Robert Bigelow is not a small name in the space world. His company Bigelow Aerospace is a pioneer of inflatable spacecraft, and the company has made waves with its plans for an inflatable, orbiting space hotel (not coincidentally, Bigelow's fortunes come from his ownership of the Budget Suites motel chain). So when he says something about the future of space travel, we listen. On the other hand, when he says that China is planning to take over the moon circa 2025, we listen, but with skepticism.
At the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, Bigelow laid out a timeline of a wild-west-style Chinese takeover of the moon, calling China "the new gunslinger in Dodge." Bigelow's timeline notes China's increasing success in space projects, up to and including last month's launch of the Tiangong Space Station module. He further declares that the moon's abundance in helium-3, a possible future fuel, but more importantly that "claiming" the moon would be a major glory moment for China. The timeline suggests that China will complete surveys of the moon, withdraw from the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and formally claim the moon as part of China. Bigelow even suggested diverting 10 percent of the defense budget--some $60 billion--to preventing this moon theft.