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"Nobody is more committed to human space exploration than me." Barack Obama, the US president, made the statement at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, on Thursday in defence of his controversial plan to cancel a programme run by Nasa aimed at returning astronauts to the moon.

Politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties attacked the move, saying it would take away many jobs across the nation.

But Obama assured the country of his commitment, announcing he will add $6bn to Nasa's $19bn annual budget over the next five years.

He also said he aims to provide the US with "new spacecraft by 2025, that allows us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space".

"I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth," he said.

Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports from Washington.

Source: Al Jazeera