The U.S. can win the space race, but NASA Administrator Bill Nelson warns there is little time to waste with China's ramped up ambitions, potentially giving it claim to the most resource-rich moon territory.
"It is a fact: We're in a space race," Nelson, a former astronaut and U.S. senator in Florida, told 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.'
"If you doubt that, look at what they did with the Spratly Islands."
The Spratly Islands host a Chinese military building in the South China Sea.
Notably, the U.S. moon-landing timeline under former President Donald Trump has already lost a year under President Joe Biden – former White House press secretary Jen Psaki once mocked a question about Trump's Space Force program – and China is not slowing down.
"It's entirely possible they could catch up and surpass us, absolutely," Space Force Lt. Gen. Nina Armagno said in December. "The progress they've made has been stunning — stunningly fast."
China's global superpower ambitions stretch out of this world, literally and figuratively, according to retired Col. Terry Virts, a former International Space Station and Space Shuttle commander.
"On one level, it is a political competition to show whose system works better," Virts told Politico. "What they really want is respect as the world's top country. They want to be the dominant power on Earth, so going to the moon is a way to show their system is working. If they beat us back to the moon it shows they are better than us."
And, he added, "There is potentially mischief China can do on the moon."
"If they set up infrastructure there they could potentially deny communications, for example. Having them there doesn't make things easier. There is real concern about Chinese meddling."
China rejects the U.S. narrative about malign space influence ambition.
"Some U.S. officials have spoken irresponsibly to misrepresent the normal and legitimate space endeavors of China," Washington's Chinese Embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu wrote in a statement. "China firmly rejects such remarks.
"Outer space is not a wrestling ground. The exploration and peaceful uses of outer space is humanity's common endeavor and should benefit all. China always advocates the peaceful use of outer space, opposes the weaponization of and arms race in outer space, and works actively toward building a community with a shared future for mankind in the space domain."
Biden's $1.7 trillion omnibus cut a half billion dollars from the $24.5 billion for NASA in fiscal 2023, but it is still a 5% raise from last year's budget, according to Politico.
Winning the race costs money, which requires a will that China has, according to Nelson.
"China within the last decade has had enormous success and advances," he told Politico. "It is also true that their date for landing on the moon keeps getting closer and closer.
"And there are only so many places on the south pole of the moon that are adequate for what we think, at this point, for harvesting water and so forth."
Eric Mack ✉
Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.
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