Almost 48 years ago to this date, NASA made history by sending three men to the moon, including Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. But it was Mars that the 87-year-old Apollo 11 astronaut wanted to focus on over the weekend, as he made some bold statements about America’s plans to send people to the Red Planet while raising a good amount of money for his campaign dedicated to helping fund research toward this lofty goal.
According to TIME, Aldrin was able to raise over $190,000 on Saturday for his space education nonprofit, the ShareSpace Foundation. He was joined at the fundraiser by fellow Apollo astronauts Michael Collins, Walt Cunningham, and Jack Schmitt, as he also announced that he expects people to land on Mars by 2040, a similar timeline to that of NASA.
Talking about his hopes for the future of space travel, Buzz Aldrin said that ongoing Mars programs need to be made more affordable in order for them to succeed.
“I like to think of myself as an innovative futurist. The programs we have right now are eating up every piece of the budget and it has to be reduced if we’re ever going to get anywhere.”
This was a sentiment that was also shared by Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, who was presented with the first-ever Buzz Aldrin Space Innovation Award at Saturday’s fundraiser.
“We can have a trillion humans in the solar system. What’s holding us back from making that next step is that space travel is just too darned expensive. I’m taking my Amazon lottery winnings and dedicating it to (reusable rockets). I feel incredibly lucky to be able to do that.”
Also honored at the ShareSpace event was Mae Jemison, who became the first female African-American astronaut to travel in space. According to Jemison, who won the Buzz Aldrin Space Pioneering Award, getting to Mars isn’t all about the physical aspect of things, but also about being committed to following through on “big and audacious” plans.
“What we’re doing looking forward is making sure that we use our place at the table,” said Jemison.
The ShareSpace Foundation also launched a new nonprofit called the Buzz Aldrin Space Foundation, which has a goal of “creating an educational path to Mars.” This foundation works closely with educational institutions in advancing STEAM education — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math — while also creating an “educational path to Mars” through its efforts.
Prior to the ShareSpace gala, talk of Mars travel had heated up when NASA chief of human spaceflight Bill Gerstenmaier said at the most recent American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics meeting that NASA might not be able to afford to send a manned mission to Mars by the 2030s. As the Inquisitr reported, Gerstenmaier added that the potential lack of budget is one of the many challenges that may prevent NASA from meeting its timelines and that a moon mission may be a more plausible objective for the space agency going forward.
On the other hand, Buzz Aldrin’s Mars initiatives could represent a proverbial “one small step for man” as far as sending people to Mars is concerned. According to TIME, Saturday’s gala was the first event in a three-year plan running up to the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landing, where the ultimate goal is to help fund research that will hopefully lead to people being able to travel to and inhabit the Red Planet.
[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]