NASA hero Buzz Aldrin noted his confidence in the safe return of Shuttle Discovery while also giving his support for the next stage in US manned space flight – a return to the Moon and a trip to Mars.
The 75-year-old former astronaut was the second man to walk on the moon and is part of NASA’s publicity drive on President Bush’s Vision of Space Exploration.
Speaking of the current NASA mission in manned space flight – STS-114 – Aldrin didn’t hesitate in giving his assurances that he believes Discovery will make it back without any problems.
“She is a magnificent craft and a real joy to see her gracefully sail in orbit,” he said. “I have every confidence that the condition of Discovery is very good right now and that we shouldn’t have that much concern about re-entry.”
At the same time, with the Shuttle fleet due for retirement in 2010, Aldrin’s attention is focused on the new generation of manned spacecraft.
“Nearly everybody agrees we’re overdue for a transition to go beyond Earth’s low orbit and resume exploration,” he added, noting the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) – expected to gain more media attention this month, with NASA set to begin briefing the major conclusions of the combined 60-day exploration architecture studies the week of August 15th, beginning with the White House.
“I think we’re headed towards Mars although I’m not sure I’ll be around to see that happen,” Aldrin added – with a return to the Moon slated for 2020 – with Mars following around 10 years later.
Famed for an incident on Earth when he punched a deluded conspiracy protester who asked him to swear on the Bible that he actually went to the Moon, Aldrin also directed a right hook at some of the Editorials seen in the media of late – some of which criticised NASA for staggered Return to Flight issues – classing them as attention seekers.
“There are always people who want to get attention for criticising what’s going on,” he pointed out.
“There were people saying we were going to sink 50 feet into the dust of the moon when we tried to land.”