto and settle on Mars.
Unlike with the Mars One project, Aldrin has already filed several patents on the technologies involved in his plan, covering the space station, reusable rockets and vehicles to transport the crew. And as detailed above, his vision doesn’t involve a one-way trip to Mars, but allows rotation of the settlers from the Red Planet. He also aims to involve NASA — in February Aldrin defended funding the project to Congress, citing the importance of maintaining US leadership in the space race.
Personally, if I had to bet on one of these two projects — Mars One or Buzz Aldrin’s plan — I would have no doubt which one I would choose. Have you packed your suitcase yet?
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