- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2016

President Obama said Tuesday that man will land on Mars within 30 years, while critics accuse the president of diverting money from space exploration to climate-change research.

“I’m excited to announce that we are working with our commercial partners to build new habitats that can sustain and transport astronauts on long-duration missions in deep space,” Mr. Obama said in an op-ed in USA Today. “These missions will teach us how humans can live far from Earth — something we’ll need for the long journey to Mars.”

Mr. Obama predicted that humans will set foot on Mars sometime in the 2030s, “with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time.”

But lawmakers in both parties have criticized the administration for allow the U.S. to fall behind China in space exploration.

“All of [NASA’s] success came to a screeching halt when President Obama was sworn in,” said Rep. Brian Babin, Texas Republican and chairman of the House subcommittee on space, during a hearing last week. “His fiscal year 2010 budget request slashed well over a billion dollars from the exploration project and budget. … China has capitalized on this administration’s weakness.”

Mr. Obama said landing humans on Mars “will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we’re already well on our way. Within the next two years, private companies will for the first time send astronauts to the International Space Station.”

NASA’s is counting on private companies in its plan to land humans on Mars and return them safely to Earth. SpaceX and United Launch Alliance are competing on plans, with SpaceX eyeing a manned mission in 2024.

Lawmakers say Mr. Obama’s policies have allowed China to gain ground on the U.S. space program, and they blame the administration for funding cuts that have curtailed exploration in favor of climate science.

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