The second man to walk on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin – along with the Florida Institute of Technology – has joined the growing ranks of space colonization advocates that foresee the settlement of Mars in the near future. Other groups, such as SpaceX, NASA, and the much-harangued Mars One, all have plans in motion to land astronauts on the Red Planet. Most of these plans rely on research and space missions that have not yet been conducted; Aldrin’s plan, for instance, would use space stations, asteroids, and the moons of Mars as way stations for the eventual one-way colonists.
These plans are alike in that they are ambitious, inspirational, and daring. And they may be, ultimately, unrealistic. It’s been more than forty years since humanity’s last manned trip to another celestial body, the Apollo 17 Moon mission in 1972. Implementing a manned mission to Mars will take decades of research and planning, immense political will, and generous funding. The colonization of another planet is a project the likes of which have, arguably, never been seen before. Do we (i.e., the human race) have the drive to achieve such ambitions?
It is undeniable that serious, intelligent people are talking about the very real possibility of colonizing another planet. And with movies like The Martian debuting soon, it’s clear that Mars is in the public consciousness as well. Maybe now is the perfect time to start planning our next great leap into space.