Politics

Aiming for Mars, Obama Announces Deep-Space Work With Industry

Outgoing president sees humans on Red Planet by 2030s

NASA's Opportunity rover explores an elongated crater called "Spirit of St. Louis" on Mars last year. President Obama on Monday announced his administration is working with private firms on deep-space technologies that could make human travel to Mars possible. (Photo via NASA) 

Citing his boyhood “sense of wonder” about the U.S. space program, President Barack Obama on Monday announced work with private firms on technologies that could make human travel to deep space possible. And Obama reiterated his goal of sending humans to Mars before 2040.

Very early in his presidency, Obama expressed a desire to re-emphasize the American space program and the research it spawns. He called for exploration deeper into the solar system — and beyond. And with just a few months left in his tenure, the president is again aiming for the Red Planet while also trying to bolster his space legacy.

“Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we're already well on our way,” Obama wrote in an op-ed published on CNN’s website. “Within the next two years, private companies will for the first time send astronauts to the International Space Station." 

[White House Breaks With Senate Democrats on Iran Sanctions]

But the outgoing president is thinking beyond man-made space objects, writing that “the next step is to reach beyond the bounds of Earth's orbit.”

He used the op-ed piece to announce that his administration is working with private companies to field “new habitats that can sustain and transport astronauts on long-duration missions in deep space.” Obama contends that such exploration would “teach us how humans can live far from Earth — something we'll need for the long journey to Mars.”

The op-ed was published just a few days before scientists, engineers, students and others will huddle in Pittsburgh for a forum aimed at ginning up new ideas about space travel.

[The Closer: Obama Enters Campaign as Democrats Cling to Leads]

 

The legacy-minded Obama also ticked off a series of what he sees as his top space-related accomplishments as president.

 

“Last year alone, NASA discovered flowing water on Mars and evidence of ice on one of Jupiter's moons, and we mapped Pluto — more than 3 billion miles away — in high-resolution,” he wrote. “Our space telescopes revealed additional Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars, and we're pursuing new missions to interact with asteroids.”

 

“We've flown by every planet in the solar system,” Obama wrote, adding that was “something no other nation can say.”

 

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.