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‘We better watch out’: NASA chief says US, China locked in ‘space race’ as mission Moon heats up

Washington Edited By: C KrishnasaiUpdated: Jan 03, 2023, 03:29 PM IST
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Photograph:(Agencies)

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Nelson, a former astronaut and NASA  Administrator, warned that China may soon claim resource-rich areas of the Moon, and said that the next two years would determine which country gains the upper hand.

NASA chief Bill Nelson has said that the US is currently engaged in a “space race” with China and warned that Beijing may try to exploit lunar resources for itself if it establishes a presence there first.

In an interview with Politico, Nelson, a former astronaut, and Florida senator, on Sunday warned that China may soon claim resource-rich areas of the Moon, and said that the next two years would determine which country gains the upper hand.

“It is a fact: we’re in a space race,” Nelson was quoted as saying by Politico.

“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.’”

He quoted the example of China’s aggrandisement policy with regards to the South China Sea, where Beijing has established a military presence on some of the contested islands. “If you doubt that, look at what they did with the Spratly Islands.”

Even as NASA has been working on its Artemis moon missions, China has been steadily gaining pace in exploring the vast areas of the lunar surface.

5 reasons why NASA's Artemis-1 mission is important for future of space exploration

Over the next 10 years, China’s National Space Administration will be sending three orbiters to the Moon as part of the Chang’e lunar program.

The Chang’e-7 program, China’s moon mission, will fly to Moon’s farthest side, the South Pole, an area scientists think is the best place to find water. NASA is also targeting that part of the moon.

China aims to eventually build a moon-based international research station.

Nelson, however, believed that the US will be the first to land on the Moon’s South Pole, noting the Congress funding for the Artemis program.

This week, Congress week approved $24.5 billion for NASA in fiscal 2023, about half a billion dollars less than what President Joe Biden requested.

(With inputs from agencies)

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