NASA Says ‘China Could Declare Moon As Its Own Territory’; Beijing Urges US To Stop Vilifying Its Space Program

The US should stop denigrating China’s space program, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday. 

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On Saturday, NASA chief Bill Nelson said in an interview with Bild newspaper that China could someday land on the moon and declare the satellite as its own territory.

“Some US officials continuously slander China’s normal and rational space activities. The Chinese side strongly opposes such irresponsible statements,” the diplomat said.

Nelson said by 2035, China will complete the construction of its own Moon station and will launch several lunar missions. The top NASA official acknowledged that the US space administration has, in fact, been “very concerned” about China’s landing on the Moon and its agenda of hijacking the Moon.

Zhao emphasized that China has always advocated the peaceful use of outer space and opposed militarization and an arms race in space.

China has been actively developing its national space program in recent years. On April 29, the country began the construction of the multi-module Tiangong orbital station and successfully launched the Tianhe core module. The station can simultaneously accommodate three cosmonauts or six people during a crew change.

Illustration of SpaceX Starship human lander design that will carry the first NASA astronauts to the surface of the Moon under the Artemis program. Credits: SpaceX

China’s Chang’e 5 lunar mission was launched on November 24, 2020. The mission landed on the near side of the Moon on December 1, collected samples during the next two days and headed back to Earth, landing in China’s Inner Mongolia region on December 16.

China became the third country in history after the United States and the Soviet Union to successfully perform a lunar lander-return mission. China is seeking to construct a prototype of a scientific research station on the Moon by 2030 and planning to carry out lunar scientific research during the upcoming Chang’e-6, Chang’e-7 and Chang’e-8 missions.

Earlier, US Defense Intelligence Agency, Keith Ryder had said that Russia and China have plans to explore and exploit the natural resources of the Moon and Mars over the next 30 years.

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“Both nations [China, and Russia] seek to broaden their space exploration initiatives together and individually, with plans to explore the moon and Mars during the next 30 years, and if successful, these efforts will likely lead to attempts by Beijing and Moscow to exploit the moon’s natural resources,” Ryder said during a press briefing.

Earlier in the day, the US Defense Intelligence Agency had published a new report on challenges to security in space that focuses on Russia and China as the main competitors of the United States in this domain. The report said Russia and China seek to become leading space powers in the near future.

The report noted that the combined space fleet of Russia and China grew by 70% between 2019 and 2021, while from 2015-2018, the two countries collectively increased their fleets by more than 200%.