No one has set foot on the moon in almost 50 years. That could soon change.

No one has set foot on the moon in almost 50 years. That could soon change.

- in Science
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By Jason Davis

No one has walked on the moon in almost 50 years, but NASA says the long dry spell will come to an end by 2028. And if things go according to plan, astronauts will do more than leave flags and footprints.

Working with commercial partners and the space agencies of other nations, NASA is planning on building a moon-orbiting space station as well as a permanent lunar base.

“We are preparing for our return to the moon and to travel on to Mars, as we continue to help the United States lead the world in exploration and discovery of the unknown,” Jody Singer, director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said during a 2018 congressional hearing.

If the space agency wants to lead, it needs to move fast. On Thursday, China successfully placed a lander and rover on the far side of the moon — a first for any nation.

“We had better get off our duffs, and stop trying to ride the glory [of] lunar exploration of fifty years ago,” Jay Pasachoff, an astronomy professor at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, told NBC News MACH in an email. “Maybe when a Chinese astronaut is standing on the moon and sending back a video image then our Congress will ask ‘who lost space?'”

Stuck in Earth orbit

Gene Cernan was the last human to walk on the moon. Before the Apollo 17 astronaut climbed aboard the lunar module for the return to Earth way back in 1972, he took one last look at the rolling, gray mountains in the distance, and said, “God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.”

That prediction went unfulfilled as NASA shifted its attention closer to home, building the space shuttles and then the football field-sized International Space Station, which has been continuously occupied since 2000. Previous presidential administrations tried but ultimately failed to send astronauts back to the moon, but NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine says this time will be different.

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