The race to put humans on the moon will see the US competing with China, this time. Even though the US did land humans on the moon way back in 1969 while competing with USSR, but this time the competitor has changed.
Chinese technical prowess demonstrated by landing a rover on Mars, plus an upcoming Russia-China announcement on cooperation in space, suggests that the United States could face competition in its bid to land two American astronauts on the Moon in 2024, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on Tuesday.
“You’re seeing statements made by the Chinese government that they don’t want to wait around until the 2030s to land on the moon with humans,” Nelson told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee responsible for space.
Nelson said China’s successful May 14 landing of a rover on Mars, the second nation apart from the US to achieve the feat, had energized the Chinese space program and possibly provided the impetus for a major announcement on space by Russia and China expected Wednesday afternoon at an international space conference in St. Petersburg.
On Tuesday, Roscosmos space agency chief Dimitry Rogozin hinted at such an announcement during the GLEX-2021 conference, saying that Russia and China are discussing a framework for creating an international scientific lunar station.
Nelson said such cooperation could challenge the primacy of the US Space program, making it especially important for the United States to be landing on the surface of the moon “before our competitors do.”
Nelson said NASA’s $24.8 billion budget request for fiscal 2022 was adequate to advance the US plans to return humans to the moon in 2024.
Earlier, Roscosmos chief had stated that Russia could launch the first Russian spacecraft to the moon after a 45-year hiatus in early 2022.
In early June, the Roscosmos chief told Sputnik that the launch of “Luna-25”, scheduled for October, would be delayed due to the supply of equipment and testing of the station.
“By the end of the year, our Luna-25 spacecraft will be ready. This is our first lander mission which will be sent to the moon either at the end of this year or the beginning of next year, depending on technical readiness,” Rogozin told Russia’s Vesti FM radio station.
Luna-25 is a project of the first Russian lunar space probe. The previous one, Luna-24, was launched by the Soviet Union in 1976. The space probe will be also the first lander mission on the lunar south pole.