NASA Should Kill the ISS to Reach Mars Sooner, Buzz Aldrin Says
America’s space agency just doesn’t have that much money to spend, the moon walker argues.
Money is like rocket fuel—space agencies only have so much to burn. If NASA is serious about trying to reach Mars anytime soon, the organization should abandon the International Space Station project as quickly as possible in order to divert resources to the planetary mission, Apollo 11 astronaut and American badass Buzz Aldrin said.
"We must retire the ISS as soon as possible," Aldrin said, according to Space.com "We simply cannot afford $3.5 billion a year of that cost."
Aldrin made the remark on Tuesday at the 2017 Humans to Mars conference in Washington, D.C.
That's not to say the second man on the moon is suggesting America should give up on orbital flight. Aldrin said NASA ought to farm out low Earth orbit (LEO) projects to private companies, such as SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origin. Those sorts of companies—which already handle some resupply duties for the ISS—could even develop their own LEO space stations, potentially in coordination with China, which is planning to put its own midsized space station in orbit around 2023.
Aldrin has proposed a plan to land humans on Mars by 2035, which revolves around the idea of "cycling pathways"—spacecraft that make continuous journeys between Earth and Mars, almost like a shared satellite. In his plan, separate spaceships carrying crew and equipment between the worlds would perform a flying rendezvous with the "cyclers," linking up with them as they zoom by and catching a ride to the next planet. (As you can see in the image above, he's also borrowed a catchphrase from Total Recall to promote the plan.)
That said, Aldrin's thoughts don't line up with NASA's in this particular case. America's space agency says the International Space Station is a key part of its current roadmap to Mars, which aims to plant boots on the Red Planet in the years after 2030. (That plan also could involve sending a group of astronauts to spend a year living in a craft near the moon sometime in the late 2020s, NASA said this week.)
Of course, should NASA give up on the ISS...that might give Russia the chance to scoop it up and perform that extreme orbital home makeover the nation has been dreaming about.