Aldrin believes NASA should move in stages toward a manned mission to Mars, by building outer space fuel stations and developing the moon. He said NASA has already spent hundreds of millions researching the projects, and their investment should be utilized — as recommended by Norm Augustine, former chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board and chairman of the Review of the U.S. Space Flight Plans Committee.
What’s more, Aldrin said, the American government should not simply shrug off the considerable experience we have with lunar travel. “The U.S. has the most experience in the world, of any nation, in dealing with the moon,” he told FoxNews.com. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that flexibility is needed here.”
Back in April, this was what was reported:
Aldrin prefers that NASA forgo our moon in favor of a trip to the Martian moon Phobos and then a permanent settlement on the Red Planet itself. President Obama’s proposed $3.8 trillion federal budget request cuts NASA’s moonshot Constellation program, which has cost $9 billion over six years, instead proposing to hire private contractors to fly resupply missions to the International Space Station. It also focuses research money on new rockets that could one day be used to send astronauts into Mars, its moons or an asteroid.
So what happened? Let’s leave aside the common confusion between Constellation and returning to the moon (there are many ways to get back to the moon, almost all of them better than Constellation). Let us also stipulate that Buzz can be…mercurial (no pun intended). It could be that what he meant at the time was that he was opposed to redoing Apollo, which was essentially what Constellation did, by Mike Griffin’s own admission, and that this was misinterpreted as an opposition to going to the moon at all. But even if he has changed his mind, aren’t people entitled to do that?
This is the first time that I’ve heard him talk about “fuel stations,” but once one starts thinking about fuel stations in cis-lunar space, it’s inevitable that one will think about the moon as a source for the fuel (and oxidizer).
A couple months ago, I had (non-alcoholic) drinks with Buzz for an hour and a half after Bill Haynes’ funeral, where we bemoaned the current state of space policy. Afterward, I emailed him the link to my piece from last year at The New Atlantis. Perhaps he read it. It would account for his new-found enthusiasm for fuel stations.
Maybe I’ll give him a call and ask.