In Brief
  • President Barack Obama reveals in a letter that the United States' goal is to send humans to Mars by the 2030s and return them safely to Earth.
  • He expects the country's continued investment in space travel will have positive repercussions in other fields, including energy, medicine, and agriculture.

Space Race 2.0

In an open letter published today, President Barack Obama has made an ambitious declaration: the United States hopes to send humans to Mars by the 2030s.

We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time.

So how exactly will America take this giant leap to Mars?

In the letter, President Obama maps out several steps that are already being undertaken, focusing on working closely with commercial partners to create habitats that will allow extended missions in deep space. On those we can study how humans can survive outside of our own planet and ultimately, survive the journey to Mars. He also emphasizes encouraging the next generation to continue this initiative through education.

Getting there will take a giant leap. But the first, small steps happen when our students — the Mars generation — walk into their classrooms each day. Scientific discovery doesn’t happen with the flip of a switch; it takes years of testing, patience and a national commitment to education.

Image Credit: NASA

Beyond Space

President Obama asserts that the country’s concerted efforts to take the lead in space travel will benefit us in other fields, paving the way for further advancements in energy, medicine, agriculture, and artificial intelligence, especially as we gain a deeper understanding of how the universe works.

He wraps up his letter with his vision for the future, one in which those advancements have changed the lives of people both on and off our home planet.

Someday, I hope to hoist my own grandchildren onto my shoulders. We’ll still look to the stars in wonder, as humans have since the beginning of time. But instead of eagerly awaiting the return of our intrepid explorers, we’ll know that because of the choices we make now, they’ve gone to space not just to visit, but to stay — and in doing so, to make our lives better here on Earth.