Buzz Aldrin, one of the surviving Apollo 11 astronauts who has been supporting a social media campaign to commemorate the first moon landing 45 years ago, has been a tireless advocate for sending humans to Mars. According to a Wednesday story on Sky News, Aldrin has a twist for the first Mars mission. He suggests that the first humans to go to Mars should go to stay, to build the first interplanetary colony.
The idea of sending astronauts to Mars to stay is not unique to Aldrin. While many scenarios for Mars, ranging from Robert Zubrin’s Mars Direct to NASA plans envision the astronauts returning of Earth, at least one private scheme, Mars One, envisions the first humans to Mars becoming, in effect, the first Martians. They would “root, hog, or die,” an early American phrase that invoked self-reliance that was often used by the late Robert Heinlein for space pioneering efforts.
There are certain advantages to having astronauts stay on Mars. They would not have to take return vehicles, for example, or take or manufacture the fuel necessary for an Earth return. They would have to take lots of supplies as well as equipment that would help them live off the land while the colony got up and running.
The first Mars explorers would have to be an adventurous, hardly lot. The Apollo astronauts like Aldrin knew that they planned to come home from the moon to the accolades of a grateful nation. Aldrin’s idea is that the first people to go to Mars would leave the “green hills of Earth” forever and make the Red Planet their home. The dangers they would encounter would be numerous, not the least of which will be a sense of isolation, being tens of millions of miles away from the rest of humanity.
There is something beguiling about Aldrin’s approach. There would be no shortage of volunteers, as the experience of Mars One suggests with 200,000 applicants to be the first Mars settlers. Whether the first Mars colony becomes the Plymouth or Jamestown of the space age or its Roanoke remains to be seen/