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Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin criticizes NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission

Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin
Photo by Win McNamee

At the recently concluded Humans 2 Mars Conference at George Washington University, Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin criticized NASA current Asteroid Redirect Mission plan to snag a small asteroid, move it into lunar orbit, and visit it with astronauts according to a Thursday story in the International Business Times. A proper asteroid mission would involve astronauts going into deep space on board an Orion spacecraft to visit one. This was the original plan President Obama laid out in his April 15, 2010 speech at the Kennedy Space Center.

Also Aldrin suggested that the ultimate goal for space exploration should be the establishment of an international base on Mars. NASA plans to send human astronauts to Mars sometime in the 2030s. It claims that the Asteroid Redirect Mission is a crucial step toward that goal.

Back in 2010, Aldrin, alone of the surviving Apollo astronauts, initially supported the Obama space plan that involved abandoning the idea of a return to the lunar surface in favor of an asteroid mission. The president even made reference to Aldrin, who was in the selected audience, during the speech when he made the justification for the abandonment of the moon. It has been a source of embarrassment to the space hero ever since.

“Now, I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the Moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before. Buzz has been there. There’s a lot more of space to explore, and a lot more to learn when we do.”

Aldrin would later recount how the president snubbed him during the ride on Air Force One from Washington to Florida. He believed that he would have a chance to discuss space policy with Obama, who has claimed to admire the Apollo program. Instead Aldrin was sequestered in the back of the plane and was only trotted out to do a photo op. Aldrin has later said that the line about “Buzz had been there” did not come from him, though he agrees that the moon should not be the focus of America’s space efforts.