Eight-year-old Marcus Rowland is shooting for the moon — or to be more correct, he’s shooting for Mars. The ambitious soon-to-be third-grader has a desire to travel millions of miles through space to explore Earth’s planetary neighbor. This week, Marcus had the opportunity to ask advice from one of the few humans to walk on the moon — astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the lunar surface.

 

Eight-year-old Marcus Rowland is shooting for the moon — or to be more correct, he’s shooting for Mars.    The ambitious soon-to-be Deer Hill third-grader has a desire to travel millions of miles through space to explore Earth’s planetary neighbor.    This week, Marcus had the opportunity to ask advice from one of the few humans to walk on the moon — astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the lunar surface.    In an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing on July 20, the Museum of Science took part in a live NASA panel discussion broadcast from the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Marcus’ question was chosen in a Museum of Science contest where entries were submitted from the young and old. Several museums from around the country participated in the panel discussion via live video feed.    The question Marcus asks reveals his love of science and exploration — and ultimate goal: “I would like to go to Mars one day as an engineer or scientist. What should I study in school? What hobbies are good for an astronaut?”   The first thing Buzz Aldrin said in response, “I know right where you’re coming from.” Aldrin said when he was pursuing his doctorate of science in Astronautics from MIT he lived in North Scituate.    Instead of listing off science and math courses astronauts need to be proficient in, Aldrin focused on the qualities a person needs to become an astronaut.    “You need patience, you need to communicate with other people, you need to have, I think, something that separates you from others,’ Aldrin told Marcus. He said there are many like Marcus who would like to be an astronaut and go to Mars – he needed to find a way to make himself unique.      Aldrin has been a vocal supporter of sending humans to Mars — at the right time. The retired astronaut asked Marcus how much time he plans to spend on Mars when he gets there. Marcus answered “a few days.”   Aldrin said that was a normal answer, but said it may not be practical, “it may take you the better part of a year just to get there, why would you want to stay only a couple of days?”   In order to get the science to make the trip worthwhile and get a return on the investment, Aldrin said it might take 50 to 60 people to create a sustaining group on Mars and do what needs to be done.    “We need to rethink a good bit about are we really ready to venture out that far…and what does it really take,” Aldrin said, adding there are other things to explore besides Mars (asteroids, for example).    “We don’t want to be kicking up dust on the moon” in 2035 unless there was a compelling reason to do so.   As a closing piece to Marcus, “we’ll be doing some real man-to-man talking about how long you might want to stay…whether you want to spend rest of life on Mars or (wait) until we come up with warp drive so we can bring you back in a couple of days.”   At his interview with the Mariner Tuesday morning, Marcus had on display a replica of the five-stage Apollo 11 rocket that took Buzz Aldrin to the moon. He explained the sequence of how the astronaut landed on the moon and returned safely to earth.    A lover of Legos and math, Marcus has been fascinated by all things “space” for the past few years. He watches television shows and reads books about space-related topics. When Marcus became the owner of two pet gerbils recently, he named one of them “Buzz,” after Aldrin.    One of the reasons he’d like to go to Mars is to see if the secret to curing cancer is hidden on the Red Planet.    “We haven’t explored (space) that much and I want to explore it,” Marcus said. He and his parents have visited the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.   In an interesting coincidence, Marcus’ grandfather grew up in Montclair, New Jersey — Aldrin’s hometown — on the same street as Aldrin. When the two were youngsters they were friends.    Marcus and his parents arrived at the museum early on Monday to explore the special exhibit celebrating the 40th anniversary of the landing on the moon.   But, talking to Buzz Aldrin was the highlight.    “I’m going to go to space if I have to build a rocket and send myself up!” Marcus said.    Contact Nancy White at nwhite@cnc.com.