Speaking with students at the 2016 White House Science Fair, President Barrack Obama said that he has been fascinated by astronauts and space travel from a young age.
“For me, the space program has always captured an essential part of what it means to be an American,” he said. “Curiosity and exploration, innovation and ingenuity, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and doing it before anybody else.”
He attributes today’s generation of inspired engineers and scientists to the “space race we won.”
During his very first address to the American people, President Obama vowed to “return science to its rightful place.” At the fair, Obama reminded his audience that his administration “made the largest single investment in basic research in our history.”
“I went to the Kennedy Space Center,” he continued, “to call for reimagining and reinvigorating our space program to explore more of our solar system and look deeper into the universe than ever.”
In the years since, NASA has discovered flowing water on Mars and signs of ice on one of Jupiter’s moons. Researchers have made detailed maps of Pluto, the most distant “planet” of our solar system, and located Earth-like planets in other solar systems.
“I still have the same sense of wonder about our space program that I did as a child,” the President admitted.
Today, NASA is developing ways to deflect incoming asteroids as well as building habitats capable of sustaining astronauts during long missions into deep space.
“Just five years ago, US companies were shut out of the global commercial launch market. Today, thanks to groundwork laid by the men and women of NASA, they own more than third of it. More than 1,000 companies across nearly all 50 states are working on private space initiatives,” wrote Obama in a CNN opinion piece (link below).
Obama also stated that America’s space program has set a clear goal to send humans to Mars sometime during the 2030s. The ultimate goal is to remain on Mars “for an extended time.” Reaching the red planet will require “continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we’re already on our way.”
Obama refers to today’s youth as the “Mars generation” and cites advancements in STEM education that will prepare future engineers for these goals. “For the first time, more than 100,000 engineers are graduating from American schools every year, and we’re on track to accomplish my goal of training 100,000 excellent new STEM teachers in a decade.”
The White House Science Fair is an annual event started by President Obama six years ago. The 2016 event, held on April 13th, focused on some of America’s greatest challenges including climate change, cancer, and how to reach Mars.