Man first stepped foot on the moon in 1969. Seventy years later, in 2039, humans will colonize Mars.
That’s if Buzz Aldrin has his way. The 85-year-old former NASA astronaut, who was the second man to walk on the moon on that historic day in 1969, is leading the charge to send humans to Mars. He probably wouldn’t live to see that day (he’d be 110), but that’s not stopping him from dreaming.
“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” Aldrin said at the unveiling of the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute at the Florida Institute of Technology on Aug. 27. His “master plan” for colonizing the Red Planet by 2039 revolves around the “Aldrin Mars Cycler”—a system of spacecrafts that constantly ferries humans to Mars, forming a colony over time. He envisions using nearby asteroids and Mars’ moons, Phobos and Deimos, as rest-stops for explorers making the trip.
If this all sounds like a rather farfetched plan, that’s because it is—though perhaps not so outlandish as that of Mars One, the non-profit group that has been inundated with volunteers for a one-way trip to the planet in 2025.
NASA has its own vague plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s on the Orion spacecraft, which the agency hopes to use first in 2025 to send astronauts to an asteroid. But most experts agree that none of the above is feasible—at least, not within the stated timeframe—without significant increases in NASA funding. With the American political climate as divisive as it is, increasing the budget and rallying enough support for the project in only 15 years is probably a pipe dream.
That’s not to say we should stop trying, or that there’s nothing to be gained by the pursuit—quite the contrary. It’s probably a good idea that we at least start thinking about a potential home for humanity that’s not Earth. SpaceX CEO and Mars visionary Elon Musk says colonizing the planet is of the utmost importance, and some say he’s just the man to actually do it. Human beings are a resilient bunch, and odds are we will put people on Mars one day.
Aldrin likely knows his goal is unrealistic. But putting a respected face on the movement is a great form of marketing; marketing can help drive funding; and right now, we’re going nowhere without more money.