I need to begin this story with an apology. When I told my kids I was taking them to hear Buzz Aldrin speak in Montclair on Sunday, I introduced him as the man who walked on the moon. I should have said that he is the man who wants them to walk on Mars.
Well, not just them. Aldrin–who goes by @TheRealBuzz on Twitter–has spent the 40-plus years since he set foot on the moon trying to convince Washington that America’s next space goal should be to colonize Mars. That’s right: Our kids heading to Mars, just the way the Pilgrims left England for the New World. Sounds crackpot? That’s what a lot of folks thought in 1961 when then President John F. Kennedy told Congress that we were going to the moon.
Aldrin, a native of Montclair, was in town to be honored at his alma mater, Montclair High School, and to promote his new book, Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration. Watchung Booksellers arranged for Aldrin to speak at the Montclair Public Library, and to sign copies of Mission and Look to the Stars, a book on the history of space exploration for kids.
Mars is Aldrin’s prescription for what has to happen to get people to the red planet. He believes that with shuttle-like vehicles, way stations and a lot of international cooperation, America can lead people to Mars by 2035: That would be 66 years after he and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, which was 66 years after the Wright brothers took flight.
Aldrin has been working hard to make this vision accessible to young people, because they will be the ones carrying it out. He’s joined forces with hipster businessman Richard Branson to promote awareness of Virgin Galactic, and with Axe Deodorant (the brand that all of Verona’s teen boys use) and their Axe Apollo Space Camp. He’s been talking up STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, math), which Verona is going to be expanding in the fall. There’s a lot of material on his Web site dedicated to “Generation Mars“. As he told the kids at the front of the Montclair Library auditorium yesterday, “Recognize what your opportunities are and how you can prepare for what’s ahead.”
Baristanet capture the MHS ceremony on video, and you can watch it here: