July 20th, 2009
09:40 PM ET

Aim for Mars?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TECH/space/07/20/nasa.future.human.exploration/art.aldrin.moon2.gi.jpg caption= "Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon on July 20, 1969. NASA is preparing to send astronauts back and build a lunar base."]

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Where were you 40 years ago tonight? On July 20, 1969 an estimated 500 million people were glued to their TV sets and even more tuned in to radios for live coverage of man’s first steps on the moon. At that historic moment, 10:57pm ET, Neil Armstrong uttered his now famous phrase: “That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."  The 'A' may have gotten lost in translation.

40 years later, should America’s next giant leap be for Mars? The answer is yes if you ask Armstrong’s other crew members that day: Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

Though, today, NASA is working on returning astronauts to the moon by 2020. The space agency also wants to create a lunar base that would let crews stay for up to six months by 2025. Critics say forget about the moon, aim for Mars.

Here are some interesting facts from NASA on the red planet:

– Mars is the fourth planet from the sun

– Average distance from Mars to the sun: 142 million miles (Earth: 93 miles)

– Mars is much colder than Earth: Average Temperature: – 81°F

– Length of Year: 687 Days

– The distance between Earth and Mars: up to 249,000,000 miles
(depends on orbit of the two planets)

– Time it would take to travel to Mars: At least 6 months (Watch this NASA video for more details)

– Time it takes to get to the moon: Two to three days

Destination: Mars came up in the conversation last night at the Apollo reunion at Washington’s National Air and Space Museum. “The moon is not a particularly interesting place. But, Mars is. And Mars is the closest thing to Earth's sister that we found so far,” said Collins. "I worry that the current emphasis on returning to the Moon will cause us to become ensnared in a technological briar patch, needlessly delaying for decades the exploration of Mars – a much more worthwhile destination," he added.

Aldrin also pushed for man to visit Mars. “If we persevere, we can reach Mars itself, 66 years after "Tranquility Base", which was 66 years after “Kitty Hawk.” We need a unified space vision. It was a great honor to walk on the moon. Isn't it time we continue our journey outward, past the moon?” he asked. He’s been making his pitch for Mars for a while. "We won the moon race; now it's time for us to live and work on Mars," Aldrin wrote on CNN.com last month. Read Aldrin’s commentary HERE.

What do you think? Moon or Mars? Sound off below.

Filed under: Maureen Miller
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. LJRoy

    My parents woke me up to watch the landing. At the time, it was as exciting as watching the grass grow. The Apollo program was one of my father's projects at Raytheon so I got all the autographs (which are locked away).

    Going to Moon or Mars? Quite frankly, I'd rather live in the ocean like in a certain movie, unless, of course, my loved ones are willing to make the soujourn with me.

    While I got your attention, for those of you who believe there are UFO aliens who make those pretty designs on the lawn? Please send them over to my house (and make sure they trim the bushes while they're at it).

    July 21, 2009 at 9:46 am |
  2. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    There will always be the poor, people starving in Africa, etc. The technology developed in going to the moon has paid the US back many times over for the cost in everything from velcro to computers. Mankind has always been explorers. I'm sure there were'better' uses for the money spent on the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. But where would we be without Columbus? Why go to Mars? Because it's there. In a more practical sense, if the government wants to create jobs, why not create them in aerospace?

    July 21, 2009 at 8:52 am |
  3. Lori

    Space exploration is part of science. There may be elements and concepts which can be studied there to help us improve or save life here. My uncle, aunt, and mother were all employed in the aerospace/defense industry in the 1960's and 1970's in southern California. Those were good jobs that I believe supported U.S. safety and ideologies.

    July 21, 2009 at 2:57 am |


    July 21, 2009 at 1:23 am |
  5. Daniel

    I'd personally like to see someone on Mars before I die. While I think the moon station is a great idea too, I'm inclined to agree with Collins that the moon mission could needlessly slow down the trip to Mars.

    As far as people commenting on the pointlessness of space travel, I don't believe any scientific pursuit is pointless. People often miss the direct and especially indirect benifits of space travel (check NASA's website for a list of some). In fact, some people seem to miss the point/benefits of scientific discovery in general. The truth is the benefits of space travel may not be fully seen in our lifetime, but that doesn't mean there are none. Space travel is done in baby steps. First the moon, then Mars, then.... And much of NASAs work is in attempts to aid in understanding earth in order to protect and help preserve the environment, not hurt it. I think people should look more closely at what NASA is doing and why, and do some research before making assumptions and writing them off as useless.

    July 21, 2009 at 1:16 am |
  6. Ato

    Hmmmmmm, $100, 000.00 dollars on toilet in the skies!!! And many more millions of $$$$$$$

    Kids are starving to death in somali, burundi and what have you.

    Could all these monies being spent on space tour be diverted into

    something that will bring pleasure to God?

    Anyway, wouldn't God be angry with mankind for such endeavours?

    I'm out!

    July 21, 2009 at 1:02 am |
  7. J.V.Hodgson

    In the present parlous state of Government Finances and other issues like Health care and global warming I can see no point in pursuing either the moon again or Mars. Both should go on the back burner for at least 5 years and wait until we do not have to spend money on 2 wars.
    Also getting there does not or rather should not mean you own it and if this were a normal business venture you'd have tp prove first there was a payback and I do not see any at all.Its allpolitics and bru ha ha!!

    July 21, 2009 at 12:57 am |
  8. Norma Labno


    By working to visit the Moon or Mars (and hopefully succeeding) we
    we increase our knowledge about mankind and our own planet
    many times over making it a more than justifiable goal!

    The way things are going on earth, if mankind is to survive
    indefinitely, I believe it is essential we make space travel a priority
    and go so far as to (hopefully) colonize another planet should the
    earth become uninhabitable – which is a distinct possibility!

    On a down-to-earth level, we genuinely do gain infinite insights
    about ourselves in the process of space exploration. That alone
    justifies our space goals.

    I agree with Mr. Aldrin and some of his colleagues – Mars should be
    our next destination!

    Good luck to all and God Speed for we truly don't know how long the earth will remain inhabitable if we are to believe our scientists
    predictions. I believe them! (The only question for me is – how long
    do we have left to live on this beautiful, God Given planet?)

    norma from nevada

    July 21, 2009 at 12:27 am |
  9. Jessica

    I dont think that the space thing is terrible or just a money scheme (although I dont rule that out at all). I think the first moon landing was very important in showing the world what the United States of America can do but what good will mars do us? That i'm not sure of. Its not liveable so we couldnt all go there and even if we good I think Earth will die before we could get all of us on a different planet. We should use more money on saving or atleast delaying the decay of our planet and survey space and other planets when there is excess money available to do it.

    We need to plan. Exploring is great when we can afford it and when there aren't alot more things more important. We need to study space for it does affect our lives here on Earth but not use as much money as we do. All that money and gasoline could have other uses.

    July 20, 2009 at 11:32 pm |
  10. Glen Weather

    I just finished watching "Moonshot" on the History channel . What an absolutely amazing feat ! They had to use a ballpoint pin to activate the "ascent engine circuit breaker " !!! How many things/items ,had to work for this mission to be completed from launch to the sucessful return to earth ? One million , two ??? Thanks AC .

    July 20, 2009 at 11:20 pm |
  11. Sabrina In Las Vegas

    My father worked at JPL in La Canada Flintridge (Pasadena, CA) and I got to see the internet and email back in the early 80's.

    I got to meet astronauts and sit in the upper room above the control panel room when voyager left...my dad's software onboard. That is the reason we got the pictures before it left the solar system.

    I got to see a lot of the pics before they were open to the public.

    IT was nice.

    July 20, 2009 at 11:05 pm |
  12. Suzanne

    I want someone to explain to me why on GOD's Green Earth do we need to go to Mars, as Miss Missy says lets use (canadian dollars) and improve our lives here, clean up the enviroment, by the way you can't tell me that every time they send one of these peices of metal into space it doesn't screw up the atmosphere.

    Who cares whats up there I don't and if the governements really cared about the ppl here on EARTH they would take a poll and find out no here cares. Except space nerds. But than again it;s a money making scheme I suppose. Gives the astronauts a job at what risk. And how many delays in the last 6 tries. I really worry about what this is doing to this planet maybe after it has been ruined we might have to go some where else.

    July 20, 2009 at 10:54 pm |
  13. Annie Kate

    We need to define what our ultimate goal is before we decide whether to go to the moon or mars. Which one would make more sense....I kind of lean toward Mars myself – its further and it would focus our attentions on a different set of problems than what we had to look at when we went to the moon.

    July 20, 2009 at 10:48 pm |
  14. Ms.Missy in Cali

    Did the astronauts find out if there are jobs and and no foreclosures on Moon or Mars..................smile

    Otherwise, use the government dollars here on earth. NASA please do something else.

    The again, Mars or the Moon not a bad place to be right now.

    July 20, 2009 at 10:31 pm |