- Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin wants to see space travel more accessible to the masses
- He works with the U.S. government to discuss the future of the country's space program
- Private companies are influencing space travel more than in the past, when the government dominated exploration
- Aldrin supports a lottery system for deciding who will become space tourists
Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin is one of the privileged few to have walked on the moon, but he hopes space tourism will be much more of an equal-opportunity experience.
More than 40 years after the historic moon landing, Aldrin is now consulting for the U.S. government about the future of the country's space program and how to make space more accessible to everyday people.
NASA has driven space exploration for decades, but with the rise of Virgin Galactic, Space X and other companies that focus on suborbital flights, the private sphere and government programs are appearing to intersect in the realm space travel.
"Private wants a return on investment, a profit. I think there's some profits to be made by going to the moon," Aldrin says.
The bigger question may be how passengers are to be chosen. When this question was discussed 25 years ago, Aldrin says, an obvious answer was to offer the flights to the highest bidders.
"But somebody in the back of the room said, 'How about a lottery?' Man, my ears perked up at that, and I became a devotee of a lottery to select people," he says.
A lottery system would produce the kind of return on investment Aldrin wanted to see. "I wasn't interested in a big payoff or the profit made. I was interested in exposing space to a large number of people," he says.
Nowadays, Aldrin spends most of his time on the road, with a schedule packed with scuba diving trips, international meetings on space, visiting members of Congress and developing his nonprofit organization, which aims to build interest in space and advocate for affordable space travel.
Even for the man who has logged more than 280 hours in space and has literally seen the world, the inconvenience of earthly travel can still get to him -- most of all, the airport security checks.
It is perhaps fitting that Aldrin continues to explore, and not on land either, instead voyaging underwater with scuba gear. He counts Micronesia as one of his favorite places and has visited multiple times.
"I visited Pohnpei. I dove on Japanese war ships. And we recently dove in a further island, Palau. That was really good."
But the final frontier is still out there. Although Aldrin's mission for years has been for civilians to travel to the moon, his broader dream for space travel is for humans to land on Mars someday.
"I'm not trivializing Star Trek, because my hopes for the future is based on USS Enterprise, to boldly go where man's not been before," he says.