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When Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan stepped off the Moon in December 1972, it marked the end of US researchers’ access to the lunar surface. Since then, no US mission has touched down there to collect scientific data.

That could soon change. In December, President Donald Trump ordered NASA to send astronauts back to the Moon. On 12 February, he proposed a 2019 budget that would allow the agency to begin planning a US$200-million lunar exploration programme. In the weeks since, NASA officials have started sketching out how that effort might unfold — from a series of small commercial landers, to larger NASA landers, to a multinational space station near the Moon that could serve as a base for robots and astronauts travelling to the lunar surface.

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Category: Science