May 30, 2023 - Science

U.S. warns of conflict in space as China outlines moon landing plans

Rocket launch

The Shenzhou-16 manned spaceship blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, May 30. Photo: Li Gang/Xinhua via Getty Images

China announced it aims to land astronauts on the Moon by 2030, highlighting another arena for competition with the U.S.

Driving the news: Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency, announced the plans at a press conference on Monday, adding that the goal of a crewed Moon landing would be to carry out scientific exploration and technological experiments, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.

State of play: China has long been building up its capabilities in space, and along with Russia, posing a threat to U.S. satellites in orbit.

  • "The United States of America is ready to fight tonight in space if we have to," Brigadier General Jesse Morehouse of the U.S. Space Command said at a briefing at the U.S. Embassy in London Thursday, The Guardian reported.
  • Morehouse added that threats posed by Russian aggression and China's goal of becoming the dominant power in space have left the U.S. with "no choice" but to prepare for possible conflict in space.

Zoom out: Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall bluntly warned in March of the need to modernize the Air and Space Forces in order to compete with the threat posed by China.

  • “It is a fact: we’re in a space race,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson told Politico earlier this year.

Thought bubble, from Axios' Miriam Kramer: As the International Space Station program comes to a close by the end of the decade, new alliances will likely be formed on and around the Moon, setting up a new venue for geopolitical competition and collaboration in space.

  • China and Russia are planning to collaborate to build a research station on the Moon, while NASA's Artemis program — which hinges on international support from the European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency and others — is expected to bring U.S. astronauts back to the Moon for the first time in 50 years.
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