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NASA chief says ‘secretive’ China is hiding military projects in space | Science & Tech News

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China is hiding secret military activity in space, NASA chief Bill Nelson has claimed.

“We believe that a lot of their so-called civilian space programme is a military programme,” he told the House Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday.

China has made extraordinary strides, especially in the last 10 years, but they are very, very secretive,” he said.

The NASA administrator was giving evidence during a committee hearing to sign off the US space agency’s £20.3bn ($25.4bn) budget request for 2025.

He was asked by the committee’s chairman Hal Rogers about China’s “very significant investments” in their space programmes and how NASA would maintain its “edge” over China.

“We are in a race,” replied Mr Nelson.

“The latest date they’ve said they’re going to land [on the moon] is 2030 but that keeps moving up.

“It is incumbent on us to get there first and to utilise our research efforts for peaceful purposes,” said Mr Nelson.

He went on to tell committee members China could claim parts of outer space as its own territory if it were to land on the moon first.

“My concern would be if China got there first and said, ‘This is our territory, you stay out’.

“Obviously you don’t want to interfere with each other but don’t declare that this whole territory is suddenly yours,” he said.

He used China’s continued claim of the Spratly Islands, a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea, as an example of the superpower claiming territory.

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The Artemis Accords is an agreement that requires space activity to be conducted for peaceful purposes and has been signed by more than 40 countries including the UK.

China has not signed these accords.

“I would hope that the Chinese space programme will come to its senses and understand that civilian space is for peaceful uses but we have not seen that demonstrated,” said Mr Nelson.

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China now has 499 satellites in orbit, according to the US Defense Intelligence Agency. That’s more than double its number in 2019.

It is also developing its spy balloons and hypersonic missiles.

“We’ve got to be realistic that China is throwing a lot of money at [it’s space programme] and they’ve got a lot of room to grow,” said Mr Nelson.

“Their science is good, their engineering is good and the proof is in the pudding. They’ve now got a space station up there.”

China’s Tiangong space station is permanently manned and was constructed over three missions in 2021 and 2022. It was completed on 5 November 2022.



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