Artist’s impression provided by the European Space Agency, ESA, depicting the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, center, from the Trace Gas Orbiter, TGO,lrft, and heading for Mars. The separation is scheduled to occur on Sunday Oct. 16, 2016, about seven months after launch. Schiaparelli is set to enter the martian atmosphere on Oct. 19, 2016 while TGO will enter orbit around Mars. The probe will take images of Mars and conduct scientific measurements on the surface, but its main purpose is to test technology for a future European Mars rover. Schiaparelli's mother ship will remain in orbit to analyze gases in the Martian atmosphere to help answer whether there is or was life on Mars. (ESA/D. Ducros via AP)


President Barack Obama’s call for a greater public-private partnership for space exploration in general and a Mars expedition in particular is just beginning to yield the kinds of technological breakthroughs necessary to convince ordinary people that this thing is possible by 2030.

Last week, Obama attended the Frontiers Conference conducted jointly by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. Of course, future missions to Mars and the development of the technology and international cooperation necessary to get humans there and back was high on the agenda, but wasn’t the only subject of the conference.

The conference also looked at community development, the potential of artificial intelligence in our civic and commercial life, the challenge of climate change and the burgeoning promise of precision health. This was a fundamentally optimistic gathering of some of the greatest minds in academia and the tech field and should generate even more cooperation across institutional lines.

This is an exciting time to be a scientist contemplating big, world-changing moves in the coming decades.

Like President John Kennedy, who inspired America to go to the moon after watching the Soviets put the first man-made satellite into space, Obama wants America, its international partners and the private sector to come up with ways of navigating the future — despite slashed budgets and limited resources.

Going to Mars and doing other things outlined in the Frontiers Conference will be hard. But the inspiration, will and intelligence is here to make it come about.