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On to Mars: Obama declares, 'I expect to see it'

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-CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – President Barack Obama boldly predicted Thursday his new plans for space exploration would lead American astronauts on historic, almost fantastic journeys to an asteroid and then to Mars — and in his lifetime — relying on rockets and propulsion still to be imagined and built.

"I expect to be around to see it," he said of pioneering U.S. trips starting with a landing on an asteroid — a colossal feat in itself — before the long-dreamed-of expedition to Mars. He spoke near the historic Kennedy Space Center launch pads that sent the first men to the moon, a blunt rejoinder to critics, including several former astronauts, who contend his planned changes will instead deal a staggering blow to the nation's manned space program.

"We want to leap into the future," not continue on the same path as before, Obama said as he sought to reassure NASA workers that America's space adventures would soar on despite the impending termination of space shuttle flights.

His prediction was reminiscent of President John F. Kennedy's declaration in 1961, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth." That goal was fulfilled in 1969.

Obama did not predict a Mars landing soon. But he said that by 2025, the nation would have a new spacecraft "designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space."

"We'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history," he said. "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. And I expect to be around to see it."
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TAGGED: POLITICS, SPACE


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