Buzz Aldrin is one of the few former astronauts who have spoken out in support of the new proposed budget/direction for NASA. But, now, Buzz wants to add a little “oomph” to the underlying goal of getting to Mars by providing one thing that many think is missing from President Obama’s proposed budget: heavy lift capability.
“I believe we can be well on our way to Mars by July 20, 2019 — which just happens to be the 50th anniversary of my Apollo 11 flight to the moon,” Buzz Aldrin wrote in an opinion piece on AOL.com. “The plan I’ve designed, called a unified space vision, contains ideas for the development of a deep-space craft that I call the Exploration Module, and development of a true heavy lift space booster evolved from the existing space shuttle.”
In last week’s Congressional hearings — which some journalists classified as a “grilling” instead of testimony, members of Congress expressed concern (sometimes bordering on outrage) when talking with NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden that under the proposed Obama plan, NASA will no longer be in the human spaceflight business, as space transportation services will be turned over to commercial firms.
Buzz says that with his plan, commercial carriers would fly astronauts and cargo up to the space station, but NASA would stay in the human spaceflight business by designing and building the Exploration Module, or XM.
The prototype of the spacecraft would be built in space, using excess modules and parts left over from constructing the space station. Buzz proposes continuing to fly the space shuttle for several additional flights to bring up the pieces. The XM would be docked to the station and outfitted by astronauts.
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Then, attach a rocket engine is attached to the prototype and head to the Moon, just for a flyby.
To keep much of the current NASA workforce employed, Buzz proposes to use the shuttle until the replacement can be built, and to use shuttle derived part for the heavy lift XM. “Why should we abandon something before a replacement ship is available? Sure doesn’t make much sense to me,” he said.
“By building a deep-space craft,” Buzz writes, “NASA can use much of their engineering know-how and put a form to Charlie Bolden’s Mars mission dream. It allows the commercial folks their unfettered access to the station, as President Obama proposes. And it recommits America to leadership in space by aiming at Mars, using parts and equipment already paid for by the taxpayers.”
Buzz wants to know: What are we waiting for?