If NASA ever sends humans to Mars, it’s going to take a long, long time to get there. One possible way to make the trip less daunting is taking a pit stop on the Moon, according to former astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
Speaking to TechInsider, Aldrin said he believes if humans were to make it to Mars, a lunar colony is a necessary stepping stone. It would make for a natural extension to the International Space Station, in which our best minds from around the world collaborate for the betterment of humanity.
“We rotate people, and we’ll do that at the Moon as we establish permanent occupancy,” Aldrin explained. “But there’s no need to have people living for long times, the rest of their life, because it’s relatively easy to come back from the Moon.”
Aldrin would know—he was the second human to step foot on the Moon in 1969 behind Neil Armstrong. These lunar colonies would be more of rest stops than permanent living spaces. Aldrin said he envisions a Moon base to be more of a place to refuel and regroup before going on longer missions.
There’s been a debate about whether NASA should go on longer missions at all. The agency is hellbent on getting to Mars but the capital needed to make such a trip happen could take years and millions of dollars. Setting up a Moon colony might be more attainable as noted by a 2015 study, which concluded setting up a lunar base might only cost about $10 billion.
NASA has no immediate plans to return to the Moon, but it might be worth exploring if we plan on shuttling humans to Mars.