MELBOURNE, Fla. (Reuters) - Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, one of the first Americans to land on the moon, will spearhead a new research institute in Florida aimed at paving a path toward Mars exploration and settlement, officials said on Thursday.
The Buzz Aldrin Space Institute will be based at the Florida Institute of Technology, also known as Florida Tech, located about 40 miles (64 km) south of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Melbourne.
Aldrin, 85, wants to expand his long-term space exploration program that includes human spaceflight, robotics and science initiatives. His long-term goal is establishing permanent settlements on Mars around 2040.
He hopes “to become much more involved in the operations and the guidance of our space program, mostly NASA, but strongly encouraging international involvement,” Aldrin told reporters at a news conference announcing the initiative.
His approach could include sending people to the moon, which was last visited by astronauts in 1972, and creating an outpost on one of Mars’ moons.
Aldrin will serve as the research organization’s senior advisor. He also joins Florida Tech’s faculty as a research professor of aeronautics, but will not be teaching in the role, university president Anthony Catanese said.
In 1969, Aldrin and Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong became the first people to land on the moon. Armstrong died in 2012.
Aldrin and his partner relocated from California to Satellite Beach, Florida, earlier this year.
Editing by Letitia Stein and Sandra Maler