China could start building a lunar base with lunar soil bricks in 5 years, amid NASA fears of a dispute over lunar territory

A screen shows images from Chang’e-5, China’s lunar sample return mission, at an event in Beijing.Reuters

China wants to start building a base on the moon with the help of lunar soil within five years, Chinese media reported.

The news comes just months after NASA Administrator Bill Nelson warned that China may want to claim the moon’s resource-rich areas for itself.

In the first conference on the subject, more than 100 scientists from domestic universities gathered on Saturday to discuss plans for the country’s crewed moon base at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, according to reports from the South China Morning Post (SCMP), an English-language newspaper based in Hong Kong.

Ding Lieyun, an expert from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said in an interview with local newspaper Changjiang Daily that China could be ready to place the first brick on the moon within five years, according to the SCMP.

“We will use real lunar soil to make the first brick on the moon,” he added, according to SCMP.

moon footprint

The lunar soil, called regolith, is thick and abundant on the moon.Nasa

Ding has been working on a robot named Chinese Super Mason that can turn the lunar floor into brick. These could be used to create habitats on the moon using traditional Chinese building techniques, he said.

NASA has its own plan to build a permanent base at the lunar south pole. The agency plans to mine resources like water ice on the moon to create fuel, water, and even oxygen there.

But NASA does not yet have a specific timetable for the construction of this base. It has set an ambitious goal of landing astronauts on the lunar surface in 2025, but construction could come years later.

For China, it looks like they plan to build first and send humans later. Although the first brick could arrive on the Moon within a decade, as a technological test on the Chang’e 8 mission, it could take much longer for humans to settle there, Yu Dengyun said, of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. , by SCMP

“It could take us 20 to 30 years or more to finally settle on the moon, but we need to start working together now,” Yu said at the conference, per SCMP.

China has made incredible progress in space

China said it would send a new group of astronauts in the coming days to the Tiangong space station as it neared completion.  Here, students watch a televised lecture by three astronauts currently on Tiangong on March 23, 2022.

Students watch a televised lecture given by three astronauts on China’s Tiangong space station.Xue Lei/Future Publishing via Getty Images

China, the United States and their respective allies are vying for the top spot on the Moon this decade. It’s not just for fame and scientific interest. Getting there first could result in either nation claiming territory or setting a precedent for other practices, like resource mining, for the new era of exploration on the moon and beyond. beyond to Mars.

“It’s a fact: we’re in a space race,” Nelson previously told Politico. “And it’s true that we better be careful that they don’t get to a place on the moon under the guise of scientific research. And it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they say, ‘Stand away, we are here, this is our territory.’”

NASA has been trying to get other spacefaring nations on the same page through the Artemis Accords, a non-binding agreement to be peaceful, transparent, cooperative, and use space resources sustainably as humans grow. span the moon and beyond.

mars astronaut

An artist’s concept shows an astronaut on Mars, seen through a spacecraft window.NASA/JPL-Caltech

Twenty-two countries have signed the Artemis Accords, but Russia and China are not among them. In any case, NASA has been legally prohibited from collaborating with China since Congress banned the agency from doing so in 2011.

No one can truly own the moon, but international outer space law is a very open field that will likely change drastically as the United States, China and others establish permanent bases on the moon.

The moon is considered a strategic target for space exploration, as it could become a pit stop for rockets en route to Mars.

spaceship with the moon in the background

Part of the far side of the moon looms as NASA’s Orion spacecraft flies past.Nasa

In 2021, China officially announced its intention to build the International Lunar Research Station in cooperation with Russia. This aims to be fully autonomous at first, with robots performing tasks such as mining local resources.

China’s progress into space has been “amazing” in recent years, Space Force Lt. Gen. Nina Armagno said last November.

This includes landing a rover on the far side of the moon for the first time, sending rovers, landers and orbiters to Mars, and building its own space station in Earth orbit. .

“I think it’s entirely possible that they could catch up and pass us, absolutely,” Armagno said, according to Reuters.

A man in heavy clothing looks at a charred probe lying on the frozen ground.  In the foreground, a Chinese flag fluttering in the wind.

The Chang’e 5 probe successfully returned the moon’s soil to Earth in Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia, China.TPG/Getty Images

The Chinese government said last month that it intended to get its astronauts to the moon by the end of the decade.

The United States is on its own path to bringing boots back to the moon in the years to come.

For example, NASA recently had success with its first moon mission – Artemis I – which took its SLS mega-rocket around the moon and back. The agency wants to build its own station in orbit around the moon, as well as an Artemis lunar base.

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