NASA has warned that China could be preparing for a lunar takeover in the coming years, using its civilian space program as guise for military operations.

Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, fears the Asian nation’s ‘extraordinary strides’ in the last decade are more than just for science, but to exert dominance over the moon.

China has launched a craft to the moon and brought samples back to Earth, has its own space station circling the planet and is eyeing 2030 for when it will send humans to the natural satellite.

While NASA is set to land humans on the lunar South Pole in 2026, Nelson has raised concerns that China has the capabilities to beat them there.  

China launched its Shenzhou-16 flight (pictured) in May of last year, carrying a civilian astronaut on board the six-month mission

China launched its Shenzhou-16 flight (pictured) in May of last year, carrying a civilian astronaut on board the six-month mission

China launched its Shenzhou-16 flight (pictured) in May of last year, carrying a civilian astronaut on board the six-month mission

China plans to land humans on the moon in 2030 and wants to establish a lunar presence within the next five years

China plans to land humans on the moon in 2030 and wants to establish a lunar presence within the next five years

China plans to land humans on the moon in 2030 and wants to establish a lunar presence within the next five years

‘China has made extraordinary strides, especially in the last 10 years, but they are very, very secretive,’ Nelson told members of the House Appropriations Committee at a 2024 budget hearing

‘We believe that a lot of their, so-called civilian space programs is a military program,’ Nelson continued. ‘And I think, in effect, we are in a race.’

Nelson made the statements to a committee this week as support for why NASA needs a $25.4 billion budget for 2025.

The country plans to establish a landing base on the moon’s surface within the next five years, making it all the more necessary for the US to ramp up its efforts and investments to send astronauts to space

‘Their latest date that they have said that they’re going to land is 2030, but that keeps moving up,’ Nelson said. 

‘Their science is good, their engineering is good, and the proof’s in the pudding, they now have a space station up there,’ Nelson added. 

He noted that much of his concern stems from the Chinese space programs’ close-knit ties to the People’s Liberation Army – a military branch of the Communist Party. 

‘My concern would be if China got there first and suddenly said: ‘Okay, this is our territory, you stay out,”’ Nelson said. 

China was forced to build its own space station (pictured) after it was barred from the international space station in 2011 over US concerns that Beijing's space programs were linked to is People's Liberation Army - a branch of the Communist Party

China was forced to build its own space station (pictured) after it was barred from the international space station in 2011 over US concerns that Beijing's space programs were linked to is People's Liberation Army - a branch of the Communist Party

China was forced to build its own space station (pictured) after it was barred from the international space station in 2011 over US concerns that Beijing’s space programs were linked to is People’s Liberation Army – a branch of the Communist Party

Nelson compared the race with China to that of the Soviet Union in 1958 as both countries competed to land the first man on the moon – but the US is still the only nation to have put boots on the lunar surface.

‘China has made aggressive investments in both deep space exploration and low earth orbit,’ Nelson said, adding that ‘funding is critical to making sure the United States remains the international leader in space.’

Nelson argued that if anyone doubts his warning, they should look at Beijing’s involvement in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea which is claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia the Philippines and China.

The Spratly Islands are highly coveted for their rich natural resources and plentiful fishing areas, but China has continuously tried to exert dominance over other countries, claiming it owns the lion’s share of the territory.

Nelson claimed China will try to pull a similar stunt in space and while they could try to control the moon, the US would use the landing for practicality purposes.

The US will use its landing to predict floods and droughts, look at deforestation or trees that are susceptible to fire and notify officials to head off wildfires, according to Nelson.

‘And so I think it’s incumbent on us to get there first and to utilize our research efforts for peaceful purposes,’ he added.

This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

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