NASA Administrator Bill Nelson claims that the United States (US) is in a space race with China and that Beijing may try to claim territory on parts of the moon.
The US and China both have lofty goals for lunar exploration and colonization. Both countries have ambitious lunar goals, with NASA working on its Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon, and China aiming to send its own crews to the moon by the end of the decade and build a lunar base in the 2030s. Both nations are considering landing in areas near the lunar south pole.
“And it is true that we better watch out that they don’t get to a place on the moon under the guise of scientific research. And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they say, ‘Keep out, we’re here, this is our territory,'” said Nelson.
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Looming ever-larger is China’s aggressive space program, including its recent opening of a new space station. Beijing has announced a goal of landing taikonauts on the moon by the end of this decade. In December, China’s government laid out its vision for more ambitious endeavors such as building infrastructure in space and creating a space governance system.
Any significant delays or mishaps in the US program, which is counting on a series of new systems and equipment that are still under development, could risk falling behind the Chinese. And NASA’s moon-landing timeline has already slipped a year from the Trump administration.
This week, Congress approved $24.5 billion in NASA funding for the fiscal year 2023, roughly half of what President Joe Biden requested.