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Last American to walk on moon says China will beat others back there

Chinese scientists monitor the docking of the Tiangong-1 space lab module and the Shenzhou VIII spacecraft in space at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the northwestern province of Gansu on Nov. 3, 2011.

AFP/Getty Images

Former Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon almost 40 years ago, is worried China will beat other nations back to the shiny orb.

"There's no question in my mind at all that they are going to develop the capability to go to the moon and probably establish colonies there to take advantage of some of the resources that are on the moon," he said on Wednesday.

China moved one step closer to setting up its own space station with the successful docking of two unmanned spacecraft above the Earth which was announced Thursday morning.

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Mr. Cernan spent more than 70 hours on the lunar surface in December 1972 along with fellow U.S. astronaut Harrison Schmitt during the Apollo 17 mission.

He said China is "eight or 10 years away" from landing on the moon and when they get there they are going to literally almost own it because no other countries have any plans to go there.

"The Chinese have a long-term plan that's going to leave the rest of us behind quite frankly and I'm worried about it," he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Mr. Cernan said if China assumes a position of leadership in space, "it's going to have significant negative effects on western civilization, particularly the United States – for many years to come."

The 77-year-old former astronaut made the comments at the First Aerospace Summit where he was also the keynote speaker.

The conference has been organized by the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada.

During his speech, Mr. Cernan talked about his three-day visit to the moon and presented a slide show with spectacular photos of the dusty landscape.

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He vividly remembered standing on the ladder of the lunar module as he was about to leave the moon's surface and looked at the Earth.

"I came to the conclusion, whatever it meant that, indeed I had a rare opportunity of what I considered sitting on God's back porch and looking at a little bit of his creation," Mr. Cernan said.

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