Obama pushes goal to send humans to Mars by 2030s

President Obama said Tuesday he has set a clear goal to send humans to Mars in the next 20 years and have them return to Earth safely.

Seeking to reinvigorate his call to send humans to Mars by the 2030s, President Obama says the U.S. is relying on private industry to find ways to make the "giant leap." Obama was calling attention to the government contracts awarded to six companies to build prototypes for "habitats" that could sustain human life in deep space. He also said that within two years, private companies will send astronauts to the International Space Station, part of a program to allow companies to use an open docking port on the station to develop their own innovations. He said the ultimate goal is for humans eventually to stay on the Red Planet "for an extended time."

These missions will teach us how humans can live far from Earth, something we'll need for the long journey to Mars.

President Obama in an op-ed on CNN's website

Obama's comments come ahead of a meeting planned by the White House in Pittsburgh this week aimed at teaming scientists, students and others to further efforts to develop the commercial space market, according to the president's op-ed. Obama first set a goal in 2010 to send humans to Mars by the 2030s, but the initiative has attracted little attention since then. Many Government Accountability Office reports have warned of the challenges in meeting that goal, most notably a lack of substantial U.S. government funding. Obama did not elaborate on what a Mars mission would cost or how the U.S. would pay for it. But he said it will require years of patience, testing and education.

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Distance to Mars

While private companies are already working on missions to space, including to the International Space Station, humans have yet to travel to Mars, Earth's neighbor some 35 million miles away at their closest point in orbit, according to NASA. Like Earth, the so-called Red Planet also has seasons, and a 2012 NASA mission found conditions there once supported microbial life.

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Barack Obama: America will take the giant leap to Mars

The president writes for CNN