KEY POINTS

  • Some U.S. officials are worried over China's Moon missions
  • Lunar outposts could be used for military purposes
  • An expert believes China's space program is not a threat to the U.S.

A security expert addressed the growing concerns over the increasing presence of China on the Moon. Recently, a U.S. lawmaker warned that China’s missions to the Moon could be used for military purposes.

In the past year, China has been focused on its robotic missions to the Moon. The country’s space agency also expressed its plans of establishing an outpost on the lunar surface.

China’s latest mission on the Moon was kicked off by the success of the Chang’e-4 expedition, which sent a robotic rover to the lunar surface in January last year. Since then, the country’s space agency has been busy working on new missions that will help increase its presence on the Moon.

For some officials in the U.S., China’s ongoing activities on the Moon should be regarded as a threat to national and space security. During the previous State of Space Conference held in February, Colorado Representative Doug Lamborn shared his sentiments regarding China's lunar program.

According to Lamborn, if China establishes a permanent presence on the Moon, the country could use it for its military activities, such as using it to spy on satellites and to limit the activities of the U.S. on the lunar surface.

“They very much have military thoughts in mind when it comes to what they can do with a military presence on the moon, and the ability to see things and track things with the unchanging platforms that no one really has right now,” he said during the conference.

However, for research fellow Dean Cheng of the Asian Studies at the Heritage Foundation, the status of China’s current space program is not yet enough to provide the country with a dominating presence on the Moon.

Currently, China is focused on sending robotic probes and rovers to space as it is not yet ready to launch humans to the Moon. According to Cheng, it would take a long time before China gets to establish an outpost operated by humans on the lunar surface. NASA’s plan to return astronauts to the Moon in 2024 will most likely happen first before China sends its own human expedition.

For Cheng, China is still far from establishing an imposing military presence in space or on the Moon.

“You get lots of speculation about how, where, what, and when, but as far as I know, we have never seen a Chinese official statement that they are going to the Moon [with humans],” he told Space.com.

Chang'e-4 The seedlings on Chang'e-4 have all died due to the freezing temperatures on the Moon. Pictured: This picture released on January 11, 2019 by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS shows the Yutu-2 moon rover, taken by the Chang'e-4 lunar probe on the far side of the moon. Photo: Getty Images/AFP/-