(REUTERS) -- China on Monday rejected as an irresponsible smear a warning from the chief of NASA that China might "take over" the moon as part of a military program, saying it has always called for the building of a community of nations in outer space.
China has stepped up the pace of its space program in the past decade, with the exploration of the moon a focus. China made its first lunar uncrewed landing in 2013 and expects to launch rockets powerful enough to send astronauts to the moon towards the end of this decade.
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"We must be very concerned that China is landing on the moon and saying: 'It's ours now and you stay out,'" NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told German newspaper Bild in an interview published on Saturday.