WASHINGTON (UPI) — President Barack Obama on Tuesday published an opinion piece outlining plans for the United States to send humans to Mars by the 2030s — and bring them back.

Obama said the government and private companies in the United States are working to build habitats in which NASA astronauts could travel and be sustained for long-term deep space exploration.

“These missions will teach us how humans can live far from Earth — something we’ll need for the long journey to Mars,” Obama wrote in the piece, published at CNN.com.

Obama said he hopes one day humans would be able to stay on Mars for a long period of time. Leading American scientists, engineers, innovators and students will meet in Pittsburgh, Pa., this week to “dream up ways to build on our progress and find the next frontiers.”

“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,” Obama wrote, adding that private companies will send astronauts to the International Space Station in the coming years.

“The next step is to reach beyond the bounds of Earth’s orbit,” Obama wrote.

NASA in the past year discovered flowing water on Mars, evidence of ice on one of Jupiter’s moons, and generated high-resolution mapping of Pluto — a dwarf planet more than 3 million miles away.

“Someday, I hope to hoist my own grandchildren onto my shoulders. We’ll still look to the stars in wonder, as humans have since the beginning of time. But instead of eagerly awaiting the return of our intrepid explorers, we’ll know that because of the choices we make now, they’ve gone to space not just to visit, but to stay — and in doing so, to make our lives better here on Earth,” Obama wrote.

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