“We will be the first”: China loses to NASA in the space race for the Moon

NASA administrator Bill Nelson is not worried that China, in theory, can outpace the United States in a mission to return astronauts to the Moon. Both countries have plans to land humans on our natural moon by the end of the decade, reigniting discussions about a new space race.

China and NASA have started a space race in the moon landing championship. Illustrated generated image thanks to Gencraft AI

“It is a fact: We’re in a space race. 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,” admits Nelson.

However, Nelson no longer believes that China can win this race. During a teleconference with media representatives, he said that NASA was directing its efforts to the Artemis III mission in September 2026, during which astronauts would land on the surface of the Moon. When asked about China, he expressed confidence that the United States would not concede in the race to land people on the Moon.

“I do not have a concern that China is going to land before us. I think that China has a very aggressive plan. I think they would like to land before us, because that might give them some PR coup. But the fact is that I don’t think they will. But specifically, with us landing in September of ’26, that will be the first landing,” Nelson said.

China’s space plans for a Moon landing

China is aiming to land astronauts on the Moon (or taikonauts, as China calls them) by 2030. The Celestial Empire is aiming at the South Pole of the moon, considering it rich in water ice. To achieve its goal, the Chinese Space Agency plans to test a new manned spacecraft by 2027-2028. It also provides for the use of two rocket launches: one to put the lunar spacecraft into orbit, the other to send the crew to the Moon. This plan will help China overcome the technological difficulties associated with the development of a powerful rocket to transport astronauts and a lander directly from Earth. 

However, China’s ambition is not limited to just landing on the Moon. It is planned to launch the Chang’e-6 robotic mission to the far side of the Moon to collect samples and return them to Earth; this may be the first successful mission to obtain samples from a remote part of the Moon. The mission is planned to be launched at the end of 2024.

And although China acts as a serious competitor, American researchers have gained access to lunar samples from China. A few years earlier, NASA had allowed funded agencies to apply for samples returned by the Chang’e-5 mission, providing American scientists with a unique opportunity to study materials brought from the Moon.

Earlier, we reported on how NASA postponed the Artemis mission until 2025-2026.

According to Space

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