The United States must do more than just plant a flag on Mars if it wants to continue as a leader in the field of space exploration, Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin told senators this week. "In my opinion, there is no more convincing way to demonstrate American leadership for the remainder of this century than to commit to a permanent presence on Mars," Aldrin told members of the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness during a hearing Tuesday (Feb. 24). Going to Mars without setting up a colony — launching only round-trip manned missions, in other words — would not be enough, nor would setting up human outposts on the moon, Aldrin said. "Lunar settlements will only require a small step for the other nations to catch up," he said. Buzz Aldrin, who set foot on the moon just after Neil Armstrong in July 1969, has developed an architecture to establish a Mars colony, with the first manned Red Planet landings envisioned in 2038. He sketched out the basics for the senators. "It's an integrated plan that knits together return
to the moon on a commercial and international basis, leveraging asteroid rendezvous, and settling Mars on a carefully developed risk-mitigation architecture," Aldrin said. "It includes the use of a robotic cycler between Mars and Earth that will revolutionize the economics and safety aspects of human missions to Mars."
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