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A dramatic re-orientation of NASA to focus on space exploration and manned missions to the Moon and Mars will not diminish the agency's Earth science agenda, according to top NASA officials.

The re-orientation, which U.S. President George W. Bush and NASA announced on 14 January, calls for a return to the Moon with robotic missions no later than 2008. A manned mission to the lunar surface would follow between 2015 and 2020, “as the launching point for missions beyond,” Bush said.