Humans may travel to Mars sooner than we thought - maybe even within the next 20 years.
President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that the U.S. government is partnering with commercial companies to build habitats to allow astronauts to travel to Mars.
"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 wrote in a piece published by CNN.com.
Obama previously set a goal in 2010 to send humans to Mars by the 2030s. He said the next step is to "reach beyond the bounds of Earth's orbit." Obama said the U.S. is collaborating on missions that will help scientists understand how long humans can live "far from Earth."
NASA has been working to develop spacecrafts and technologies to send astronauts deeper into space, while working with American companies to strengthen the space economy. Part of Obama's longtime goal is to allow humans the ability to live and work in space sustainably.
John Holdren, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and NASA administrator Charles Bolden wrote on the White House blog that NASA has built up a new sector of the economy, “by enabling the commercial transportation of cargo and soon crew from American soil to the International Space Station.”
They said that more than 1,000 companies across the nation have been working to support commercial space initiatives. Seven companies have received awards to begin building habitation systems, which are meant to sustain and transport astronauts during deep space missions, such as traveling to Mars.
In 2014, NASA announced plans that it was working to be able to send humans to asteroid by 2025, and to Mars by the 2030's.
Obama also announced that private companies will begin sending astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time in the next two years. U.S. companies have voiced a desire to add a commercial module to the ISS, in an effort to meet the needs of both NASA and private entrepreneurs.
He did not elaborate on what it will cost or how the U.S. will pay for it. But he said it will require years of patience, testing and education.
Top innovators from around the nation will gather to further discuss American investments in science and technology to settle the "final frontier" on Thursday, Oct. 13 at the White House Frontiers Conference.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.