The race to build the first lunar base between NASA and China has intensified after NASA administrator Bill Nelson claimed that China could try to take control of the Moon.
The race between NASA and China is intensifying because the prize is the Moon. NASA and China have found themselves at loggerheads in different missions. Recently China’s plans of sending a spacecraft to an asteroid to deflect it as a planetary defense system became known. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) is chasing after the NASA DART mission, which aims to do the same. China also became the first nation to land on the far side of the Moon in 2019, something NASA is also aiming to do. But now, the race is to build the first lunar base and if NASA administrator Bill Nelson is to be believed, if China wins this, it might just take over the Earth’s only natural satellite.
Speaking with the German newspaper Bild, Nelson recently cautioned people against China’s ambitions, “We must be very concerned that China is landing on the Moon and saying that it’s ours now and you stay out”. China has also retaliated, hitting back with saying that the NASA administrator is “lying through his teeth”. But as the war of words continues, both space agencies want to establish their dominance over the other by building the first research base on the lunar surface.
NASA is concerned that China might control the entire Moon
China has sped up its target of building a research base on the Moon within eight years after collaborating with Russia. While NASA looks at it as a sign of threat, experts disagree with the possibility of China establishing control over the entire Moon. Professors Svetla Ben-Itzhak and R. Lincoln Hines have written in The Conversation that no country possesses the capabilities to simply control the entire Moon. “It is not only illegal, it is also technologically daunting – the costs of such an endeavor would be extremely high, while the potential payoffs would be uncertain”, they added.
Further, China has also signed an international treaty along with 133 other countries in 1967 that says that outer space, including the Moon, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty by any means. But even if not the entire Moon, China can take control of the strategically important craters on the Moon which can be crucial for setting up a base and sustaining life.
But experts are not convinced of this either. They said, “With a surface area of nearly 14.6 million square miles (39 million square kilometers) – or almost five times the area of Australia – any control of the Moon would be temporary and localized. Securing and enforcing control of strategic lunar areas would require substantial financial investments and long-term efforts. And no country could do this without everyone noticing”.
Whether the experts are correct on this one or whether the concerns of NASA are more valid will only be revealed in due time.