China has angrily fired back at NASA Administrator Bill Nelson's criticism of its space program, denying that it is planning to take over the moon. In an interview with Germany's Bild newspaper published Saturday, Nelson said, "We must be very concerned about China landing on the moon and saying that it now belongs to the People’s Republic and everyone else should stay out." He also accused China of stealing technology and described Beijing's space program as a military one, reports Reuters.
Chinese officials said Monday that the US is the one militarizing space and Nelson's claims were "recklessness and falsehoods," the South China Morning Post reports. "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," said foreign ministry rep Zhao Lijian. He slammed America's "dirty record" and said China has always called for space exploration to be peaceful. He urged Nelson to "make the due contribution of the US to maintaining continued peace and security in outer space."
China's space industry was created "entirely through independence and self-reliance, and its rights and achievements cannot be questioned or discredited in any way," Zhao said. In his remarks to Bild, Nelson said competition between the US and China is especially tense regarding the moon's south pole, where there could be water. The US plans to make a crewed landing in the area by 2025, while China aims to send astronauts to the moon by 2030. (Read more Chinese space program stories.)