London, Oct 25 : Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, the second man on the Moon, has said that the first astronauts sent to Mars should be prepared to spend the rest of their lives there, as the Red Planet offers a greater potential as a place for habitation.
According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, Aldrin said that Mars is nearer terrestrial conditions, much better than the moon and any other place, with what appear to be vast reserves of frozen water.
"It is easier to subsist, to provide the support needed for people there, than on the moon," he explained.
The distance between the Red Planet and Earth varies between 55 million km and more than 400 million km.
Even at the most favourable planetary conjunction, a round trip to Mars would take about 18 months.
"That's why you should send people there permanently," said Aldrin. "If we are not willing to do that, then I don't think we should just go once and have the expense of doing that and then stop," he added.
NASA and the European Space Agency are making tentative plans for a manned trip to Mars in about 2030 or 2040.
The crew would include about six people, with life-support systems and other gear pre-positioned for them on the Martian surface.
Aldrin said that the vanguard could be joined by others, making a colony of about 30 people.
"They need to go there more with the psychology of knowing that you are a pioneering settler and you don't look forward to go back home again after a couple of years," he said.
"At age 35, we send them. At age 65, who knows what advances have taken place? They can retire there, or maybe we can bring them back," he added.
According to Aldrin, given the time lag in communications between Earth and Mars, it made sense to have human explorers who could make decisions swiftly on the spot.
He said that going to Mars provided a rationale for manned flights, which were designed to "do things that are innovative, new, pioneering".