“We are in a race for space”: NASA sounds the alarm over Chinese projects on the Moon

“We are in a race for space”: NASA sounds the alarm over Chinese projects on the Moon
“We are in a race for space”: NASA sounds the alarm over Chinese projects on the Moon

The United States is locked in a space race with China and the country must “be careful” that its rival does not gain a foothold and attempt to dominate lunar resources, the senior NASA official has warned.

The assessment came from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, a former astronaut and Florida senator, who went on to warn that China could eventually claim to “own” the moon’s resource-rich areas.

Competition between the United States and China, he added, was intensifying and the next two years could determine which country gained an advantage.

“It’s a fact: we’re in a space race,” Nelson told Politico. “And it is true that it is better to ensure that they do not arrive on the moon under the guise of scientific research. And it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they’re saying, “Stand away, we’re here, this is our territory.”

Nelson cited Chinese aggression on islands in the South China Sea, where Beijing has established military bases, as evidence of its territorial ambition. “If you doubt that, look at what they did with the Spratly Islands,” he said.

Last year, China’s space program set up a space station in Earth orbit and mounted several lunar orbit and sample retrieval missions. A third phase of the program, aimed at establishing an autonomous lunar research station near the south pole of the Moon, is planned for 2025.

In December, the Chinese government presented its vision for a crewed lunar landing, space transportation, infrastructure and space governance. China has also announced its goal of landing taikonauts on the Moon by the end of this decade.

Students listen to an introduction to the Chang’e 5 lunar sample return spacecraft, at the InnoTech Expo in Hong Kong, China, last month. Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Nasa, meanwhile, recently completed the 26-day Artemis I mission to take pictures of the lunar surface. Future missions are designed to establish more activity on the moon. However, the United States is also focusing on Mars.

Senior US military officials have also sounded the alarm over China’s weaponization of space and the attendant security concerns.

“It’s entirely possible they could catch up and overtake us,” Space Force Lieutenant General Nina Armagno said during a visit to Australia. “The progress they’ve made has been mind-boggling – unbelievably fast.”

But Beijing has dismissed some American interpretations of the motives for China’s space push. “Outer space is not a battleground,” Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, told Politico.

The spokesman said some US officials had “spoken irresponsibly to misrepresent China’s normal and legitimate space efforts.”

“China always advocates the peaceful use of outer space, opposes militarization and the arms race in outer space, and actively works to build a community with a shared future for mankind in the field. space,” the statement added.

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