The Next Country to Send a Human to the Moon Probably Won't Be the U.S.

The next country to send a human to the moon will be China, according to a panel of experts that debated the future of space travel this week. Morgan Stanley held its inaugural “Space Summit” in New York City to discuss the big issues surrounding the industry, featuring speakers from 12 companies, and during a discussion 10 of the representatives claimed the country would beat the United States to a return lunar visit.

The declaration is perhaps no surprise, as China has been gradually stepping up preparations to visit the moon since it announced its intention in 2016. Yang Liwei, deputy director general of China Manned Space Agency, confirmed in June 2017 that teams were making preliminary preparations for a visit. In April 2018, the China National Space Administration unveiled a bold vision of a lunar base comprised of tube-shaped cabins as early as 2030. At Morgan Stanley’s event, the experts predicted that the next human would visit the moon somewhere between 2022 and 2030, averaging out to an answer of 2025.

See more: China Plans on Launching a Space Probe to the Moon’s Most Mysterious Place

China has found big success with its unmanned lunar missions. In 2013, it became the third country to complete a soft landing on the moon (after the United States and Soviet Union) and the first in 37 years, with its Chang’e moon lander and six-wheel Yutu rover capturing surface images of the moon. Earlier this month, the Chang’e 4 lander launched from Sichuan with the goal of reaching the dark side of the moon.

The comments were shared by Elon Musk on his Twitter page Thursday. The SpaceX CEO has been planning more ambitious trips like an orbit around the moon in 2023 and a manned mission to Mars by 2024. He’s encouraged competition in the space, however, declaring at the February test flight of the Falcon Heavy that he hoped to spark a “new space race” with the launch of the world’s most powerful rocket.

China will face some competition in its quest to reach to moon again. NASA’s National Space Exploration Campaign Report proposed last month that the United States could return to the moon “no later than 2029.”

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