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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Academics & Research

Space architects, former astronaut eye a leap to Mars


Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin reviewed presentations by students in SICSA Wednesday. | Julie Araica/ The Cougar

Space legend Buzz Aldrin is set on a new frontier for mankind: the “Red Planet.”

Aldrin visited UH on Wednesday to see a group within the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) presents their plan for establishing permanent occupancy on Mars.

“We can send them to the moon first,” Aldrin said. “We send young people, 25 years old, to the moon for six months so they can put things together and learn what it’s like to be on the surface.”

College of Architecture professor Larry Bell founded SICSA in 1987. It is the first and only self-funded research and educational program for space architecture in the world.

Talks of manned missions to Mars have been on the lips of space agencies and space enthusiasts alike for several years now. With the 50th anniversary of the moon landing coming up in 2019, the prospect of not only landing, but colonizing Earth’s red neighbor seem more likely — especially with programs like Mars One and SpaceX.

In an op-ed for CNN published Tuesday, President Barack Obama said NASA will send astronauts to Mars before the 2030s.  However, it is doubtful that by then that 13NASA will be the first party to reach the planet.

Aldrin said that other countries such as Russia and China are also interested in expanding their space programs and may be preparing missions to Mars. He also emphasized the need for more commercial space travel.

The presentation of SICSA graduate Kyle Kesling’s group was on OASIS, Orbital and Surface Integrated Systems, and the four systems that focus on colonizing Mars.

“Aldrin didn’t really have any input on what we presented to him.  However, in our presentation we tried to incorporate the Aldrin Cycler,” Kesling said.

The Aldrin Mars Cycler is described on his website as a “subway-in-the-sky,” a special kind of flight path between Earth and Mars. Although there are different types of Mars cyclers, Aldrin’s is specifically designed with human missions in mind.  

Aldrin’s creation is designed with sustainability in mind and can generate its own artificial gravity to prevent bone and muscle loss in passengers.

Bell said that the presentation went as he hoped it would, but that the purpose of these presentations is to create opportunity for discussion with other schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University.

“The objective is to have other universities pursue different aspects of it — particularly in areas where they have expertise,” Bell said.

Bell said that Aldrin has been working with SICSA since its inception and that both have been close colleagues and friends.

“We explore ideas together, we work together, we talk a lot on the phone,” Bell said. “We are constantly planning strategic ideas for moving the space program forward, Buzz being a very strong proponent for Mars and we have been as well.  This is just a part of a continuing conversation.”

Aldrin and Bell recently finished authoring a book titled “Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles,” which will be on shelves soon.

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