Half a century after Apollo 11, the space agency is aiming to start establishing a permanent presence on the lunar surface as soon as possible.
The day after it ended the Opportunity rover's 14-year tenure on Mars, NASA told reporters it hopes to move quickly to return to the surface of the moon, perhaps even by the end of 2019.
"Our wish is to fly this year," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. He was speaking at a media roundtable Thursday focused on the agency's lunar exploration plans.
Both Zurbuchen and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine identified speed as the priority for a new lunar landing system, but cautioned that actual launch dates will depend on how quickly NASA's commercial partners can fulfill upcoming tasks. Those tasks will be announced within the next month or so.