President Barack Obama is setting his sights towards Mars. Recently, the president penned an opinion piece for CNN on the future of space exploration in America. In it, he talked of the scientific research he’s invested in during his presidency, and his belief that humans could reach the red planet “by the 2030s.”

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“I still have the same sense of wonder about our space program that I did as a child,” President Obama said. “It represents an essential part of our character – curiosity and exploration, innovation and ingenuity, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and doing it before anybody else.”

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President Obama recalled his vow “to return science to its rightful place” in his first presidential address. He detailed the accomplishments America’s space program has achieved since, such as finding water on Mars, taking some of the best images of Pluto ever, and finding Earth-like planets. He said only America can claim to have “flown by every planet in the solar system.” Even as such thrilling discoveries are made, the president said “the cost of space exploration” keeps going down for taxpayers.

Linked to thriving space exploration is STEM education. According to President Obama, 100,000 engineers are now graduating each year “from American schools.” The president’s goal is to train 100,000 new quality STEM teachers in 10 years, and he said we are “on track” to reach that goal.

President Obama referred to today’s students as “the Mars generation.” He said initially the goal will be to send humans to Mars and then return them to Earth, with a long term goal of astronauts remaining on Mars. He held out the hope he would witness that day with his grandchildren on his shoulders, as he once sat on his grandfather’s shoulders “waving a flag as our astronauts returned to Hawaii.”

Via CNN

Images via Daniel Borman on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons