As the Dutch-based Mars One venture continues to narrow down candidates for its one-way mission to the red planet, the idea of a permanent human settlement in space is seeming less far-fetched.
But in a conversation with HuffPost Live on Wednesday, NASA astronaut Ron Garan, whose space travels include a six-month stay on Expedition 27 to the International Space Station in 2011, revealed that he thinks there's a better option than Mars for a first attempt at interplanetary colonization: the moon.
"I think we have a long, long way to go both figuratively and literally to get to Mars," Garan told host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. "There's many steps, I think, and I think personally what makes sense as a next step in space exploration is to establish a transportation infrastructure between the Earth and the moon and to determine a permanent human presence on the moon."
Providing routine missions to the moon and creating a base for humans there will offer a means of exploring "the entire solar system, including Mars," Garan said. For instance, with a natural supply of water, spaceships could refuel on the moon. He explained:
"There's water on the moon and water equals rocket fuel, because that's hydrogen and oxygen. It is really hard to launch anything from the surface of the Earth because of the gravitational pull of the Earth. There's one-sixth gravitational pull on the moon, so if we're launching anything from the moon, we have to expend a lot less energy which is a lot less resources, a lot less money, to get to where we want to go.
Not too shabby!
Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live’s morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before!