On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made those historic first footprints on the Moon. But the ensuing decades have been frustrating to those who assumed that Apollo 11 would lead to permanent lunar bases and colonies on Mars.
NASA, a government agency, could not bring down the costs of spaceflight, ensuring that such visionary goals would be multibillion dollar boondoggles.
But today those who want to see Mars become a future human habitat might have their aspirations realized.
Aldrin’s new book, Mission to Mars , with journalist Leonard David, argues for the Red Planet as the principal target for future explorers. Aldrin, with an astronautics Ph.D. from MIT, has designed an interplanetary “cycler” system. (Aldrin published a first description of the system in my book Space: The Free-Market Frontier .)
A spacecraft would be launched to Mars on a trajectory that would use that planet’s gravity to fling the craft back toward Earth, where it would use Earth’s gravity to fling it back to Mars in a never-ending cycle. (A similar system could be set up with the Moon.) Aldrin still needs to work out how astronauts get on and off the speeding ship at their planet of choice. But hey, he’s a rocket scientist!
Dennis Tito, the first individual to pay for a trip to the International Space Station, founded and is helping to finance Inspiration Mars , a private effort to send a man and a woman on a 501-day flyby mission to the Red Planet, similar to Aldrin’s cycler but with the craft landing back on Earth. To hit the planetary alignments right, the mission must be launched in January 2018.
Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp (at left) has founded Mars One with a plan to send humans on one-way missions to begin colonizing Mars, with the first mission in 2023. He will finance the project in large part as a "global media spectacle."
In the past such missions would have been impossible dreams since cost-effective technologies were unavailable. But today private space entrepreneurs are stepping in to make such dreams come true.
For example, Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has already launched three private rockets to berth with the ISS for a fraction of the cost of the NASA Shuttle. He is testing larger rockets that could travel to the planets. Musk’s ultimate goal is Mars and he says he wants to die on the Red Planet—but not on landing!
Robert Bigelow’s company has developed innovative, low-cost inflatable habitat modules that he wants to put into orbit. Bigelow already has launched two one-third size prototypes and NASA will test a full-size module at the ISS in 2015. These modules could serve as habitats for bases on the Moon or Mars.
These are just a few examples of entrepreneurs, inspired by Apollo 11, putting their money and their minds toward other space achievements that will inspire future generations and make us a spacefaring civilization!
*Edward Hudgins and William R Thomas, Video: “ Crony Capitalism in Space? ” June 19, 2013.
*Edward Hudgins, " Neil Armstrong, America Hero. ” August 27, 2012.
*Edward Hudgins, “ SpaceX’s Entrepreneurial Triumph. ” May 25, 2012.
*Edward Hudgins, “ When We Walked on the Moon. ” July 17, 2009.
*Edward Hudgins, “ The Spiritual Significance of Mars. ” August 12, 2003.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.