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China to move ahead with Lunar mission

An artistic rendition of Chang'e-1 moon orbiter.

BEIJING (PTI): China has said it will push ahead with its lunar exploration programme unmindful of the US' decision to suspend its moon missions.

"China should not slow down its pace of lunar exploration even if other countries change their plans," Ye Peijian, chief designer of the nation's first lunar probe, Chang'e-1, told China Daily.

China plans to launch its second lunar probe, Chang'e-2, in the latter half of this year as well as send a lunar lander and rover by 2013, he said.

The Chinese scientist, however, made no reference to India, which last year successfully launched its lunar mission 'Chandrayaan-1'.

China, for military implications, wants to remain in race with the space technology to compete with emerging powers like India and Japan.

The Chinese military programme has generated a sense of disquiet specially after its successfully demonstrated anti-satellite missile capability.

China had launched its first moon mission in 2007 to scan the lunar surface in preparation for an unmanned moon vehicle planned for 2012.

A year later, China launched its third manned space mission culminating in the country's first space walk.

The latest signal of China's resolve in lunar exploration follows US President Barack Obama's announcement in February that his administration was axing the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Constellation program, which former president George W Bush started in 2004 to return Americans to the moon by 2020.

Instead, NASA was asked to focus on technologies to prepare for human missions to other destinations in the solar system.

Ye conceded the refocused efforts of the US on Mars and Earth observation do represent a future trend.

The US could postpone moon-landing plans because "they made it to the moon some 40 years ago and still hold the technological advantage", he said.

China stands a better chance of joining more international projects in the field with a smaller technological gap, he said, adding that the country should explore Mars independently.

According to its three-phase moon exploration road map, China will launch the Chang'e-2 lunar orbiter this year, conduct a landing by 2013 with Chang'e-3 and collect surface samples by 2017.

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