For advice about living on Mars, who would you turn to? Elon Musk? Jeff Bezos? Matt Damon? How about someone who has actually lived beyond the orbit of the Earth? That small and sadly diminishing list includes Bill Anders and Frank Borman, two of the first three astronauts to leave Earth's orbit and circle the Moon on the Apollo 8 mission – an event whose 50th anniversary we’re now celebrating. While Anders and Borman never set foot on the lunar surface, they certainly have more experience with living far from Earth than an electric car driver or a cardboard box mailer, right? So, what does former astronaut Bill Anders think about living on Mars?
"What's the imperative? What's pushing us to go to Mars? I don't think the public is that interested."
That was one of the nicer things Anders said about sending humans to Mars in a recent interview with the BBC celebrating the Apollo 8 anniversary. He was referring more to the exorbitant costs of human space exploration versus less expensive and safer missions using robots, rovers and other remote exploring machines. He’s probably right about the public’s predicted reaction to the costs, but he saves his stronger words for his assessment of sending humans to work and live on Mars in general, calling it "stupid" and "almost ridiculous."
"NASA couldn't get to the Moon today. They're so ossified... NASA has turned into a jobs program ... many of the centers are mainly interested in keeping busy and you don't see the public support other than they get the workers their pay and their congressmen get re-elected."
Anders obviously isn’t happy with the organization he worked for as an astronaut and later worked with as the Executive Secretary for the National Aeronautics and Space Council. He knows firsthand the scientific progress that has been made since then and the challenge of dealing with the politics of space, having worked for the Atomic Energy Commission, the joint U.S./USSR technology exchange program for fission and fusion power, General Electric's Aircraft Equipment Division and as Textron’s Executive Vice President for aerospace. It’s no wonder he says that “I'm not a very popular guy at NASA for saying that.”
"I'm not as critical of NASA as Bill is. I firmly believe that we need robust exploration of our Solar System and I think man is part of that. I do think there's a lot of hype about Mars that is nonsense. Musk and Bezos, they're talking about putting colonies on Mars, that's nonsense."
Fellow Apollo 8 crew member Frank Borman – experienced in the politics of space as the only astronaut on the Apollo 1 fire review board and experienced in both the costs and benefits of air travel as the CEO of Eastern Airlines – is less critical of NASA than Anders but agrees that the costs of human habitation on Mars far exceeds the benefits to the point of “nonsense.”
While he didn’t comment on the Martian colony controversy, third Apollo 8 crew member Jim Lovell – one of only three humans to visit the Moon twice – waxed philosophical about the real purpose of space exploration:
“When I looked at the Earth itself... I started to wonder why I was here, what's my purpose here … it sort of dawned me. And my perspective is that God has given mankind a stage on which to perform. How the play turns out, is up to us."
It’s up to us. Who are you going to listen to for advice on living on Mars – the battery and cardboard box guys or three experienced space travelers?
No humans will live on Mars
These astronauts guarantee
Even if Jeff and Elon
Build a fancy B-and-B