Apollo 17 astronaut returns for 2016 Von Braun Symposium

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.-- UAH hosted the 2016 Von Braun Symposium this week, and the topic everyone is talking about is NASA'S Journey to Mars.

Dr. Harrison Schmitt was a part of the Apollo 17 missions, and also the first scientist astronaut. He wants to see us land on Mars by 2035.

"Mars gives us a number of potentially unique opportunities to fill in the gap between the earth and the moon," said Schmitt.

He said the Apollo missions show how useful it is to have humans in space, as opposed to rovers or robots.

"It took them four years to do it, it took us three days, so you see the difference in what human beings bring to the table in terms of efficiency," said Schmitt.

Schmitt said he has always been impressed by the scale of the space operation here in Huntsville. Von Braun and his team's work on the Saturn V changed NASA forever.

"It was clearly the enabling technology, as I said before, of the Apollo program," he said.

Schmitt believes the space launch system and it's derivatives will do the same thing for the journey to Mars.

"Not only our return to the moon but also for ultimately putting Americans on Mars," he said.

He hopes to be around to see that historic landing. Schmitt said between November of 1968 and November of 1969 there was basically a Saturn V launch every two months. Von Braun's work was a large part in that feat.