"We believe that a lot of their so-called civilian space program is a military program."

Full Nelson

NASA's administrator is once again making outrageous claims about China's space capabilities — and in the process, fueling the off-world rivalry between the two.

"We believe that a lot of [China's] so-called civilian space program is a military program," Administrator Bill Nelson said during remarks on Capitol Hill this week, per The Guardian. "And I think, in effect, we are in a race."

The comments, as the website notes, came during a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee — which means that Nelson was making them while asking for money for NASA, which has requested a whopping $25.384 billion for its 2025 funding.

"China has made extraordinary strides, especially in the last 10 years," Nelson continued, "but they are very, very secretive."

Big Talk

It's unclear from the reporting about the administrator's comments what evidence his claims are riding on. This is not, as we mentioned, the first time Nelson has made such bold accusations about our sometimes-ally.

Sworn in in May 2021, Nelson has for much of his tenure warned that China could usurp America's space advantage at any moment — and has used similarly bold claims to demonstrate that point.

Just a year into the job — and during another House Appropriations Committee hearing — the administrator straight-up accused China of stealing American spacecraft designs.

"Yeah, they're pretty good at stealing," Nelson told the subcommittee in May 2022, "and I think that's incumbent upon us to take cybersecurity very, very seriously."

Just a few months later, he claimed in an interview with a random German newspaper that China wants to "steal" the Moon as well, which prompted a response from the rival nation.

"The US side has constantly constructed a smear campaign against China's normal and reasonable outer space endeavors," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a press statement, "and China firmly opposes such irresponsible remarks."

Moon Money

While there certainly is no love lost between Nelson and his Chinese counterparts, the incendiary discourse between these space race rivals generally seems to originate on the American side.

Last fall, Nelson again claimed that China plans to hoard lunar resources for itself, which would go against the United Nations' binding space treaty of 1967 — and in his more recent remarks, he reiterated those remarks while begging for more money.

"The latest date they've said they're going to land [on the Moon] is 2030, but that keeps moving up," Nelson told Congress, per transcription from Sky News. "It is incumbent on us to get there first and to utilize our research efforts for peaceful purposes."

At this point, the lengthy list of receipts of this sort of recurrent rhetoric coming from the top of NASA does make one wonder: is China on the offensive, or is America?

More on NASA: NASA Admits Space Station Junk Crashed Through Man's Roof

Share This Article