Obama Insists US Astronauts Must Reach Mars by Mid-2030s

President Barack Obama yesterday insisted that US astronauts will reach Mars by the mid-2030s, during a speech in which he stressed "nobody is more committed to manned spaceflight, to human exploration of space than I am".

Speaking to a "polite" crowd of around 200 staff and guests at the Kennedy Space Center, Obama dismissed the idea of a return to the Moon, and said: "By 2025, we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the Moon into deep space. So we'll start - we'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history," Register says.

According to New York Times, this was the first time that the president had lent his personal political capital in an increasingly testy fight over the future of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Mr. Obama promised $40 million to help retrain workers in and around the Kennedy Space Center who will lose their jobs when the space shuttles are retired. He also stated that NASA would start developing a heavy-lift rocket by 2015, a promise that presumes the president’s re-election in 2012.

The tweaks appear to reflect political calculations. Florida and its 27 electoral votes are a likely key battleground in the next presidential election. On board Air Force One with the president on the flight to the Kennedy Space Center were two Democratic members of Congress from Florida: Senator Bill Nelson and Representative Suzanne M. Kosmas, whose district includes the Kennedy Space Center.

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