Buzz Aldrin is over the moon. The astronaut and author of National Geographic’s new book No Dream Is Too High has been orbiting the idea of bringing humans to Mars. When he’s not setting his sights on outer space, he’s scuba diving around Earth for another kind of antigravity adventure.
You described the moon as “magnificent desolation.” Have you found anywhere in the world that’s comparable?
No, you’d have to really carefully cultivate such a lifeless place. When I was there, I realized that what I was looking at hadn’t changed at all in thousands of years.
After being in space, does anything else wow you in your travels?
A quick tour of the Titanic a couple miles down in the ocean, and hitching a ride on a whale shark in the Galápagos—those are wows that you can’t find on the moon.
As an avid scuba diver, what are your bucket list dive spots?
I’ve heard Australia’s Lizard Island, located way up north near Port Darwin, from a number of folks. There’s also an island northeast of New Guinea called New Britain, which was pretty famous to me in my youth as I plotted the progress of World War II, and I’ve seen from some maps how there’s really good diving. There are just so many different locations; it’s a new world down there.
Do you think it’s important to keep exploring, no matter what your age?
Of course I do. I’m exploring things far, far away right now and trying to pin down some orbits in space that go by Mars. I’ll never make it to Mars, but hopefully in a generation or two, people will be able to make that trip. That’s an exciting trip for me, but it’s all a mental trip.
We can also now create virtual reality, so you can find yourself on the surface of Mars—I’ve done a little bit of that in a trial—and you can begin to use that technology in some really unusual places.
How can we create a colony on Mars?
I’ve realized that we have to get fuel from the moon, and then use natural orbital routes to help us get to Mars. Then, in order to build a village or a base on Mars, we should design and build the same base on the moon so we can learn exactly how to do that in our backyard. We can’t have people just visiting Mars; the real purpose should be to inhabit it. If we make the transportation relatively accessible, then more of us will be able to get there.
What’s your favorite space food?
Not very much tasted good, but there were really small shrimp with sauce that I liked. These shrimp had to be freeze-dried, then you’d put water in them and have to squeeze the shrimp through this tube that was in your mouth. And for that to taste good, that’s quite a task.