February 25, 2009

China To Allow Domestic Groups To Help Build Lunar Probe

China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense will be taking contributions from qualified institutions, such as universities, to help build the nation's first lunar probe, which is expected to land on the moon by 2012, according to the Guangming Daily newspaper.

Since becoming the third nation to put a man into space as of October 2003, China has continued to step up its efforts in space, which include plans to reach the moon. The country hopes to put an unmanned lunar buggy on the surface of the moon by 2012, and will reportedly be open for bidding from domestic schools and institutions to help build the technology, which includes a landing vehicle and moon explorer.

"Our country's lunar exploration research and development project will be opened to all of society, bringing in a competitive mechanism," said the Guangming Daily, which cited an unnamed administration official.

More than 90 elements of key technology must be mastered in the lunar approach. The report did not suggest that bidding would be made available to foreign groups, according to Reuters.

China's first lunar probe, the Chang'e-1, finished its mission in October after orbiting the moon thousands of times without landing.

On Friday, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced plans to launch two people into space for seven days in what some see as an effort to step up the space race against China.

"We are planning to put persons in the vehicle and launch them into space for seven days in an orbit of 275 km (172 miles)," said K Radhakrishnan, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center.

The decision comes after the successful launch of India's first unmanned mission, Chandrayaan-1, which is now orbiting the Moon to compile a 3-D map of its surface among other things. The nation is prepared to launch its second unmanned lunar mission - Chandrayaan-2 "“ in 2011.

An unmanned flight will be launched in 2013-2014 and manned mission likely to launch by 2014-2015," said Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, which approved India's lunar plans.

"We have to look forward to China performing military activities from the Moon," said Richard Fischer Jr, a senior fellow on Asian Military Affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.


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