China is expected to launch its first unmanned
lunar orbiter, the Chang’e-1 before the end of this year, while India also announced
that it would send up a similar space probe as early as April 2008, the Financial Times reported. Chinese scientists stressed Chang’e’s goal was to improve understanding
of the geochemistry of the moon’s surface, while India's focus is on
three-dimensional mapping. Under Beijing’s three-stage plan, the Chang’e orbiter will be followed
by a lunar landing and then by a mission to bring back rock and soil
samples. Non-governmental groups argued against India's costly space missions since the country is home to a quarter of the world’s poor. Manmohan
Singh, India’s prime minister, defended them, saying the country must
deal with the fundamental problems of development and at the same time
aspire to operate on the frontiers of science.
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