China has denied NASA Administrator Bill Nelson's claims that the East Asian country is planning to “take over” the Moon.
The head of NASA told German newspaper Bild on Saturday that China and the U.S. are in a “new race to space,” referencing the space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union between the ‘50s and the ‘70s.
“We must be very concerned that China is landing on the Moon and saying: 'It's ours now and you stay out,’” Nelson said.
China and Russia are currently planning to team up and build a base on the Moon called the International Lunar Research Station, which is expected to be operational by 2036. The base would enable scientists to conduct experiments and research on the Moon and its resources, such as water.
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Responding to Nelson’s claims, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused NASA of ignoring facts.
“This is not the first time that the head of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration has ignored the facts and spoken irresponsibly about China," Zhao said. “The U.S. side has constantly constructed a smear campaign against China's normal and reasonable outer space endeavors, and China firmly opposes such irresponsible remarks."
Huang Zhicheng, a Chinese aerospace technology expert, criticized Nelson for his remarks about China, saying that Nelson, who was sworn in as the head of NASA in May 2021, acts more like a politician. Huang also referenced the 2011 Wolf Amendment which prohibits NASA from cooperating with its Chinese counterparts.
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“Lacking strong expertise and overall understanding of global aerospace developments, Nelson behaves more like a politician that has been deeply influenced by the frictions between the two countries in recent years, as he repeatedly preaches the so-called China threat theory in this field," Huang told the state-run Global Times on Sunday.
“However, several former NASA chiefs have expressed their dissatisfaction over the Wolf Amendment which limits their cooperation with China,” Huang added. “So do the majority of U.S. researchers in this field including NASA officials, who are willing to see more interactions with China in space. The majority of academicians across the world still wish for the successful construction of China's lunar base."
China and Russia have reportedly stressed in the past that their joint lunar base would be “open and inclusive."
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Chinese military expert Song Zhongping told the Global Times in another report that the U.S. is “viewing the moon with a colonial mentality.”
For the U.S. to cooperate with China, which would include receiving samples that China’s Chang’e probe has acquired from the Moon, the Global Times noted that the country would first need to repeal both the Wolf Amendment and the Cox Report, the latter of which accused China of “covert operations within the U.S. during the 1980s and 1990s.”
China is reportedly planning an uncrewed mission to the Moon later this decade, while the U.S. is preparing to send a crewed mission to the lunar surface by 2024 under its Artemis program.
Featured Image via China Xinhua News