President Obama has a Tuesday op-ed on CNN, but he's not writing about Election 2016—or even anything on Earth. Instead, the president announces America's plans for a "giant leap to Mars," with a "clear goal" to get humans to the red planet by the 2030s and then safely back home, with the "ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time." Obama says the government is working in tandem with private commercial firms, an initiative more carefully spelled out in a joint White House/NASA blog post. Seven companies are being funded to start working on "habitation systems" that will one day serve as spacecraft to transport astronauts on deep-space missions, including Mars trips. The second part of the initiative, starting this fall: giving private companies the chance to add their own "modules and other capabilities" onto the International Space Station.
CNN notes Obama has long harbored the dream of traveling to Mars, even optimistically saying in a 2010 speech, "I expect to be around to see it." His CNN op-ed reveals that almost childlike excitement about space travel, from his memories of sitting on his grandfather's shoulders to watch astronauts coming home to Hawaii to his tenure as president, when he "vowed to return science to its rightful place"—which he notes the US has since done through expanded NASA technology, ISS innovations, and the creation of private-sector jobs devoted to space exploration. "[The space program] represents an essential part of our character—curiosity and exploration, innovation and ingenuity, pushing the boundaries of what's possible and doing it before anybody else," he writes. Catch his complete op-ed. (What's going to eventually happen to the ISS.)