One of the first astronauts to orbit the Moon has said sending people to Mars would be “stupid”.
- Bill Anders says he does not think the public is interested in Mars missions
- The former astronaut says he remains a “big supporter” of unmanned space programs
- Fellow Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman believes Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk’s space missions are “nonsense”
Former US astronaut Bill Anders, 85, was the lunar module pilot for the country’s December 1968 Apollo 8 mission, which completed 10 orbits around the Moon before returning to Earth.
The mission was crucial in paving the way for Apollo 11’s moon landing seven months later.
In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, Mr Anders insisted he is a “big supporter” of unmanned space programs — putting their success down to low cost — but said the idea of sending human crews to Mars was “almost ridiculous”.
Citing a lack of public support for expensive missions involving human crews as the reason for his beliefs, Mr Anders asked: “What’s the imperative? What’s pushing us to go to Mars? I don’t think the public is that interested.”
Despite his pivotal role in the Apollo 8 mission, Mr Anders is critical of the way NASA has evolved — or failed to — since the 1960s.
The former astronaut said: “NASA couldn’t get to the Moon today. They’re so ossified … NASA has turned into a jobs program.”
“Many of the centres 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.”
Admitting he is not a “very popular guy” due to his opinions, Mr Anders added: “I think NASA’s lucky to have what they’ve got — which is still hard, in my mind, to justify.”
The 85-year-old’s former crewmate Frank Borman, who was commander of the Apollo 8 mission, struck a different tone.
He told the radio station: “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.”
However, Mr Borman drew the line at supporting SpaceX founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk and Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, who both have space missions in the works.
Mr Borman said: “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.”
NASA is in the process of planning new human missions to the Moon and plans to develop the technology needed to conduct a human landing on Mars in future.
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