The Nov. 14 supermoon over Washington. Credit: NASA

On Nov. 14, the public celebrated the “supermoon,” an astronomical phenomenon where the full moon appears a little bigger and brighter than usual because it is slightly closer to the Earth.

This supermoon received extra attention because it was the closest the moon has been to since Truman beat Dewey in 1948.

For scientists and other advocates of lunar exploration, the moon appears closer than it has in years in a different way. A change in presidential administrations is giving them new hope that the moon will become more prominent in NASA’s human exploration plans, and that the government will support commercial lunar efforts as well.

“It’s an important time, given what’s going on in the United States right now,” said Clive Neal, a University of Notre Dame planetary scientist who chairs the Lunar Exploration Advisory Group (LEAG), at the group’s annual meeting Nov. 1 — a week before Election Day — in Columbia, Maryland.

“We need to start putting rubber to the road” by demonstrating the interest in, and capabilities for, lunar exploration, he said. “We’ve been there — Buzz [Aldrin] has been there — but we certainly haven’t done that.

That deliberately echoed President Barack Obama’s famous “been there, done that” dismissal of the moon as a destination for human spaceflight…

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Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...