Apollo 11 Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Talks to Universe Today about ‘Destination Mars’

Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin discusses the human ‘Journey to Mars with Universe Today at newly opened ‘Destination Mars’ holographic experience during media preview at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida on Sept. 18, 2016.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX, FL – Sending humans on a ‘Journey to Mars’ and developing strategies and hardware to accomplish the daunting task of getting ‘Humans to Mars’ is NASA’s agency wide goal and the goal of many space enthusiasts – including Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin.

NASA is going full speed ahead developing the SLS Heavy lift rocket and Orion crew module with a maiden uncrewed launch from the Kennedy Space Center set for late 2018 to the Moon. Crewed Mars missions would follow by the 2030s.

In the marketplace of ideas, there are other competing and corollary proposals as well from government, companies and private citizens on pathways to the Red Planet. For example SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wants to establish a colony on Mars using an Interplanetary Transport System of SpaceX developed rockets and spaceships.

Last week I had the opportunity to ask Apollo 11 Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin for his thoughts about ‘Humans to Mars’ and the role of commercial space – following the Grand Opening ceremony for the new “Destination Mars’ holographic exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida.

Moonwalker Aldrin strongly advocated for more commercial activity in space and that “exposure to microgravity” for “many commercial products” is good, he told Universe Today.

More commercial activities in space would aid space commerce and getting humans to Mars.

“We need to do that,” Aldrin told me.

Buzz Aldrin is the second man to set foot on the Moon. He stepped onto the lunar soil a few minutes after Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong, on July 20, 1969 in the Sea of Tranquility.

Aldrin also strongly supports some type of American space station capability “beyond the ISS” to foster the Mars capability.

And we need to be thinking about that follow on “US capability” right now!

“I think we need to have a US capability beyond the ISS to prepare for future activities right from the beginning,” Aldrin elaborated.

Currently the ISS partnership of the US, Russia, ESA, Japan and Canada has approved extending the operations of the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024. What comes after that is truly not known.

NASA is not planning for a follow-on space station in low Earth orbit at this time. The agency seems to prefer development of a commercial space station, perhaps with core modules from Bigelow Aerospace and/or other companies.

So that commercial space station will have to be designed, developed and launched by private companies. NASA and others would then lease space for research and other commercial activities and assorted endeavors on the commercial space station.

For example, Bigelow wants to dock their privately developed B330 habitable module at the ISS by 2020, following launch on a ULA Atlas V. And then spin it off as an independent space station when the ISS program ends – see my story.

Only China has firm plans for a national space station in the 2020’s. And the Chinese government has invited other nations to submit proposals. Russia’s ever changing space exploration plans may include a space station – but that remains to be actually funded and seen.

Regarding Mars, Aldrin has lectured widely and written books about his concept for “cycling pathways to occupy Mars,” he explained.

Watch this video of Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin speaking to Universe Today:


Video Caption: Buzz Aldrin at ‘Destination Mars’ Grand Opening at KSCVC. Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin talks to Universe Today/Ken Kremer during Q&A at ‘Destination Mars’ Holographic Exhibit Grand Opening ceremony at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) in Florida on 9/18/16. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Here is a transcript:

Universe Today/Ken Kremer: Can you talk about the role of commercial space [in getting humans to Mars]. Elon Musk wants to try and send people to Mars, maybe even before NASA. What do you think?

Buzz Aldrin: “Well, being a transportation guy in space for humans – well commercial, what that brings to mind is tourism plus space travel.

And there are many many more things commercial that are done with products that can be fine tuned by exposure to microgravity. And we need to do that.”

“I think we need to have a US capability beyond the ISS to prepare for future activities right from the beginning.”

“And that’s why what has sort of fallen into place is the name for my plan for the future – which is ‘cycling pathways to occupy Mars.’”

“A cycler in low Earth orbit, one in lunar orbit, and one to take people to Mars.”

“And they are utilized in evolutionary fashion.”

Meanwhile, be sure to visit the absolutely spectacular “Destination Mars” holographic exhibit before it closes on New Year’s Day 2017 – because it is only showing at KSCVC.

You can get more information or book a visit to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, by clicking on the website link:


Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

The post Apollo 11 Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Talks to Universe Today about ‘Destination Mars’ appeared first on Universe Today.

Scott Kelly Arrives Back On Earth and the USA from Year in Space! Enjoys Dip in His Pool

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly landed at Houston’s Ellington Field around 2:30 AM, Mar. 3, 2016, marking his return to the U.S. following an agency record-setting year in space aboard the International Space Station.  Kelly was greeted in Houston by Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Dr. John P. Holdren, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and Kelly’s identical twin brother and former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. Credit: NASA

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – NASA’s first ever ‘Year in Space’ astronaut Scott Kelly was in good shape and smiling broadly for the Earth bound photographers after safely returning to Earth from his orbiting home of the past year on the International Space Station (ISS), for a smooth touchdown in the steppes of Kazakhstan late Monday evening, March 1.

He soon jetted back to the USA for a grand arrival ceremony back home in Houston in the wee hours of the morning, today, March 3, 2016.

“Great to be back on Earth, said Kelly. “There’s no place like home!”

Kelly landed on US soil at Houston’s Ellington Field early this morning at about 2:30 a.m.

Kelly was welcomed back to the USA by Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Dr. John P. Holdren, NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden, and Kelly’s identical twin brother and former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.

Before departing the station after a 340 day stay, Kelly said that among the things he missed most on Earth were fresh air and food and freedom of movement. And swimming in his pool.

Well he quickly made good on those wishes and after arriving back home before daylight soon took a dip in his backyard pool.

Kelly posted a video of his pleasant pool plummet in all its glory on twitter:

“Man, that feels good!” he exclaimed.

The long trip back home began after Kelly boarded his Russian Soyuz TMA-18M return capsule along with Russian cosmonaut crewmates Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov.

Kelly and his Russian cohort Mikhail Kornienko comprised the first ever crew to live and work aboard the ISS for a record breaking year-long mission aimed at taking concrete steps towards eventually dispatching human crews for multiyear-long expeditions to the surface of Mars and back.

Volkov spent a normal six month increment aboard the station.

The goal of the 1 year ISS mission was to collect a variety of data on the effects of long duration weightlessness on the human body that will be used to formulate a human mission to Mars.

Kelly and Kornienko originally launched to the station on March 27, 2015 along with Russian crewmate Gennady Padalka.

The trio undocked from the station inside their cramped Soyuz capsule, pulled away, fired breaking thrusters and plummeted back to Earth a few hours later, surviving scorching reentry temperatures as the passed through the Earth atmosphere.

They safely landed in Kazakhstan at 11:26 p.m. EST on Tuesday night, March 1, 2016 (10:26 a.m. March 2 Kazakhstan time), concluding Expedition 46.

Kelly set an American record for longest time in space on a single mission by living and working for 340 days straight aboard the ISS.

Kelly and Kornienko share the history making distinction of comprising the first ever ‘1 Year Crew’ to serve aboard the massive Earth orbiting science research outpost in space.

With a cumulative total of 520 days in space, Kelly has amassed the most time for an American in space. Kornienko has accumulated 516 days across two flights, and Volkov has 548 days on three flights.

During the yearlong mission 10 astronauts and cosmonauts representing six different nations including the United States, Russia, Japan, Denmark, Kazakhstan and England lived aboard the space station.

The station currently remains occupied by a three person crew hailing from the US, Russia and England. A new three person crew launches later in March.

NASA’s next commercial resupply launch to the station is slated for March 22 by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo freighter with over 7000 pounds of fresh science experiments and crew supplies.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer


Learn more about SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, ULA Atlas rocket, Orbital ATK Cygnus, ISS, Boeing, Space Taxis, Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Mar 4: “SpaceX, ULA, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

The post Scott Kelly Arrives Back On Earth and the USA from Year in Space! Enjoys Dip in His Pool appeared first on Universe Today.

‘A City on Mars’ is Elon Musk’s Ultimate Goal Enabled by Rocket Reuse Technology

Long exposure of launch, re-entry, and landing burns of SpaceX Falcon 9 on Dec. 21, 2015. Credit: SpaceX

Elon Musk’s dream and ultimate goal of establishing a permanent human presence on the Red Planet in the form of “A City on Mars” took a gigantic step forward with the game changing rocket landing and recovery technology vividly demonstrated by his firm’s Falcon 9 booster this past Monday, Dec. 21 – following a successful blastoff from the Florida space coast just minutes earlier on the first SpaceX launch since a catastrophic mid-air calamity six months ago.

“I think this was a critical step along the way towards being able to establish a city on Mars,” said SpaceX billionaire founder and CEO Elon Musk at a media telecom shortly after Monday night’s (Dec. 21) launch and upright landing of the Falcon 9 rockets first stage on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

“[The landing] and reusability dramatically improves my confidence that a city on Mars is possible. That’s what all this is about.”

Although the primary goal of the Dec. 21 ‘Return to Flight’ launch was carrying a constellation of 11 ORBCOMM OG2 commercial communications satellites to low Earth orbit, the secondary goal of safely soft landing the Falcon 9 rocket vertically and recovering the first stage for eventual reuse is what made headlines worldwide and sparks belief in enabling Musk’s vision concerning sending people to Mars in the not too distant future.

“I think this bodes very well for the future,” Musk stated with respect to one day colonizing Mars with human “cities.”

“This is really amazing for SpaceX and the future of launch. As far as we can see right now the mission was absolutely perfect.”


Video caption: Compilation of 4 Mobius camera videos from the Falcon 9 Orbcomm-2 launch on December 21, 2015. Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

Musk’s vision of radically slashing the costs of launching people and payloads to space by recovering and reflying rockets – built individually at great expense – rather than completely discarding them after a single use, marked a history making achievement when the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 landed upright and intact barely 10 minutes after it departed Earth on Dec 21.

“I think quite vital to that goal is reusability of an orbit class rocket. It’s really fundamental to that goal, without which it would be unaffordable.”

See the dramatic landing in this SpaceX video taken from a nearby helicopter:


How much money can be saved by recovering and reusing orbit class rockets?

“It would be the difference between something costing less than one percent of what it would be otherwise,” Musk elaborated at the media telecon.

“It makes all the difference in the world. It’s absolutely fundamental,” Musk noted.

“And I think it really quite dramatically improves my confidence that a city on Mars is possible.

“You know, that’s what all this is about.”

The vertical landing of the fully intact Falcon 9 first stage is a historic first step that turns a page on the road to rocket reusability and sending people to the Red Planet more affordably.

It also counts as one of the best Christmas presents ever for space enthusiasts worldwide, longing for decades to send people on voyages to deep space destinations.

“I do think it’s a revolutionary moment,” Musk added. “No one has ever brought a booster, an orbital-class booster, back intact.”

The Falcon 9 first stage stands 156 feet tall. About 3 minutes into the flight it separated from the upper stage that continued to orbit with the 11 Orbcomm satellites, reignited a Merlin 1D engine and repulsively landed successfully on the ground about 10 minutes later at the SpaceX Landing Zone 1 complex at the Cape, some six miles south from the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40).

“This is something that was actually a useful mission. It delivered 11 satellites to orbit, and then came back and landed. I think that’s perhaps the thing that’s really significant. We achieved the recovery of the rocket in a mission that actually deployed 11 satellites. This is a fundamental step change in technology compared to any other rocket that has ever flown.”

The Falcon 9 is equipped with four landing legs and four grid fins to enable the propulsive landing back on the ground at the Cape, once the first stage separates and relights a Merlin 1D engine.

Two prior attempts to land on a barge came very close with pinpoint approaches to the vessel in the Atlantic Ocean. But the rocket tipped over in the final moments and was destroyed.

The launch and first stage landing, vertically at night, was apparently perfect and came off without a hitch.

“From everything we’ve seen thus far, the mission appears to be perfect,” said Musk.

“The satellites were deployed right on target. And the Falcon 9 booster came back and landed, it looks like, almost dead center in the landing pad. And then the upper stage did a coast and then restarted to prove out the coast and restart capability.”

“So as far as we can see right now the mission was absolutely perfect. We could not have asked for a better mission or a better day.”

The Dec 21 rocket recovery is a stepping stone on the path to economical rocket reusability.

How often will SpaceX recover the rocket?

“I think that we’re going to get quite a few rockets back, so I imagine we’re going to have a whole fleet of booster rockets accumulating quite rapidly because we’re building them right now at about one every three weeks,” Musk stated.

“Over time we expect to get back over 99% of the rockets. So we will figure out how to make the reuse as easy as possible. So that really no work is required between reuses, apart from refilling the propellant tanks.”

“So it will take us a few years to iron all that out and make sure it all works well.”

How much does it cost to build the Falcon 9?

“The Falcon rocket costs about $60 million to build,” Musk said. “It’s kind of like a big jet, but the cost of the propellant, which is mostly oxygen and the gases, is only about $200,000. So that means that the potential cost reduction over the long term is probably in excess of a factor of a hundred.”


Musk and SpaceX are already well along their long desired path to launch people to space – via a NASA contract to build a crewed version of their cargo Dragon. The crew Dragon is slated to blast off on its first orbital test flight in 2017 and transport astronauts to the International Space Station.

SpaceX is also developing the triple barreled Falcon Heavy rocket, a heavy lift booster that can launch much more massive payloads to Earth orbit and beyond.

Mars beckons!

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

The post ‘A City on Mars’ is Elon Musk’s Ultimate Goal Enabled by Rocket Reuse Technology appeared first on Universe Today.

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