back to article Buzz Aldrin weighs into NASA

Buzz Aldrin has thrown his weight behind those who believe that the Ares component of NASA's Constellation programme is on a hike to nowhere. The NASA veteran has insisted the US needs to reprieve the space shuttle for extended operations until 2015, pending development of viable lifting technologies which might ultimately …


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  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    It would be more useful than bailing out failed banks for a decade.

    But still...

    >>terraforming Mars for permanent human occupation

    What will Greenpeace say to that?

  2. Andus McCoatover


    China, India etc.?

    Must remember Aldrin was a passenger (OK, pilot of Eagle for awhile - 15 minutes and all that..) but he aint no Rocket Scientist.

    Same bloke who had to stick a pen into the relaunch switch, 'cos some careless bugge*r knocked the dolly off on the way out to collect some green cheese? S'pose that ingenious moment qualifies him to light the blue touchpaper, but not much else.

    <Note to Trolls - Joke Alert>

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Habitation Module

    *The Habitation Module for the International Space Station was intended to be the Station's main living quarters designed with galley, toilet, shower, sleep stations and medical facilities.

    It was cancelled after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, and the station's inhabitants were advised to do without these facilities on board the station.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    It's not "waste.. hundreds of billions of dollars "

    It's ensuring Boing Boing and LocMart profits stay healthy for another decade at least.

    It is true that a *properly* managed new build Shuttle fleet (retaining the exact existing shape) could be a huge improvement on what exists now.

    But that won't happen. The youngest Shuttle dates from 1986, The rest are >30 years old.

    And note the following

    Other bodies in the solar system either have an atmosphere (but no runway) or no atmosphere at all.

    Wings come from a desire to get cross range (specifically enough cross range to do a 1 orbit return to the original launch site) and the (unstated) belief that aircraft like operations *somehow* imply an aircraft shape.

    The Shuttle looks vaguely like an aircraft. Its entry is at about 70degrees to the horizontal. This is nothing like any normal aircraft landing but pretty much a capsule angle.

    The pressumption that capsule entry has poor accuracy is simply *wrong*. The later Gemini's managed 0.6 nautical miles (1.1Km) *despite* limited inertial resolution, ignorance of non-equilibrium air effects(which were very significant in causing Shuttle under performance), normal (no parasail) parachutes and a capsule shape which was only manouverable in the 300-190kft altitude range.

    it would seem that if you're planning to visit other bodies in the solar system that don't have a 15000 ft runway on them you it would be a good idea to look at a generic vacuum lander ( for the moons) and a generic starter shape for a capsule. while it won't have the maximum (performance Uber Alles) capacity but it would proberbly get a lot more science and exploration done a *lot* faster.

    Mine will be the one with a copy of JJ Martin's book on reentry in it.

  5. Richard Cartledge


    Sounds like a veiled admission by Buzz that the (fake) lunar landings were a spoof.

  6. Bill Cumming

    They Should go "DIRECT"

    Why spend millions (or a few billions) reinventing the wheel for the Ares components.

    The DIRECT plans use the main fuel tank from the Shuttle as the main propulsion body with the shuttles proven rocket engine modules attached to the bottom. It's basically as close to "Off-The-Shelf" building as NASA can do. (no extra R&D costs, just maintenance and improvements costs)

    Costs work our cheaper than the Constellation program and get be up and running years quicker.



    as for the GO sign.. simple "Go, NoGo for launch?"

  7. Nicolas Charbonnier
    Thumb Up

    Humans to Mars now

    We don't need to wait till 2025, the technologies are available now.

    Let's scrap Shuttle and ISS, let's cancel the return to Moon mission.

    Let's go to Mars as soon as possible in an International effort. 16 Astronauts can be sent to Mars in 4 years, let's use Russian heavy-lift rocket technology Energia last used in 1988.

    Everything about the Mars Direct plan is here

    It'll cost 30 Billion dollars, half paid by all Governments of the world, other half could be sponsored by corporations displaying their logos in the several years of live HDTV coverage from the Humans to Mars mission.

    We need to go to Mars to find out why we are here, to find out more about how we exist and that knowledge will improve our technologies on Earth that we need to save the planet such as conservation, greener energies, physics, science in General. Apollo brought us everything we have, the Humans to Mars mission will bring us all the technologies of tomorrow.

    Obama could announce a bold Humans to Mars mission with target to land on Mars by 2014 or sooner.

  8. popa

    An Economic Basis for Space Exploration

    A comprehensive space program is more likely to succeed if, besides scientific value, it provides economic benefit. The moon has been hailed as a rich source of (non-radioactive) helium-3, a proposed fuel for future fusion reactors. Exploitation of the moon for this resource could conceivably replace carbon-based forms of energy with obvious health benefits. It's been estimated that it would take about 15 to 20 tons of Helium-3 to power the U.S for a single year, implying a significant extraterrestrial effort. However, I believe tying extraterrestrial resources to Earth's economy would provide a solid basis for space exploration and development, launching Earth into a new age with benefits not even dreamed of today. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the future. The only question is when.

  9. Tom 74

    time to end it?

    Some say build a base on the moon, others say go direct to mars, some say a manned space station around the moon, Aldrin says go to the asteroids and phobos. There is very little agreement... why is that? probably because all of those missions have equally little scientific value compared to the equivalent robotic mission. There are two reasons why such programs are getting funded, firstly the idea that doing such a technical challenge helps develop new technology. This reason doesn't hold up, we could equally build a machine to bore into the earth's crust while carrying an elephant safely, that would also be a massive technical challenge. The second reason is the idea that it brings enthusiasm and unites people; but people will only unite if they feel it is really a step forward.

    However, every year that passes robotic missions become more and more capable, cheaper and lighter. The future of space is robotic, just because sci fi has people living in space doesn't mean that's what will happen or that its what we should aspire to.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Just a thought!

    If with the current level of our technology it is still going to take another 11 years to reach the moon (again), did they really go in 1969?

  11. ZenCoder

    Personally ....

    I think NASA has become to bloated and bureaucratic to have any hope of ever being effective or innovative. That happens to most government institutions over time.

    I think NASA should be scrapped. If you worry about the future of science and engineering in the USA ... work on the public schools, and restore cut funding to libraries and universities.

    Let the rest of the world go play on the moon for awhile. Start paying for equipment to be hauled into space by the ton and let other nations and private industry compete over the contracts.

  12. Charles Manning

    Space is boring

    The 60s might have seen a lot of interest in space, but that was for two main political reasons:

    * The Space Race was a contest between USSR and USA. USA started on the back foot and wanted to show it was better than USSR at a time when the USA population were very frightened: digging shelters and teaching nuclear drills at schools. Big rockets provided a satisfying feeling of power.

    * USA politicians wanted something to divert eyes from Vietnam.

    The result of this was a huge national uptake of space fixation. A model orbiter hung from the ceiling in 60% of boys' bedrooms and kids would dress up with tinfoil and goldfish bowls to go to show and tell or fancy dress parties.

    All the excitement helped bring kids to science and engineering.

    But space is of itself relatively boring and pointless and the excitement soon wore off. Apollo 11 got lots of TV coverage etc, but by Apollo 12 it was yawns all around and back to regular programming.

    Going to the moon again, or another planet, just won't capture attention and there's no real payoff.

  13. Forename Surname

    We need to listen to Zubrin

    We need to listen to Aldrin's ideas along with Robert Zubrin, who's been trying to get his "Mars Direct" proposal accepted for two decades.

    Enough with all the new pet projects, irrelevant technology development, and endless safety testing. We need quick, cheap, and "good enough" technology, else this will take decades!

    I don't remember the name or channel (I believe Science channel or Discovery), but there was a great program on Zubrin and Mars Direct. He reveals how much money, time, and resources are being wasted by the NASA bureaucracy on all this irrelevant development for Constellation, with every top-level person getting their pet project developed. They've become like the United States Congress!

    We need to strip down the bureaucracy of NASA, get the pragmatic engineers to run the damn organization, and double their budget. Then get us to the damn red planet by 2020!

  14. JimMcDade

    Buzz - A paid spokesman

    I admire Buzz Aldrin tremendously, but he is known to take compensation in exchange for his endorsements. In fact, he was the chief pitch-man for a previous Atlas-based space vehicle. His claims about Ares I and the alternatives are not supported by an appropriate technical argument. I would suggest that Register readers maintain a healthy degree of skepticism while reading Mr. Aldrin's statements.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Marketing tie in?

    Beyond LM*, Beyond CM**, XM

    * Lunar Module

    ** Crew Module

    alien for semi-obvious reasons.

  16. VoodooForce

    Obvious to all with a brain


    watch the video, read the brief.

    NASA needs an acid enema of Saturn V proportions "now with spinning brush".

  17. Anonymous Coward


    I'd like to set up the first space saloon for weary intergalactic travellers.

    I'd call it the Mars Bar.

  18. Pete 2

    choose: space or war - you can't afford both

    The 1960's moon missions cost the same as a medium-sized war. These days war is much more expensive, what with trying not to get your own people killed, and having to protect their "human rights" 'n' all.

    So. choose, earthman: you can either go swaggering around the planet, blowing up people who you think hold views that threaten your "way of life", or you can go off exploring the near universe and possibly making discoveries and advances that will benefit mankind for centuries to come.

    For most societies, that are in a position to have one or the other, the choice would be a no-brainer. However, with you lot, it;ll be interesting to see which way you go.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Ground Control to Major Gordon

    I like the idea of setting up residence on Mars. And may I put forward a suggestion for the first inhabitant? This job needs someone who knows sod-all and is a leper on normal society.

    Please step forward one Gordon Brown. Your time has come.

    And if Paris would care to step forward her time has come too.

  20. Cullen Newsom

    Slow space agencies are slow

    Robert Zubrin, and a growing cast of others have only been suggesting this direct path to Mars for a couple or three decades now. Maybe NASA will come around before someone launches from his or her garage, and beats them to it. (that is, if the FAA doesn't deny them a permit)

  21. b166er


    What's the fascination with going to Mars anyway?

    The problem we face is gravity.

    If there's going to be any sort of international space consortium, they should focus all our efforts on getting lots of gear into orbit as cheaply as possible (space elevator). Once you can do that, you can start realistically dreaming of visiting neighbouring objects.

  22. Spaceman

    Something missing

    "based on NASA’s canceled space station Habitation Module"* There is a * at the end of this quote which usually means a bootnote or further reference. Has something been forgotten?

  23. Chris C

    Lunatic parade

    The procession of people who think mankind belongs on the moon, Mars, or anywhere else is a parade of lunatics. Personally, I find it amusing that anybody with a clue about space travel even views it as a possibility (as opposed to an ambitious dream).

    Yes, going back to the moon is a monumentally stupid idea. Are we trying to prove that we can still do what we were able to do forty years ago? Yeah, that's a real accomplishment. Hey, look, I can still tie my shoelaces, too. Woo-hoo!

    As far as Mars or Phobos are concerned, I have one question -- why? There's no atmosphere. It will be impossibly hot in the sunlight and impossibly cold in the darkness. Even if we were able to generate an atmosphere and keep it in place, it would still be too cold because of the planet/moon's distance from the sun. Ignoring that, how exactly are we supposed to build anything? We don't have the means to transport the volume that would need to be transported. Look how long, and how much work and expense, it took to get the ISS to the point where it is now. And that only holds six people.

    As for "the perfect perch from which to monitor and control the robots that will build the infrastructure on the Martian surface, in preparation for the first human visitors", I think someone has some serious delusions regarding robots' capabilities.

    How about, instead of wasting countless billions of dollars on anything space-related, we try to fix the problems we have here on Earth? Things like hunger, homelessness, poverty, diseases, etc. Those are things that affect billions of people right now. What has space exploration given us? GPS? Satellite TV? A machine to turn piss into water? I'm sure people will be able to list some ways in which space exploration has actually benefited mankind, but I can't help but think that the billions (if not trillions) of dollars spent on it could be put to much better use.

  24. breakfast

    Look at the statistics here...

    The chances of anyone going to Mars are a million to one.

  25. Pete 2

    @An Economic Basis for Space Exploration

    If you do that, you'd probably skip Mars altogether ans stick to mining asteroids.

    Consider the Gobi Dessert. it's a thousand times more hospitable than Mars and a million times cheaper to get to. However, you don't find teams of explorers or prospectors there. Why not? simply because it dosen't have any resources that aren't available cheaper elsewhere on the planet. So it is with Mars. If you go there expecting to turn a profit, you'd better have some extremely good information that there's something there which isn't available on earth (anywhere on earth). The Moon just *might* have He3 deposits which are commercially viable, but somehow I can't see the politics of energy security allowing independent exploitation of those resources.

  26. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Space is a Head Game and NASA are not in Pole Position, are they?*

    Methinks whenever you discover that the Reality you are spun is a MUD/MMORPG for the Excessive Benefit of a Few, there will be more than just a few Radical Fundamental Changes to Programs and Programming Projects.

    And questions will be asked of those who would have colluded and conspired to keep the Revelation, private and personalised.

    * Shared as a question for a fly poll.

  27. Graham Bartlett

    Problem with priorities

    As is typical in this kind of thing, everyone focuses on how shiny the vehicle is. Trouble is, the propulsion system is the *easy* part - whether it's a Shuttle or Ares or Elon Musk's vapourware, it's all just variations on the theme of "sodding big rocket with sodding big fuel tank".

    The *hard* part is keeping people alive for several months in the harshest environment around. And most of this simply hasn't been looked at. Radiation-wise, space is like sitting in the middle of Chernobyl's failed reactor for the multiple-months duration of the trip. ESS is within the Earth's magnetosphere so they don't have to worry about it, and trips to the Moon only leave the astronauts exposed for a few days so there's no permanent damage, but a Mars mission is on a very different scale. Not only are astronauts going to be exposed to this radiation for the duration of their trip there and back, but any permanent base on Mars is also going to have this problem (regardless of any hypothetical terraforming project) because Mars lacks a magnetic field.

    And then there's the resupply problem. The ISS is utterly dependent on regular resupply for food and air. Bugger all work done on how to make a Mars mission self-sufficient for both of these, which is clearly going to be essential. OK, it's clear it's going to be hydroponics somehow, but what plants will provide oxygen best? and what plants will provide full nutrional needs for the astronauts (based on their requirements for zero-G, not on how their bodies work on Earth)? and how are the plants affected by zero-G? No-one knows yet.

    Not to mention the problem of dealing with medical emergencies. A simple burst appendix is likely to be fatal on a mission with limited medical supplies.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Chris C

    I assume you think that humans do not belong in seas and oceans or flying in the atmosphere of Earth. Don't spend any money on any space-related endeavour? So no satellites then? Take away the satellites right now and see what happens to the human population.

    Do not try and take the moral high ground with the 'hunger, poverty' argument of purely emotive content. This planet's ecosystem will not remain in a state that can sustain it's human components current and on-going change of that ecosystem. Perhaps humans do not belong on this planet; time will tell.

    Humans need to have more options for not going extinct; exploring and populating space is one of them.

  29. Mayhem

    Earth orbit rendezvous vs Lunar orbit rendezvous

    The US decided to go with Lunar orbit rendezvous for the Apollo programme against the NASA advice at the time in order to win the race to the moon. They built a staggeringly wasteful rocket, they brought back a few rocks, and they prevented themselves from accomplishing anything else truly significant for half a century.

    Russia went with Earth orbit rendezvous, and focussed on putting up a space station in local orbit before going anywhere else. Funnily enough, Mir lasted twice as long as Skylab, and russian tech is a fairly fundamental part of the ISS, especially since a progress visit costs a fraction of what a shuttle visit does.

    Before the US can jet off to the solar system, they need to construct some sort of stable platform in orbit around the earth that they can start from, and a reliable cheap taxi service to service it. They can then send steadily more elaborate missions off to the moon, mars, the asteriods and so on by designing a purely space vehicle and refining it according to need without having to sink massive amounts of the budget into simply getting out of our gravity well.

  30. Andus McCoatover


    ..He's become completely buzzed, and totally spaced out.

    And how can he "weigh into Nasa" when he only weighed about 2 stone 'ringing wet' up there?

    Sorry. Got it. (Ye Gods, and it's only Monday...)

  31. TeeCee Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    Re: Ground Control to Major Gordon.

    You Swine!

    You just marooned Gordon Brown and Paris Hilton together on Mars.

    I'm going to be in therapy for weeks getting rid of the issues associated with the mental pictures from that one.

  32. Annihilator Silver badge

    Poor Buzz

    I understand why he doesn't want folks going to the moon. Bad enough that everyone remembers Neil first, and if there is a new "first" man on the moon (again), it'll be a case of "second comes right after first (and the other first)"

    Would we really need people on Phobos "supervising" the terraformers? And has he never played Doom??

  33. Wilko


    But still, they go...

  34. Mike Richards Silver badge

    @ Mayhem

    'Russia went with Earth orbit rendezvous, and focussed on putting up a space station in local orbit before going anywhere else. Funnily enough, Mir lasted twice as long as Skylab, and russian tech is a fairly fundamental part of the ISS, especially since a progress visit costs a fraction of what a shuttle visit does.'

    Except they didn't. The USSR originally planned an Earth orbit rendezvous with a 50 tonne payload; but when it was clear the US was moving ahead with its Gemini missions, the Soviet's realised they didn't have enough expertise in EOR and switched to a direct ascent on a bigger rocket which became the N1 L3.

    Their space station programme was never part of the Soviet lunar programme and really only got going when it became clear the US would be the first country to put a man on the Moon. Salyut 1 wasn't launched until 1971 and then its size was limited by the amount of mass a Proton could put into orbit. It was far less capable than Skylab. As for Mir lasting longer than Skylab that's only because the US Shuttle programme was so late in making its first flight. A decision had been made in the late 1960s that no more Saturn Ibs would be built, so by the time of Skylab 4 there was only one spare launcher in inventory. The plan had been the Shuttle would be the only way to get Americans into space. There were advanced plans to boost the orbit of Skylab and refurbish it for missions, but in 1979 the station smashed into Australia, two years before the first Shuttle launch.

  35. RichardSmith

    Graham Bartlett needs education

    I would suggest Graham Bartlett read "The Case for Mars" as the book describes in details the radiation hazards that he thinks are mission killers. A short summary:

    1) The radiation from the sun will be stopped by the walls of the ship. This will work for normal radiation levels but will won't help if there is a solar flare (typically happens once a year depending on how active the sun is). (The radiation levels are very dangerous inside the Van Allen belts but they will travel thru these quickly.)

    2) Since the trip will take 6.5 months one way, there is a good chance of one flare happening during the trip there or back. (Being hit by two or three flares is unlikely but possible.) During a 'solar storm' the astronaut go into a storm cellar which has high radiation protection for the duration of the storm. The storms last 10 hours +/- a couple hours.

    3) There is no reasonable protection from cosmic rays while in space. They take this radiation.

    4) Once they get to Mars, they have 6 to 14 millibars of air pressure. Since the scale height of the Martian atmosphere is 3 times Earth's, this is like 18 to 42 millibars of pressure on Earth. This is enough to deal with normal solar radiation. A few sand bags on the roof plus the atmosphere will provide protection from solar storms. (Also if the storm happens at night, the whole planet will protect.)

    5) The atmosphere is far to thin to stop cosmic rays (the Earth's atmosphere & its Magnetic fields don't stop them from hitting all over Earth). However, being on Mars halves the space dosage since the body of the planet blocks all those that would come up from under the people.

    6) The total dosage of radiation will increase the chances of a fatal cancer by a small amount. (I don't remember the number right now but it was something like 1/3 the risk of getting cancer if you smoke. Zubrin pointed out that if recruit astronauts who were smokers and sent them to Mars with out cigs, you would very significantly reduce their chances of getting a cancer.

    The total radiation dose for the whole mission was around 150 rads for 31 months I believe. This assumes two solar storms, both while the astronauts are in space. (Someone have The Case for Mars with the exact figure?) Since you would likely be getting 1500 rads a minute in the core of Chernobyl - Graham Bartlett is publicly displaying a woefully amount of ignorance here.

    Warm regards, Rick

  36. drag


    The space shuttle is a antiquated, obsolete, expensive, and fragile. The idea that your relying on god-damn heat tiles to protect pilots is just insane. One fracture and your toast.

    Meanwhile you have a private owned and operated corporation that primarially designs kit planes for moderatly wealthy nerds were able to launch a old geezer into _space_ using a cheap airplane and a fiberglass tub attatched to a rocket booster.

    And not only that they were able to take that same hunk of crap and launch again with a single week turn-around.

    Seriously... With NASA you have this huge fucking rocket jet designed in the early 1970's vs a small corporation launching up a fiberglass tube polited by a old coot. The astronaught that controlled the Scaled Composites's SpaceShipOne was born in 1940.

    That alone should be a complete wake up call that NASA is doing something SERIOUSLY FUCKING WRONG.

    If that doesn't convince you take a look at this:

    Then take a look at this:

    See the difference?

    I know the perfect plan to save NASA billions of dollars.

    Here is what they do:

    Completely F-OFF and offer 10 billion dollars to the first private corporation that produces viable means to get to the moon. Then offer a 30 billion dollar prize to the first corporation that can get a practical means to orbit a manned space station around Mars.

    Bingo. Problem Solved. Look at it this way.. It took less then a decade using 1960's techology to get the first people on the moon. Now we have 2000 techology and they are figuring 20 years to get to the moon again?

    I can pretty much garrentee that if they offer the technology and prizes to private industry we will have small moon bases within the next decade.

  37. Aaron Hart

    NASA really all that bad?

    Wow, a lot of negitivity on NASA, the people that just did an amazing repair of the Hubble. NASA, the folks that still have two rovers checking out Mars. How many working rovers does the ESA have on Mars ? Or, how many times has anyone one else besides NASA have even successfully landed on Mars? No one. Sure Virgin Galatic/Space Ship One.. neat to get into the very high stratosphere... Big friggin deal, it cant even orbit, and SpaceShipOne could only handle the mass lifting of 2 people.( or one american, as we are a heavy people) and the ship went into a spin. Basically the fact is that NASA has a fairly small budget and it wants ( or is ordered to ) to do a lot of different thing. Probes into the solar system, near Earth experiments, atmospheric testing and research, etc. Oh, and take people into space.

  38. Peter Mc Aulay

    Sod Mars

    Exploit the asteroid belt! (Yes, I know this is probably better done by robots...)

  39. Anonymous Coward

    @ NASA really all that bad?

    I didn't take these comments as anti NASA, more anti space exploration and unresearched trolling.

    As a Brit I think NASA are undeniably the "dogs bollocks", but you're just as guilty by using the "My Dad's bigger than your Dad" argument.

    The ISS (INTERNATIONAL Space Station) is a joint venture that would not currently be proceeding without Soyuz.

    Europe's Ariane 5 Rocket just hoisted the largest ever payload into space for an American company to service the North American market.

    Russia's Progress spacecraft & European ATV resupply the ISS with things like water, oxygen and food amongst others.

    The very first piece of the ISS was hoisted by a Russian Proton rocket.

    Both NASA and Europe have lost Mars bound landers, NASA's was lost due to a simple imperial/metric mistake.

    I watch NASA TV in awe, NASA is the GREATEST!!

  40. Janko Hrasko
    Thumb Up

    Dr. Aldrin

    NASA should listen.

    You can't have more enlightened advisor than one that saw the Earth from another planetary body!

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