15 April 2010
Obama aims to send astronauts to Mars orbit in 2030s
By Staff Writers
US President Barack Obama said Thursday he is aiming to send US astronauts into Mars orbit in the mid-2030s as he sought to quell protests over his earlier space policies.
"By 2025 we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first ever crew missions beyond the moon into deep space," Obama told an audience at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
"So, we'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to earth, and a landing on Mars will follow."
Obama, who was accompanied on his trip by astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon, vowed he was "100 percent committed" to NASA's mission as he sought to set a new course for future US space travel.
The US president was making a whirlwind trip to the heart of the US space industry after he was hit with stinging criticism for dropping the costly Constellation project which had aimed to put Americans back on the moon.
"We should attempt a return to the surface of the moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say, pretty bluntly here, we've been there before. Buzz has been there," Obama said.
"There's a lot more of space to explore and a lot more to learn when we do," the president said, as he unveiled a plan to increase NASA's budget by six billion dollars over the next five years.
His plan includes ramping up "robotic exploration of the solar system, including a probe of the sun's atmosphere, new scouting missions to Mars and other destinations, and an advanced telescope to follow Hubble," he said.
"As president, I believe that space exploration is not a luxury, it's not an afterthought in America's quest for a brighter future. It is an essential part of that quest," he said at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
"I am 100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future."
Obama also pledged that the new plan would create some 2,500 jobs along the
so-called space coast in the next two years.