Monday, the stars were out at the White House — literally — as more than 100 students joined President Obama, twelve astronauts, scientists, engineers, teachers, and space enthusiasts — along with Americans participating virtually from more than 80 national parks, observatories, schools, museums, and astronomy clubs across our country — White House Astronomy Night.
Some of the brightest stars of the night weren’t celestial in nature. Rather, they are four space pioneers: astronauts Robert Behnken, Sunita Williams, Eric Boe, and Douglas Hurley.
These distinguished veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail, a trail that will one day land them in the history books. NASA selected these four, who privately met with the President earlier in the evening, to be the first astronauts to train to fly to space on commercial crew carriers.
It’s an important step on our Journey to Mars, and for President Obama’s ambitious plan to once again launch U.S. astronauts into space from U.S. soil and to create good-paying American jobs in the process – 350 American companies across 35 states are working toward this goal.
For as long as I’ve been Administrator, President Obama has made it very clear that returning the launches of American astronauts to American soil is a top priority.
Five years ago, when the President came to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to ask NASA to work toward sending American astronauts to Mars in the 2030s, he talked about being inspired as a young boy when his grandfather lifted him on his shoulders so he could cheer on astronauts arriving in Hawaii.
His hope – and, really, all our hope – is that a new generation of young Americans will be inspired by people like Bob, Suni, Eric, and Doug to reach for new heights, both in their own lives and in the life of our nation.
Today’s young people are a part of what I like to call the “space generation.” Those who are younger than 15 have lived every day of their lives in a time when American astronauts are living and working in space aboard the International Space Station.
Our goal is to give them a future where Americans are pushing further into the solar system at the very same time that our Nation strengthens our leadership here at home. President Obama’s commercial crew vision represents a giant leap into this future.