Bill Anders, who was among the first men to have orbited the Moon, stated that it is "stupid" to plan human missions to Mars. Anders was speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live when he exclaimed that sending crews to Mars was “almost ridiculous”. Anders was the lunar module pilot of Apollo 8, the first human spaceflight to leave Earth’s orbit.
While NASA has been preparing new human missions to the Moon, it also wants to launch a new mission to Mars. It has been eyeing to learn the skills and develop technology to enable a future human landing on Mars.
The 85-year-old astronaut said that he is a “big supporter” of the “remarkable” castrated projects but involving public support would imply to fund vastly more expensive human missions. He also mentioned that his main reason for supporting these programs was because they’re much cheaper without humans.
"What's the imperative? What's pushing us to go to Mars?" he said, adding "I don't think the public is that interested".
When NASA was approached to comment on Anders’ remark, the space administration has not responded.
Earlier in November, NASA's InSight spacecraft, the first robotic lander designed to study the deep interior of the Red Planet, touched down safely on the surface of Mars with instruments to detect planetary seismic rumblings. "Touchdown confirmed," a mission control operator at NASA said.
The high-drama landing of the waist-high spacecraft capped a nearly seven-year journey, from spacecraft design, to launch to eventual touchdown, marking the eighth successful landing on Mars in NASA history.
InSight, the first mission to study the deep interior of Mars, blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California on May 5, 2018.
Anders, along with crewmates Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, completed 10 orbits around the Moon in December 1968. They lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida atop a Saturn V. The Apollo 8 crew had spent over 20 hours in orbit before landing to Earth.
It was the furthest humans had ever been from their home planet at that point -- and a vital stepping stone on the road to Apollo 11's historic moon landing just seven months later.
"NASA couldn't get to the moon today. They're so ossified... NASA has turned into a jobs programme... 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," Anders said.
Anders further marked criticism on the decision to focus on near-Earth orbit exploration after completing the Apollo program in the 1970s.
"I think the space shuttle was a serious error. It hardly did anything except have an exciting launch, but it never lived up to its promise," he said.
He further added, "The space station is only there because you had a shuttle, and vice-versa. NASA really mismanaged the manned programme since the late lunar landings."
However, the views of the proud patriot who has served the US military, doesn’t seem to be accepted by some in the space community.
"I think NASA's lucky to have what they've got -- which is still hard, in my mind, to justify. I'm not a very popular guy at NASA for saying that, but that's what I think," he explained.