President Barack Obama today released a National Space Policy that affirms the Administration's commitment to commercial space flight. The policy also lays down the mid-2030s as a target date for the first human flight to Mars and 2025 as a target for a human mission to a nearby asteroid. The mention of the two timetables appears to be an attempt by the White House to counter criticism over Obama's new plan for NASA, which some lawmakers say lacks clear direction and goals. The release of the policy is also a signal that Obama is not prepared to back off from the fight that has begun in Congress over the president's proposed termination of the Constellation program.
From Obama's statement accompanying the release:
... this policy is about the boundless possibilities of the future. That is why we seek to spur a burgeoning commercial space industry, to rapidly increase our capabilities in space while bolstering America's competitive edge in the global economy. We are proposing improved observation of the earth, to gain new insights into our environment and our planet. We set ambitious goals for NASA: ramping up robotic and human space exploration, with our sights set on Mars and beyond, to improve the capacity of human beings to learn and work safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time. And this policy recognizes the importance of inspiring a new generation of young people to pursue careers in science and engineering. For, ultimately, our leadership as a nation – in this or any endeavor – will depend on them.