Intrepid rovers on Mars responsible for major scientific discoveries on the Red Planet exemplify what is "best in us," President Barack Obama said today (April 29).
Obama made the remarks during an address to the National Academy of Sciences that marked the organization's 150th anniversary. In the speech, Obama expressed his support for the sciences as a fundamental part of American life in today's world.
"Today, all around the country, scientists like you are developing therapies to regenerate damaged organs, creating new devices to enable brain controlled prosthetic limbs, and sending sophisticated robots into space to search for signs of past life on Mars," Obama said during his address. "That sense of wonder and that sense of discovery, it has practical applications but it also nurtures what I believe is best in us."
Achieving those research goals takes funding, something that the sciences are somewhat short on according to Obama.
"What we produce here ends up having benefits worldwide," Obama said. "We should be reaching for a level of private and public research and development investment that we haven't seen since the height of the space race. That's my goal."
At the moment, however, the sequester — sweeping budget cuts that are expected to hamper scientific research — could make those goals harder to achieve, Obama said.
"It's hitting our scientific research," Obama said. "Instead of racing ahead … our scientists are left wondering if they'll be able to start any new research projects at all, which means we could lose a year, two years, of scientific research."
Many planetary scientists have already come out against NASA's 2014 budget proposal. The new document cuts funding from the space agency by $50 million but advocates say that the new budget, if approved by Congress, represents a $268 million cut from planetary sciences funding.
Hope for the sciences is not lost, Obama added. The next generation of potential scientists gives him hope for the future of the country.
"We don't want our kids to just be consumers of the amazing things that science generates," Obama said. "We want them to be producers as well."