U.S. President Barack Obama has named America's next frontier in space travel: Mars.
And he is hoping to do more than just send humans to the Red Planet by the 2030s — he has the "ultimate ambition" for Americans to one day "remain there for an extended time."
In an exclusive op-ed piece written for CNN.com, the president looked back at his administration's milestones in scientific education, research and commerce, while identifying ways for the country to make that "giant leap" to Mars.
But before that massive undertaking (traveling 35 million miles out into space) can even begin, Obama knows the years of planning it entails. He recognizes the groundwork in getting the next generation of Americans, whom he calls the "Mars generation," on that journey.
Preparations for the manned Mars mission include upgrading the technology at NASA, providing extensive support to astronauts at the International Space Station, and boosting private sector job creation in the space industry.
"We've flown by every planet in the solar system — something no other nation can say," Obama notes. "And we continue to drive down the cost of space exploration for taxpayers."
So how will the U.S. realize its dream of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s?
1) Public-Private Partnerships
"Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators," he says, "and we're already well on our way."
Private companies such as SpaceX and Boeing have currently partnered with NASA to transport American crew to and from the ISS, but Obama plans to take such public-private partnerships to the next level.
For the first time, he says, commercial enterprises will start sending their own astronauts to the ISS in the next two years.
2) Sustainable Habitats 'Beyond The Bounds Of Earth's Orbit'
Exposure to the unique environment at the ISS will help commercial partners build sustainable habitats that can provide shelter and transport space travelers during long-haul journeys.
"These missions will teach us how humans can live far from Earth — something we'll need for the long journey to Mars," Obama writes.
3) STEM Education
Obama sees STEM education, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as the launchpad of the Mars generation. These young minds will comprise the new breed of American scientists.
"For the first time, more than 100,000 engineers are graduating from American schools every year," notes Obama who, apart from developing students, has also undertaken the training of 100,000 new STEM teachers all within 10 years.
"Scientific discovery doesn't happen with the flip of a switch," he says, "it takes years of testing, patience and a national commitment to education."
This week, the country's leading innovators in the fields of sciences, engineering and the academe will meet in Pittsburgh to "dream up ways to build on our progress and find the next frontiers."