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There is growing interest in Europe to prioritize the moon as humanity's next deep-space destination.
The moon, supporters say, can serve as a springboard to push the human exploration of the solar system, with Mars as the horizon goal. So Europe is ratcheting up what it sees as the strategic significance of the moon by pushing forward on lunar-exploration missions that would involve both humans and robots.
Calling the effort a "comeback to the moon," European space planners envision a series of human missions to the lunar vicinity starting in the early 2020s. Those missions, according to the plan, will include coordination between astronauts and robotic systems on the lunar surface. Robots would land first, paving the way for human explorers to set foot on the moon later.