Hours after launching its moon mission, China on Monday said it was ready to cooperate with India in space.
Early Monday, China launched the Chang'e-3 lunar probe with the country's first moon rover aboard with the state media calling it “a significant step toward deep space exploration”.
The probe's carrier, an enhanced Long March-3B rocket, blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center insouthwest China at 1:30 a.m.
Chang'e-3 is expected to land on the moon in mid-December to become China's first spacecraft to soft land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body.
State media reported that a telescope will be set up on the moon, for the first time in human history, to observe the plasma sphere over the Earth and survey the moon surface through radar.
“The lunar probe mission is of great scientific and economic significance,” said Sun Zezhou, chief designer of the lunar probe.
Chang'e-3, comprising a lander and a moon rover called “Yutu” (Jade Rabbit), presents a modern scientific version of an ancient Chinese myth.
The former Soviet Union first landed its probe on the moon on Jan. 31, 1966, while the United States first sent human beings to the moon in 1969.
China has been keenly watching the steady progress in outer space of India’s maiden Mars orbiter, Mangalyaan, since it was launched weeks ago.
“About a day before the launch of Chang'e-3, India's maiden Mars orbiter, named Mangalyaan, left the Earth early on Sunday for a 300-day journey to the Red Planet,” Xinhua, China’s state-run official news agency, reported on Monday.
It quoted one of the country’s top space scientists, Li Benzheng, deputy commander-in-chief of China’s lunar program, as saying Chinese scientists were ready to cooperate with other countries in the field of space.
“Chinese space scientists are looking forward to cooperation with other countries, including the country's close neighbor India. Li Benzheng, deputy commander-in-chief of China's lunar program, told media earlier that China's space exploration does not aim at competition,” Xinhua said.
“We are open in our lunar program, and cooperation from other countries is welcome,” he said, adding: “We hopeto explore and use space for more resources to promote human development.”
China has already sent manned missions to space but with India launching the internationally acclaimed and closely followed Mars mission, the space race between the two giant neighbours is expected to get closer and sharper.
The Indian spacecraft is expected to reach the orbit of Mars in the next 300 days.
China’s ambitious space program wants to land a manned mission to the moon sometime after 2020.
“China's Mars probe rode piggyback on a Russian spacecraft that failed to leave Earth's orbit in November 2011. The spacecraft crumbled in the atmosphere and its fragments fell into the Pacific Ocean,” Reuters news agency saidin a report.