NASA chief Bill Nelson said China could claim the moon as its territory.
He told Politico that Chinese aggression in the South China Sea meant what could happen on the moon.
Nelson said China has enjoyed “tremendous success and progress” in its recent development in the space.
The head of NASA said that China could claim the moon as its territory if it beats the US in the race to the lunar surface.
In an interview with Politico, published on Sunday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said that the Chinese military expansion in the South China Sea was a sign of what would happen on the moon.
Nelson said: “It is true: we are in the space race. And it is true that we better be careful that they do not reach the location of the moon under the guise of scientific research. And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they say, ‘Be careful, here we are, this is our limit.’
“If you doubt that, look at what they did with the Spratly Islands.”
Newly-released aerial images show new military installations in the Spratly Islands, an archipelago in the disputed South China Sea.
NASA completed its Artemis 1 mission in November, which involved flying the Orion spacecraft around the Moon. It was preceded by the Artemis 3 mission, which aims to land astronauts on the moon’s surface by 2025.
China recently completed a new space station, Tiangong, and in November launched a crew of taikonauts toward the station. Beijing plans to send three missions to the moon in the next decade as part of its Chang’e lunar program, after it said it had discovered a new lunar mineral that could be used as an energy source.
Nelson told Politico that China has enjoyed “remarkable success and progress” in its space over the past decade.
NASA is working with Elon Musk’s SpaceX on the Artemis III mission. Nelson told Politico: “I ask the question every day: ‘How is SpaceX progressing?'” And all our managers tell me that all the milestones are coming.
NASA did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment, made outside normal US operating hours.
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