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NASA on Thursday said it was on target for a June mission to scour the Moon's surface for landing sites and water that would allow humans to work and even live on Earth's nearest neighbor.
It is scheduled to lift-off, strapped to an Atlas V rocket, from Cape Canaveral, Florida on June 17.
"We had the original target of providing information back for being able to safely return to the Moon for exploration,"
In 2004, then president George W. Bush vowed to return Americans to the Moon by 2020.
But facing a massive budget deficit, President Barack Obama has called into question the fulfillment of that aim, with a review apparently underway that could delay the program.
There are technical barriers, too. The space shuttle vehicle that could deliver astronauts to the Moon will be retired next year, with a new vehicle not expected in operation before 2015.