Plans of sending a manned mission to Mars is well underway. NASA and other private space agencies are already searching for viable means of survival on the Red Planet. Some agencies like the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX have hinted that such a mission could be launched as early as 2025.
However, Buzz Aldrin — former astronaut and the second man in history to walk on the moon — says that a crewed mission to Mars will only be possible if NASA retires the International Space Station as soon as possible.
Why Aldrin Believes The ISS Is Delaying Manned Missions To Mars
Aldrin feels that the cost of maintaining the ISS is hampering efforts of sending astronauts to Mars and eventually, colonization plans. On Tuesday, May 9, the former astronaut spoke during the Humans To Mars conference in Washington D.C. He said that the annual cost of $3.5 billion for maintaining the ISS in orbit would be better spent on the Mars mission.
"We must retire the ISS as soon as possible. We simply cannot afford $3.5 billion a year of that cost," Aldrin said.
He recommended that NASA should hand over all Low Earth Orbit or LEO activities to the private space agencies. SpaceX and Boeing have already been awarded contracts to ferry cargo to and from the ISS, but Aldrin says that NASA needs to give these companies full responsibility of maintaining LEO activities.
Maintaining sustainable private outposts in LEO is just the initial stage for Mars exploration, feels Aldrin. He stated that NASA should also invest in developing "cyclers" as he calls. These cyclers are basically spacecrafts that move continuously between two cosmic points to deliver cargo and people.
The next step would involve using cyclers to ferry people to and from the moon for trips. This travel will likely lead to the development of a base on the lunar surface, which would help scientists gain a better understanding of the challenges involving future Mars colonization plans.
Aldrin stated that after humans find a viable method of survival on the moon, cyclers should be deployed to ferry people between Earth and Mars. He believes that if NASA follows his plans, human beings will be able to settle and not just visit Mars by the 2030s.
However, it is unlikely that NASA will scrap the ISS anytime soon. The space station's funding has been cleared till 2024 and NASA along with Roscosmos is looking to invest an additional $100 billion to extend its life till 2028. NASA has repeatedly stated that the ISS plays a vital role in its plan of putting a crewed mission in the vicinity of Mars by the 2030s.