NASA accuses China of intent to take over the moon, China rejects

"The US has constantly constructed a smear campaign against our normal and reasonable space endeavors," a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said.

A full moon, known as the "Strawberry Moon" is shown split in half, June 15, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/JOE SKIPPER)
A full moon, known as the "Strawberry Moon" is shown split in half, June 15, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/JOE SKIPPER)

China on Monday rejected as an irresponsible smear a warning from the chief of NASA that China might "take over" the moon as part of a military program, saying it has always called for the building of a community of nations in outer space.

China has stepped up the pace of its space program in the past decade, with the exploration of the moon a focus. China made its first lunar uncrewed landing in 2013 and expects to launch rockets powerful enough to send astronauts to the moon towards the end of this decade.

"We must be very concerned that China is landing on the moon and saying: 'It's ours now and you stay out'," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told German newspaper Bild in an interview published on Saturday.

The US space agency chief said China's space program was a military one and that China had stolen ideas and technology from others.

"We must be very concerned that China is landing on the moon and saying: 'It's ours now and you stay out'"

Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson speaks prior to the launch of an Atlas V rocket carrying Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule to the International Space Station in a do-over test flight at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US July 29, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/JOE SKIPPER/FILE PHOTO)NASA Administrator Bill Nelson speaks prior to the launch of an Atlas V rocket carrying Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule to the International Space Station in a do-over test flight at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US July 29, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/JOE SKIPPER/FILE PHOTO)

"This is not the first time that the head of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration has ignored the facts and spoken irresponsibly about China," said Zhao Lijian, a spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry.

"The US side has constantly constructed a smear campaign against China's normal and reasonable outer space endeavors, and China firmly opposes such irresponsible remarks."

China has always promoted the building of a shared future for humanity in outer space and opposed its weaponization and any arms race in space, he said.

NASA, under its Artemis program, plans to send a crewed mission to orbit the moon in 2024 and make a crewed landing near the lunar south pole by 2025.

China is planning uncrewed missions to the moon's south pole some time this decade.