The crew of Apollo 11, the NASA mission that 40 years ago Monday first put a man on the moon, marked the occasion with President Obama at the White House. The president hailed their accomplishments as a boon to the home planet. But astronauts of the Apollo series aren’t satisfied with such earthbound praise — they want a national commitment to send Americans to Mars.

Presidents are often asked to justify space exploration. Besides the sense of national pride and the technological advancements that have trickled down from the space program, Obama cites NASA’s impact on education: “math and science are cool again.”

AP via Google:

The U.S. space program is full of goals attached to dates. John F. Kennedy wanted to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Five years ago, Bush said he wanted to land astronauts back on the moon by 2020. So with Armstrong standing next to him and nodding, Obama said those magic words: “Keep the goal by 2020.”

But he wasn’t finished. “Keep the goal by 2020 of having the highest college graduation rates of any country on Earth, especially in the math and science fields.”

It was not about going somewhere old or new. It wasn’t about NASA. It was about education.

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