A recent Politico interview with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson covered old ground about the Chinese taking possession of the Moon and yet seemed to get some media play in the quiet post-holiday period. As I said, it is nothing new (see this earlier news clip) nor should it be a surprise. Yes, the U.S. is in a space race again, and it is a good thing. We needed the pressure in the 1960s and apparently we need it again today, 50 years after the last man stepped on the lunar surface.
For some reason, Administrator Nelson has a thousand excuses for why the Chinese may get to the Moon first – the Orion capsule from Artemis I needs to be reused for Artemis II (which should be seen as a good thing, at least by those that want to reduce costs and increase efficiencies), the space suits may not be ready, SpaceX may need more time, and on and on. Get a grip, man!
And then the Administrator has this comment regarding Chinese behavior: “If you doubt that, look at what they did with the Spratly Islands.” That is not the only model available. One only needs to look the Outer Space Treaty to see that China and others have agreed not to make claims on the Moon. Another treaty worth viewing is the Antarctic Treaty that relates to real exploration on a cold, distant body. About 50 permanent active research stations representing 32 countries are already conducting science on Antarctica without issue. China, the U.S., Russia and others have shown that they can play well together.
So maybe we need less chest-pounding and more attention to the Artemis project at hand. The U.S. dropped the ball 50 years ago. It seems a little silly to get all upset now when other nations have shown an interest all these years later.