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Barack Obama Vows to Send Humans to Mars by the 2030s - and Bring Them Back Again Safely

Barack Obama has said it is a "clear goal" for the USA to send humans to Mars by the 2030s. Echoing the sentiments of space-faring billionaire Elon Musk, the American president called for co-operation between his government and "private innovators." 

As well as sending people to the red planet, Obama made it clear he also wants to bring them back.

"We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America's story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time,"Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we're already well on our way. Within the next two years, private companies will for the first time send astronauts to the International Space Station. Obama wrote in an op-ed for CNN .

The president doesn't specifically mention Elon Musk, but the billionaire founder of SpaceX has been very public over his own plans to get to the red planet.

Last month, Musk hosted an event outlining his plan for humans to become a "multiplanetary species" . He said his company has already begun testing the Raptor rocket engine that would one day send humans to Mars.

The rocket would hoist a spaceship big enough to carry 100 to 200 people to Mars, a trip lasting several months. Mr Musk promised no-one would be stuck there, as spaceships would return regularly, and "you get a free return trip if you want".

He said: 
"Ultimately what I'm trying to achieve here is to make Mars seem possible, make it seem as though it's something that we can do in our lifetimes."

Barack Obama's piece for CNN coincides with a NASA blog post announcing that seven companies have received awards to develop future Mars habitats. NASA also said that private companies will be able to add modules to the International Space Station - as well as send their own astronauts up to the base. As Obama looks towards life beyond the White House, it could be that intergalactic travel is where he wants his legacy to rest. 

The president paints a compelling image of the future of human spacetravel:

“Someday, I hope to hoist my own grandchildren onto my shoulders. We’ll still look to the stars in wonder, as humans have since the beginning of time. But instead of eagerly awaiting the return of our intrepid explorers, we’ll know that because of the choices we make now, they’ve gone to space not just to visit, but to stay — and in doing so, to make our lives better here on Earth.”

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