NASA, European Space Agency plan mission beyond the moon

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The European Space Agency will contribute key components for a NASA mission to take humans around the moon within the next few years.

Astronauts haven’t gone beyond a low orbit around Earth since the Apollo program ended in 1972.

The European Space Agency and aerospace company Airbus have already delivered a propulsion and supply module for an unmanned flight of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft next year.

The agency said February 8 that it and Airbus have now agreed with NASA to build a module for a second, manned mission that will fly around the moon as early as 2021.

Orion is intended to expand human exploration to deep-space destinations such as Mars and asteroids.