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China denies NASA claim its space debris is about to hit moon

The Moon. (Arshad Shaikh/Dreamstime/TNS)
February 27, 2022

China disputed NASA’s claim that debris about to hit the moon originated with one of its exploration programs, the latest disagreement between the nations over their space programs.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Monday at a regular press briefing in Beijing that the final rocket stage of a moon mission years ago “entered into the Earth’s atmosphere and has already been completely burned up.”

That contradicted a NASA statement reported by the Washington Post last week that said “the object expected to impact the far side of the Moon March 4 is likely the Chinese Chang’e 5-T1 booster launched in 2014.” NASA also said at the time that the debris wasn’t linked to a SpaceX rocket, as was earlier reported.

China “earnestly safeguards the long-term sustainability of outer space activities,” Wang said. “We are willing to carry out extensive exchanges and cooperation with all parties in this regard,” he added.

Earlier this month, China said the U.S. was avoiding responsibility for problems caused by satellites launched by the Elon Musk-backed SpaceX. The U.S. hadn’t responded to requests for information after the company’s satellites last year came what it said was dangerously close to its space station.

China told the United Nations in December that there had been “close encounters” last July and October, when satellites neared its space station. Washington responded by saying there had been no need to send notifications to Beijing because the incidents hadn’t met the threshold of established emergency collision criteria.

Officials at the Chinese space agency said in January they will sign an agreement with Russia to build a research station on the moon. The nations aim to complete basic infrastructure for the station by 2035, Wu Yanhua, a deputy director of China National Space Administration, said, including systems for energy, communication and life support.


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