Buzz Aldrin is teaming up with the Florida Institute of Technology to develop "a master plan" for colonising Mars within 25 years.
The second man to walk on the moon took part in a signing ceremony at the university, less than an hour's drive from Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre. The Buzz Aldrin Space Institute is set to open in the autumn.
The 85-year-old, who followed Neil Armstrong onto the moon's surface on July 20 1969, will serve as a research professor of aeronautics as well as a senior faculty adviser for the institute.
He said he hopes his "master plan" is accepted by Nasa and the country, with international input. Nasa is already working on the spacecraft and rockets to get astronauts to Mars by the mid-2030s.
Mr Aldrin is pushing for a Mars settlement by around 2040. More specifically, he's aiming for 2039, the 70th anniversary of his own Apollo 11 moon landing, although he admits the schedule is "adjustable".
He envisions using Mars' moons, Phobos and Deimos, as preliminary stepping stones for astronauts. He said he dislikes the label "one-way" and imagines tours of duty lasting 10 years.
Florida Tech's executive vice president, T Dwayne McCay, said: "Everyone knows what Buzz Aldrin is most famous for, and that is being a contestant on Dancing with the Stars."
Mr Aldrin cut in saying: "Big Bang Theory."
Mr Aldrin, who has a doctorate in science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, joins two other space fliers on the faculty: former shuttle astronauts Winston Scott and Sam Durrance.