The race to the moon between the United States and China is becoming increasingly competitive, and in the next two years could decide who wins. According to NASA Senior Administrator Bill Nelson, a Chinese victory could lead to the country claiming ownership of vast swathes of the moon, Politico reported.
Bill Nelson, who takes over the US space agency in 2021, said the US is in a new space race with China and that geopolitical tensions between the two countries on Earth could extend to the moon.
“It’s a fact: we’re in the space race,” the former Florida senator and astronaut said in an interview. “And it’s true that we should be careful that they don’t get to a place on the moon under the guise of scientific research. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they say, ‘Stay away, we’re here, this is our territory.'”
He gave a real-world example in the South China Sea, where the Chinese military has set up bases on disputed islands. “If you doubt that, look what they did to the Spratly Islands.
NASA completed its Artemis 1 mission in November, which included a flyby of the moon by the unmanned Orion spacecraft. The mission preceded Artemis 3, which aims to land astronauts on the lunar surface by 2025.
China recently completed its new Tiangong space station and sent a crew of taikonauts to the station in November. Beijing plans to launch three missions to the moon over the next decade as part of its new lunar program after it said it had discovered a new lunar mineral that could be used as an energy source.
The Pentagon report also highlighted recent progress in China’s space program. It noted China’s innovative ability to land on the far side of the moon and establish a satellite communication relay between the Earth and the moon.
The report found that China is improving the production of space launch systems to enable greater human space exploration. But the Communist government in China insists that these concerns about their motives are baseless.