Fifty years after humanity's first lunar footsteps, the moon is back in NASA's court.

The White House wants U.S. astronauts on the moon pronto — by 2024, a scant five years from now. The moon will serve as a critical proving ground, the thinking goes, for the real prize of sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.

The billionaires' space club is on board. Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson favor moon before Mars. SpaceX's Elon Musk also is rooting for the moon, although his heart is on colonizing Mars.

But Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins prefers a beeline to Mars. Buzz Aldrin, too, is a longtime Mars backer. Back in 1994 on the 25th anniversary of his moon landing with Neil Armstrong, Aldrin questioned whether astronauts would be back on the moon by the 50th anniversary — let alone on Mars, which was the short-lived goal at that time.

Fast-forward to the golden anniversary, and NASA doesn't even have the capability to get astronauts into orbit around Earth. Russians are launching American astronauts to the International Space Station — for high prices — until capsules built by SpaceX and Boeing are ready. That likely won't happen until next year, nearly a decade after NASA's space shuttle program ended. "Fifty years ago ... we landed, explored, got back up again, rendezvoused, came back. That's 50 years of non-progress," Aldrin groused this month during his anniversary bash near Los Angeles. "I think we all ought to be a little ashamed that we can't do better than that."

Marvel's plans revealed at Comic-Con

"Avengers : Endgame" may have closed a chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the blockbuster factory is not slowing down and only expanding in scope and diversity. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige led a marathon presentation at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday night, announcing plans for the first two years of "Phase Four," which will include Natalie Portman taking up the hammer as Thor, making Angelina Jolie an immortal for "The Eternals" and rebooting "Blade" with Mahershala Ali. The stars assembled at the San Diego Convention Center as Feige ticked through the release calendar for 2020 and 2021 movie by movie, giving official cast lists, release dates, titles and logos for everything from "Black Widow," the "Doctor Strange" sequel, "Thor 4" to "Shang-Chi" to "The Eternals." "Avengers: Endgame" surpassed "Avatar" on Saturday as the top-grossing global release of all time with $2.79 billion. For more, turn to E3.

Associated Press