Obama calls for manned mission to Mars by 2030s
US President to meet scientists, engineers and students this week to 'dream up ways to find the next frontiers'
US President Barack Obama has promised to land humans on Mars within the next 20 years.
Laying out his vision for future manned missions to the Red Planet for CNN, Obama said the US government would partner with private companies to send humans on an expedition to Mars and back by the 2030s.
"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," he said, using language evoking his predecessor John F Kennedy's Cold War pledge to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth.
"If we make our leadership in space even stronger in this century than it was in the last, we won't just benefit from related advances in energy, medicine, agriculture and artificial intelligence, we'll benefit from a better understanding of our environment and ourselves."
The President did not elaborate on how the US would fund these trips, "nor did he specify which commercial companies would be involved in the effort", says the Daily Mail.
However, the White House did confirm he is to convene a meeting of scientists, engineers and students this week "to dream up ways to build on our progress and find the next frontiers".
SpaceX, headed by entrepreneur Elon Musk, one of more than 1,000 private companies cited by Obama, hopes to send people to Mars in the next few years. However, the California-based company has run into problems after it was forced to write off more than $200m after a launch failure last month.
In addition, getting enough food and water into space to feed astronauts on a mission lasting months or even years is "a key logistical problem", says the Mail.
Obama "will be keen for such an achievement to form part of his legacy as he nears the end of his second term", says Sky News.
However, the President's last-minute conversion to space exploration has been met with cynicism in some quarters.
Politicians of both parties have criticised the administration for allowing the US to fall behind China in space exploration, with some accusing Obama of "diverting money from space exploration to climate change research", says the Washington Times.