The head of NASA warned that China could try to seize territory on the moon if it beats the United States in establishing permanent bases on the lunar surface.
Bill Nelson, who took 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 a space race,” Nelson told Politico.
“And it’s true that we’d better be careful they don’t get to the moon under the guise of scientific research. And it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for them to say, “Stay away, we’re here, this is our territory.”
Former International Space Station (ISS) commander Terry Virts also expressed his concern, citing “potential intrigue” from China.
The comments follow a recent US Department of Defense report detailing the current state of China’s space program, including its ability to develop a spacecraft capable of landing on the far side of the moon.
The 196-page report published in November also predicted President Xi Jinping’s intentions as well as the potential for a second space race.
“Beijing’s goal is to become a comprehensive, fully capable space power. Its rapidly expanding space program – second only to the United States in the number of operational satellites – is a source of national pride and part of Chairman Xi Jinping’s “Chinese dream” of creating a powerful and prosperous China.
“China is developing other sophisticated space capabilities, such as satellite inspection and repair. At least some of these abilities can also function as weapons.”
China has consistently denied concerns about their motives.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington said: “Some US officials have spoken irresponsibly to misrepresent China’s normal and legitimate space ventures… China has always advocated the peaceful use of outer space, opposes armaments and an arms race in outer space and actively works to build a community with a common future for humanity in the field of space.”