The late astrophysicist told Aldrin we need to "colonize the Moon first."

Order of Space Operations

In May, astronaut Buzz Aldrin penned a Washington Post op-ed piece calling for a "great migration" of humanity to Mars — but not until after "a sustainable international return to the Moon."

We now know who was responsible for convincing Aldrin that Moon colonization should precede any similar plans for the Red Planet: late astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.

Hawking Advice

On June 24, Aldrin received the first Stephen Hawking Medal for Lifetime Achievement at the Starmus festival in Zurich. During the event, the astronaut recounted a meeting with Hawking at the scientist's Cambridge office.

"[A]t that time I had been anxious that we should make a continuous orbit between Earth and Mars," Aldrin said, according to The Telegraph, "and he started tapping out letters with his cheek, the way he did... eventually he said, in that computerized voice of his, 'colonize the Moon first'."

Pivoting Plans

That encounter with Hawking signaled a turning point in Aldrin's thinking about humanity's off-world plans.

"[S]ince that time I realized there are so many things we need to do before we send people to Mars," Aldrin told the Starmus festival audience, "and the Moon is absolutely the best place to do that."

READ MORE: Buzz Aldrin: Stephen Hawking persuaded me to go back to the Moon before Mars [The Telegraph]

More on Mars colonization: Buzz Aldrin Calls for "Great Migration of Humankind to Mars"

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