Donald Trump asks for $2 billion to go to the moon

Donald Trump's face and the moon.
Photo credit: Getty

The Trump administration has asked the US Congress to increase NASA spending next year by an extra US$1.6 billion (NZ$2.4b) to speed up efforts to return Americans to the the moon by 2024.

The increased funding request comes nearly two months after Vice President Mike Pence declared the objective of shortening by four years NASA's timeline for putting astronauts back on the moon for the first time since 1972.

Mr Trump made the NASA funding pledge on Twitter.

"Under my Administration, we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars. I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!," Mr Trump tweeted on Monday.

NASA had previously aimed to return crewed spacecraft to the lunar surface by the year 2028, after first putting a "Gateway" station into orbit around the moon by 2024.

The newly accelerated goal - an endeavour likely to cost tens of billions of dollars - comes as NASA has struggled with the help of private partners to resume human space missions for the first time since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

The US Apollo program, NASA's forerunner to the effort at returning humans to Earth's natural satellite, tallied six manned missions to the moon from 1969 to 1972.

So far, only two other nations have conducted controlled "soft" landings on the moon - the former Soviet Union and China. But those were with unmanned robot vehicles.