The U.S. is facing a "Sputnik moment" in which it must embrace investments in research and education, President Obama will say at his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Obama, in excerpts of his speech released Tuesday evening, hearkened back to the Sputnik era, when the Russian satellite's 1957 launch set off the "space race" and a decade of intense technological development.

"Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist," Obama will say. "But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs."

"This is our generation’s Sputnik moment," he'll add.

Obama is expected to make that argument in the context of a larger point about the economy, and how to best invest in U.S. infrastructure and create jobs.

He is expected to embrace some austerity measures —  such as a spending freeze — as he faces a cut-friendly Republican Congress.

But his Sputnik comment also underscores the fact that Obama's unlikely to back off all kinds of spending, which his administration views as long-term investments to transform the economy and create jobs.

It isn't the first time he's used that phrase — Obama first made the reference during a speech in North Carolina in December.