Set sights on Mars, urge moon pioneers
As the world marked the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing Monday, astronauts urged Americans to take inspiration from the Apollo program and go back to the moon and on to Mars.
"We need to go back to the moon," Eugene Cernan, who was the last man to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, told a news conference held with half a dozen other astronauts from the Apollo program.
"We need to learn a bit more about what we think we know already, we need to establish bases, put new telescopes on the moon, get prepared to go to Mars. Because the ultimate goal is to go to Mars," Cernan said.
His call was the latest by now elderly astronauts for increased public backing for NASA's space exploration programs.
On Sunday, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin -- the first and second men on the moon -- and Michael Collins urged Americans to use the memory of the lunar landing 40 years ago as inspiration to prepare for a space journey to Mars.
"Apollo 11 was a symbol of what a great nation and a great people can do if we work hard and work together," Aldrin said at a news conference held Sunday at the Air and Space Museum in Washington.
At Monday's news conference, held at NASA headquarters in Washington, Aldrin said he wants to see a bold resumption of the US space exploration program, with Mars as the goal.
"There may be life on Mars and if there is, it's damn sure we ought to go there and look at it," Aldrin said.
"When we get there, if we don't find any life on Mars, from that point on there will be life on Mars because we'll bring it there, whether it's germs and leftover urine bags, whatever it is," he said.
Cernan said that although the Apollo program was stopped in the 1970s, he nevertheless had fully expected man to return to the moon and go on to Mars by the year 2000.
"I kept saying it's not the end. It's the beginning, and I really believed we'd be back on the moon by the end of that decade and on our way to Mars by the turn of the century," he said.
"My glass has been half empty for three decades at least," he said, saying the Apollo program's greatest legacy was "the inspiration to those who follow."