The president said the ultimate goal is to make it possible to one day remain on Mars for an extended period of time.
"Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we're already well on our way. Within the next two years, private companies will for the first time send astronauts to the International Space Station," Obama wrote.
He continued, "The next step is to reach beyond the bounds of Earth's orbit. I'm excited to announce that we are working with our commercial partners to build new habitats that can sustain and transport astronauts on long-duration missions in deep space. These missions will teach us how humans can live far from Earth — something we'll need for the long journey to Mars."
The president's Op-Ed comes ahead of a trip to Pittsburgh on Thursday, where he will attend the Frontiers Conference on science and technology. Obama noted that more than 1,000 companies are already working on private space initiatives.