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China downplays talk of space race on India's Mars mission launch

world Updated: Nov 05, 2013 19:27 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times

China on Tuesday closely followed the successful launch of India's maiden Mars mission, Mangalyaan, and brushed aside speculations it will trigger a space race between the two nations.

Many believe the launch will pitch the two emerging world powers in a race for ambitious space programmes. China has already sent manned missions to space -in 2012 and 2013 -- and plans to build its own space station around 2020. It plans to send a manned craft to the moon by the same year.

But today's mission to Mars is being looked upon as a coup by India in space in terms of ambition and home-grown technology.

"Outer space is shared by the entire mankind. Every country has the right to make peaceful exploration and use of outer space," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular press briefing on Tuesday.

He said the international community should make "joint efforts to ensure enduring peace and sustainable development of outer space".

Brushing aside questions on the space race between the two neighbours, he said, "Political mutual trust between our two countries has increased and mutual cooperation has expanded."

The Chinese state media covered the launch minute-by-minute with state-run Xinhua news agency releasing frequent dispatches on the development at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh through the day.

The nationalistic newspaper Global Times's opinion piece was one of grudging admiration.

"India has an ambitious goal of leading Asia in this area, especially having an advantage over China," it said in an editorial titled "India's space ambition offers clue to China".

"So far, only the US, Russia and EU have succeeded in Mars exploration. Other attempts to reach Mars, including China's Yinghuo-1 mission and Japan's Nozomi mission, have failed.

As poor as India is, New Delhi managed to carry out its Mars exploration program with a budget of only $73 million, much less than the spendings of China and Japan," it said.

National broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), led its prime time evening news bulletin with the launch news, saying that it took India a step closer to achieving something which only a few nations have done.

It went on to describe what the mission is expected to achieve and explained how it works with the help of a graphic.

On the issue of India spending millions of dollars on the mission, the report said that it had cost less than the money spent on organising and holding the Commonwealth Games a few years ago.

But bulletin also carried a word of warning from an expert attached to a top government think-tank.

Teng Jianqun, director of the Centre for Arms Control and International Security Studies at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, said mission will face lot of difficulties before it could actually be called successful.

Tuesday's launch, he said, was only a beginning and the vehicle will face difficulties during the long flight to Mars.

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