[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."]
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
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