Buzz Aldrin Says Time Has Come to Colonize Mars

At 83-years-old, Buzz Aldrin, one of the first men ever to set foot on the moon (second behind only Neil Armstrong), hasn't lost a step, nor has his passion for space exploration wavered in the years since that day in 1969. Just the opposite, the retired United States Air Force pilot and famous astronaut thinks its high time mankind pulls up its britches and sets out to colonize Mars.

Ask him why he thinks we should send astronauts to the red planet, as BBC News reporter Theo Leggett did, and he'll tell you, "Why did the pilgrims on the Mayflower set out to open up the New World? Because it's in human nature to explore, to find a location to begin a settlement. And it is in reach."

Earth and Mars

All valid points, but there's yet another reason. Exploring the surface of Mars has been a slow, painstaking process. It currently takes around 20 minutes to send commands via radio signals to rovers on the red planet. Aldrin says he was told by a program manager that if humans were able to control them from an orbit around Mars, they could accomplish in one week what it's taken him five years to do from Earth.

One of the major roadblocks to colonizing Mars is cost. It's hard to fathom the government suddenly spending billions of dollars at a time when it's looking to cut costs, so it may come down to private funding. Leggett points to Mars One, a non-profit Dutch foundation that has plans to do exactly that by 2023.

Aldrin sees these firms as proof positive of the enthusiasm to explore Mars, though he believes the government needs to get involved if it's going to happen. According to Aldrin, private enterprises need to see a return on investment.