UAE "will play a role" in global space race - Buzz Aldrin

Legendary US astronaut who landed on the moon said humans on Mars is not just science-fiction
Legendary US astronaut Buzz Aldrin was one of the first men to walk on the moon during mankinds first landing of Apollo 11 on July 21, 1969. Source: NASA/AFP/Getty Images.
By Beatrice Thomas
Wed 09 Apr 2014 10:28 AM

Legendary US astronaut Buzz Aldrin has heralded the potential role of the UAE in the commercial development of space in a keynote address at the Second Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi.

Aldrin, who was one of the first men to walk on the moon during mankind's first landing of Apollo 11 on July 21, 1969, said he believed global co-operation was needed to advance space exploration.

“I also believe that commercial investment plays a crucial role in the future development of space as it transitions from government to commercial to private sector,” he said.

He believed the past few years had shown that commercial investment was “finally ready”.

“I stand before you here today because I believe that the United Arab Emirates will play a role in this commercial development of space,” he said.

Aldrin, who spoke of the challenges of the Apollo 11 Mission, his admission upon second application into the NASA space program and his time as a fighter pilot in the Korean War during the keynote address, also talked about his “unified space vision” and the path that he proposes for humans to travel to Mars by 2030s.

Under his plan, the multiple missions would be with the aim of colonising the red planet rather than return missions, which were difficult given the complexities of landing on Mars.

“To some people it might seem like science-fiction, but this is what people said when (US President John F) Kennedy said we should go to the moon,” he said.

However, he said to progress such an idea, a plan was needed, along with “a public goal and a specific time”, adding that the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 2019 would be opportune.

Also, removing “obstacles that we have set up” for co-operation with China was important both symbolically and because of the growing presence of China in the aerospace sector.

“I don’t believe that landing on Mars is going to be a private venture,” he said. “It could, but we’ve done things like that on earth in the past but the pay off has been pretty expensive. It’s a little difficult to land people on the moon and get a financial return from it. It’s what you develop as the result of doing that – your stature in the international community and what that leads to in inspiration and advancing technology in many areas is where the pay off is.”

On companies advancing commercial space tourism such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and US company XCORE, Aldrin said he was excited to see the dream of space tourism coming to fruition.

Read our exclusive one-to-one interview with Buzz Aldrin in Arabian Business on April 20.

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