By Christian Davenport
During the height of the Space Age, the United States and the Soviet Union bushwhacked a frantic path to the lunar surface, landing nearly 20 spacecraft softly on the moon between 1966 and 1976, including the six carrying NASA’s Apollo astronauts.
But after the last of these missions, a robotic Soviet probe that brought back six ounces of lunar soil, Earth’s closest neighbor was virtually abandoned. The public and politicians lost interest.
While the occasional orbiter has launched to survey the moon since then, in more than 42 years only one spacecraft touched down softly on the lunar surface: China’s Chang’e 3 in 2013.
However, the moon, often referred to as the eighth continent, is again the center of a reinvigorated space race that, like any good Hollywood reboot, features a new cast of characters and novel story lines.
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