The race to the moon between the United States and China is getting tighter and the next two years could determine who gains the upper hand.
So says NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who warns that Beijing could establish a foothold and try to dominate the most resource-rich locations on the lunar surface — or even keep the U.S. out.
“It is a fact: we’re in a space race,” the former Florida senator and astronaut said in an interview. “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 cited an Earthly example in the South China Sea, where the Chinese military has established bases on contested islands. “If you doubt that, look at what they did with the Spratly Islands.”
Nelson’s hawkish comments follow NASA’s 26-day Artemis I mission, in which an uncrewed Orion space capsule flew around the moon. That mission, widely regarded as a success, was the first big step toward NASA’s plan to land astronauts on the lunar surface to begin building a more permanent human presence — which could come as early as 2025.