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Obama goal: Send humans to Mars by the 2030s

President Barack Obama has his eyes on the stars — or more accurately — a planet.

In an op-ed published Tuesday on CNN, Obama set a “clear goal” to send humans to Mars by the 2030s and to have them return to Earth safely, “with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time.”

“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,” Obama wrote. “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.”

Achieving the goal, Obama added, will “require continued cooperation between government and private innovators” — a collaboration that will begin in the coming years when companies send astronauts to the International Space Station.

To that end, Obama announced that the government is “working with our commercial partners to build new habitats that can sustain and transport astronauts on long-duration missions in deep space.”

The White House in a joint blog post with NASA said that seven companies have received awards to develop habitation systems. And this fall, NASA will provide companies with the opportunity to add modules and other capabilities to the International Space Station.

Obama, who’s in the final months of his eight-year presidency, is also looking to set in motion plans, which could pan out to be a key part of his legacy.

It isn’t the first time Obama has rhapsodized about traveling to Mars in his lifetime. In a 2010 speech at the Kennedy Space Center, the President outlined an ambitious program that will eventually include human travel to Mars. He said then that he believed people could be sent to orbit Mars by the “mid-2030s.”

“I expect to be around to see it,” Obama said in the speech.