Washington — The Trump administration has asked Congress to increase National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) spending in 2020 by an extra $1.6bn as a “down payment” to accommodate the accelerated goal of returning Americans to the surface of the moon by 2024. The increased funding request, announced by President Donald Trump on Twitter, comes nearly two months after vice-president Mike Pence declared the objective of shortening by four years Nasa’s previous timeline for putting astronauts back on the moon for the first time since 1972. The proposed increase would bring Nasa’s total spending level for the 2020 fiscal year to $22.6bn. The bulk of the increase is earmarked for research and development of a human lunar landing system, according to a summary provided by Nasa. “Under my administration, we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6bn so th...

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