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Asia's star ever brighter in space

Artist's concept of the China's second lunar probe Chang'e-2.

BEIJING (AFP): Asia's extraterrestrial ambitions have rocketed from nowhere in the 50 years since the first human space flight, with China shooting for the moon while India and Japan fuel up their own programmes.

Since China in 2003 became the world's third nation to put a man in space independently, after the United States and Russia, its manned space flight programme has earned worldwide attention.

In October, it launched its second lunar probe Chang'e-2 -- the next step in a bold programme to become the second country to put a man on the moon. Beijing also plans to build its own space station.

Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar orbiter project, has said there is no timetable for a manned moon landing, but that it would not happen before 2020, according to comments carried by state media.

China's space programme was launched in the early 1990s, thanks to the acquisition of Russian technology, and has become a symbol of its growing global stature.

"They have high-performance Earth observation and telecommunications systems... with a logistics system on the ground to process the data that works very well," according to Sourbes-Verger, who is based at France's National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris.

China lags about five years behind India in such areas, but has made major investments to quickly bridge the gap, Sourbes-Verger added.

The explosion of an Indian space rocket in December dented New Delhi's efforts to push further into the market for commercial satellite launches, but its space agency says failures have become stepping stones for success.

"India is recognised as a leader in the application of space technology for the development of the nation," the director of the Indian Space Research Centre (ISRO), S.Satish, told AFP.

Japan, which launched its first lunar probe in 2007, has also ploughed ahead with its space programme.


India  China  Space  Asia  

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