The Buzz At Mars Society
Big scoop! BUZZ ALDRIN will shortly be joining Jim Benson's SpaceDev!
I've been at the 10th International Mars Society Convention on the UCLA campus. With 100 degree F temperatures in Southern California, it is great to have an air-conditioned suit! Thursday the attendees heard an opening plenary by Robert Zubrin, with additional talks by Elon Musk and Peter Diamandis. Friday's program included Chris McKay, Scott Horowitz and Ares Launch Program Manager Steve Cook. Saturday afternoon I gave a talk on spacesuits, and in the morning was in the front row for Aldrin. (His hat reads ON TO MARS.) He has officially joined the ranks of greybeards, but promises to get a shave by November.
As an American, Dr. Aldrin is very concerned about the "gap" between Shuttle retirement (2010) and Orion (2015, maybe). He let us know that he is joining the #3 COTS team, which we recognise as SpaceDev. The COTS program had been narrowed to SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler. Now that RPK has failed to meet funding targets because they are hard, SpaceDev hopes to fill the gap. They want to build a winged spacecraft based on the HL-20 design atop an Atlas V booster.
Aldrin does not favour a large lunar settlement because "the Moon is not a nice place to stay. Trust me." He thinks we should explore Phobos and Deimos before Mars. After expeditions to asteroids, the Martian moons would be a logical next step. Aldrin pointed out that Phobos' L1 point is only 3.2 km from the surface, an excellent place for a Space station.
Below is one of the analog spacesuits used by the Society at their Mars Desert Research Station. The suit is made of heavy canvas, has no cooling and gets extremely hot in the desert. Many activities are restricted to night and Winter because the suits are so uncomfortable. I hope to assist the Mars Society with a more comfortable climate-controlled suit.