At a time when India's second Rs 425-crore moon mission, ``Chandrayaan-2,'' is steadily taking shape, support for India's lunar programme has come from an unusual quarter---its arch rival China. And significantly from none other than its chief lunar scientist,Ouyang Ziyuan.
Ziyuan, in a recent interview to a Chinese national daily, ``Global Times,'' said that as a large country, ``it (India) needs lunar exploration to spur technology development and invigorate the national spirit.'' The Chinese scientist, also an expert on underground nuke tests, praised India's space technology by pointing out that this country had the advantage over China in computer software.
Though he was all praise for India, he said that this country has always viewed China as a competitor in moon missions. ``It is determined to realise manned lunar exploration by 2020,'' he told the newspaper, thereby hinting that India was planning a human landing on the moon merely to beat China. But Isro officials reiterate that a manned flight to the moon was not immediately on the cards.
There is a touch of irony about Ziyuan praising India because soon after the launch of Chandrayaan-1 in October 2008, China criticised it saying that it failed on a number of areas and the mission was not a complete success. This of course was anything but the truth since nearly 95 per cent of the scientific objectives of the Indian lunar mission had been accomplished even though the project got cut short by a year because of a communication failure.
Incidentally, his remarks about India need to be seen in the context of a report in a well known space web site Space Daily. com which suggested that in the not-distant-future one should not be surprised if China and Pakistan team up in space missions. Based on this ``Beyond Moon and Mars,'' had written about this possible development.
According to him India has been bracketed with a second group of countries which have embarked on lunar missions. These are Europe, Japan and China. The first group consists of the US and Russia. The third one comprises those nations which are exploring the possibility of launching lunar missions. These could be Singapore and Malaysis.