The New Lunar Race: US Claims Success, but China Looms Large

The United States (US) proudly declares the successful landing of Odysseus on the Moon. Yet, as the US edges closer to establishing a permanent lunar base, it may not stand alone on the lunar surface.

The ongoing rivalry between the US and China has sparked a space race reminiscent of the 1960s. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson views China as the most capable contender in achieving a lunar landing by the end of this decade.

However, beyond sending humans to the Moon lies a more daunting task: building long-term infrastructure to sustain life beyond our planet. In January, Nelson expressed confidence that NASA's plans would win the "race" with China to establish life on the Moon.

NASA's chief announced that the space agency is now targeting September 2026 for the Artemis III mission, marking the first human assignment to the Moon since Apollo 17.

"I have no fear that China will beat us," Nelson stated, as reported by The Sun on Thursday (2/29/2024). "I think China has a very aggressive plan. I think they want to land before us, because that would be a coup," he added.

He assessed that China would not land humans on the Moon as soon as they claim. Nelson boasted that NASA's landing in September 2026 would be the first human landing on the Moon.

Nelson openly expressed his apprehension if China were to pit them against each other. China's military presence in the South China Sea signals how the country might behave on the Moon, potentially violating the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

"We need to be careful that they don't get to some place on the moon with a scientific research guise," he told Politico last year. "And not out of the question that they would say, 'Don't come out, we're here, this is our territory,'" he continued.

Like the US, China also has its own plans to build a research facility on the Moon, agreed to be shared with Egypt, Venezuela, South Africa, Pakistan, and Azerbaijan. Currently, China plans to establish the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) by 2028 at the latest. The country insists that its intentions are to collect samples and conduct scientific exploration, although there are suspicions from NASA.

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