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US wants to return to the moon and Trump wants extra $1.6 billion for it

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Washington: The Trump administration asked Congress to increase NASA spending next year by an extra $1.6 billion 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 $22.6 billion. 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 $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!”

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

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

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called the revised funding request a “down payment of confidence” from the White House.

“Our goal here is to build a program that gets us to the moon as soon as possible,” Bridenstine told reporters on a telephone conference call late on Monday.

“In the coming years, we will need additional funds,” he said. “But this is a good amount that gets us out of the gate in a very strong fashion.”

Phil Larson, a former space policy adviser under Trumps Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama, questioned whether Congress had fully embraced Trumps ambition to speed up human lunar exploration.

“I’m worried that without proper congressional buy-in, this budget amendment is at best, a massive waste of time, and at worst, pushing risky political timelines that could set NASA back for years,” Larson told Reuters.

Bridenstine said $651 million of the extra funding would go toward NASA`s Space Launch System — the super-heavy rocket whose decade-long development led by Boeing Co has been hampered by delays and cost overruns — as well as design and construction of a new crew capsule called Orion.

The US Apollo program, NASAs forerunner to the effort at returning humans to Earths 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.

Bridenstine said he was optimistic that Trump`s request would draw bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

The amendment envisions a simplified blueprint for the Lunar Gateway, the planned space outpost in lunar orbit that will serve as a stepping stone for sending astronauts to the moon`s surface.

NASA officials said they would turn to private companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing and Jeff Bezos` Blue Origin for proposals on the design of Gateway and the human landing system.

Bezos, the richest person in the world and founder of Amazon.com Inc, unveiled last Thursday his space company`s mock-up of a lunar lander being built by Blue Origin.

Bridenstine capped Mondays media call by announcing that NASAs latest lunar initiative would be named Artemis, the goddess of the hunt and of the moon in Greek mythology and the twin sister of Apollo.


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International

Iran ready to hold talks with US if sanctions lifted: Rouhani

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Tehran: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that his country was ready to hold talks with the US if Washington lifts sanctions imposed on Tehran.

“We are always ready for negotiations. I tell you this hour and this moment to abandon bullying and lift the sanctions and return to logic and wisdom. We are ready,” the Iranian Mehr News Agency quoted Rouhani as saying on Sunday.

Leaders of France, Germany and Britain, European signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement said on Sunday that they were “extremely concerned” about the escalating tension in the Gulf region, which they said is likely to put the accord at risk unless the concerned parties join the same table of talks.

 

In May 2018, Washington unilaterally abandoned the Iran nuclear deal and restarted imposing sanctions on Iran.

On May 8, Iran stopped implementing some of its commitments under the deal and set a 60-day deadline for the Europeans to help Tehran reap the economic benefits of the deal.

On July 7, as the deadline expired, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi announced that Tehran was ready to begin enriching uranium beyond the 3.67 per cent level set in the Iran nuclear deal, adding that Tehran would go on gradually abandoning its nuclear commitments every 60 days.

On July 8, Iran announced that it had raised the concentration of its enriched uranium to 4.5 per cent from 3.67 purity.

Following Tehran’s announcement, US Vice President Mike Pence, along with other senior administration officials, vowed to continue to pile up economic pressure on Iran.

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Nepal flooding and landslides: Death toll reaches 65

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New Delhi: Authorities are battling against time and elements as the death toll in Nepal has reached 65 after widespread flooding and landslides hit the country’s Terai region.

Flooding and landslides have hit the Terai region of the country after incessant rainfall over the past several days. While many villages have been evacuated here, many people were either injured or killed due to nature’s fury. The most affected districts include Lalitpur, Khotang, Bhojpur, Kavre, Makwanpur, Sindhuli and Dhading.

Nepal Police, according to news agency ANI, has said that as many as 30 people are missing.

 

A total of 1146 people have been rescued from areas at maximum risk from flooding and landslides, as on Monday morning, from 22 districts. Authorities here have said that all the injured are being given medical assistance at local hospitals while people are being advised to get to safer grounds because the threat from swelling rivers remains. More rainfall here could complicate rescue efforts.

Incessant rainfall and the consequent flooding here has also put several districts in Bihar at risk. News agency IANS reported that water level in Koshi, Gandak, Budhi Gandak, Ganga and Bagmati rivers are on the rise. The state government, along with National Disaster Response Force, is helping locals in areas like Supaul, Muzaffarpur, East Champaran, West Champaran, Araria and Kishanganj move to safer locations.

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Leave the US, Trump tells liberal Democratic congresswomen

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Washington: United States President Donald Trump assailed a group of Democratic congresswomen of colour as foreign-born troublemakers who should go back to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came”, ignoring the fact that the women are American citizens and all but one was born in the US.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” he said in tweets.

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

 

He added: “These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

Trump was almost certainly referring to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and her allies in what’s become known as the squad. The others are Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Only Omar, from Somalia, is foreign-born.

With his remarks, Trump again inserted himself into a rift between Pelosi and the liberal congresswomen, after offering an unsolicited defence of the Democratic speaker days earlier. Pelosi has been seeking to minimise Ocasio-Cortez’s influence in recent days, prompting Ocasio-Cortez to accuse Pelosi of trying to marginalise women of color.

“She is not a racist,” Trump had said on Friday.

Today, Trump’s tone changed.

Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in suburban Westchester County.

Pressley, the first black woman elected to the House from Massachusetts, was born in Cincinnati.

Omar, the first Somali native elected to Congress and one of its first Muslim women, was born in Somalia but spent much of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp as civil war tore apart her home country. She immigrated to the US at age 12, teaching herself English by watching American TV and eventually settling with her family in Minneapolis.

Tlaib was born in Detroit.

Trump’s tweets drew a sharp rebuke from Pelosi, who said the president wants to “make America white again”.

Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a Trump critic who recently took steps to leave his party, called the remarks “racist and disgusting”.

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