Washington, March 12 (IANS): Aiming to put astronauts back on the Moon, reach Mars and beyond, NASA has proposed a budget of $21 billion -- nearly six per cent more than last year -- to the Donald Trump administration.
"President Trump's fiscal year 2020 NASA budget is one of the strongest on record for our storied agency," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, while announcing the proposal at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on Monday.
"At $21 billion, this budget represents a nearly six per cent increase over last year's request and comes at a time of constrained resources across the federal government," he added.
US President Trump had in December 2017 signed Space Policy Directive-1 that provides for a US-led integrated programme with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.
"We will go to the Moon in the next decade with innovative, new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the lunar surface than ever before. This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. We will use what we learn as we move forward to the Moon to take the next giant leap -- sending astronauts to Mars," Bridenstine said.
The budget request includes the agency's ongoing efforts to develop commercial spacecraft and infrastructure in low-Earth orbit and to press ahead with construction and launch of the world's most powerful rocket and the Orion spacecraft that will carry astronauts back to the moon.
Beginning with a series of small commercial delivery missions to the Moon in 2019, NASA will use new landers, robots and eventually humans by 2028 to conduct science across the entire lunar surface.
Bridenstine revealed that with this budget, NASA will study Earth and the Sun, which will benefit humankind for generations.
Besides, the first round-trip mission to the Red planet with Mars Sample Return, the agency will also lead exploration to Jupiter's Moon Europa as well as launch James Webb Space Telescope.
"This budget also continues support for transformative aeronautics technology research. We will make air travel safer, greener and more efficient, and continue pioneering the next generation of supersonic flight," Bridenstine noted.