Inspiration can come from anywhere, but the mind truly expands when the eyes turn skyward and take in the vast expanse of stars and planets visible in the night sky, Meredith Drosback wrote on the White House blog about the second Astronomy Night Saturday.
At the event, which came about six years after the inaugural Astronomy Night in 2009, President Barack Obama said NASA was developing the capabilities to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, the Baltimore Sun reports.
“That means some of the young people who are here tonight might be working on that project,” he was quoted as saying. “Some of you might be on your way to Mars. America can do anything.”
Other attendees, besides the president, were Mae Jameson, the first African-American woman in space; Bill Nye, the Science Guy; and the Mythbusters.
“But the most important thing we have here, in addition to this guy, is the young people who are here,” Mr Obama said to resounding applause. “Young people from across the country who are already focused on some of the greatest mysteries of the universe.
“And I’m going to begin with a quick story. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away — actually, it was in Brooklyn. A 14-year-old asked his parents, ‘What are the stars?’ His parents replied, ‘They’re lights in the sky, kid.’
“The answer didn’t satisfy that young man, so he set out to answer his endless questions about the stars and the planets and possibilities of extraterrestrial life. And Carl Sagan grew up to become an astronomer who enlarged this country’s imagination and sense of wonder about the depths of outer space.
“We’ve got some young Americans here tonight with that same kind of adventurous spirit,” the president said.
Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas teenager arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school after he was accused of making a “hoax bomb,” was also in attendance. He spoke about civil rights at a news conference with Rep Mike Honda, Democrat of California this morning. Also in attendance was Kiera Wilmot, a Florida honors student who was expelled and arrested in 2013 when her volcano science experiment malfunctioned.
The president also acknowledged the attendance of an Illinois student at the White House: Pranav Sivakumar, a junior at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, is a two-time global finalist in the Google Science Fair for his astrophysics research.