China moon programme looks to private funding

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BEIJING, Nov 8 (Reuters) China, the third country to put a man into space aboard its own rocket, will open part of the second stage of its moon mission projects to private funding, a newspaper said today.

As part of an ambitious space programme, China's first lunar probe reached its working orbit yesterday and the country plans to put a man on the moon within 15 years.

Li Guoping, a spokesman for the China National Space Administration, told the Shanghai Daily funding could come from ''scientific research organs, universities and also private companies''.

''With the expansion of China's space exploration, we'd like to encourage private enterprise to join space technology development and attract public funds for aerospace-related research, manufacture and trade,'' Li said.

The launch of the probe represents the first stage in China's three-step moon mission. The second stage envisages a moon landing.

The final stage would involve a landing and collection of soil and rock samples.

The lunar orbiter, Chang'e 1, is scheduled to begin its probe at the end of this month when all of its instruments will be fully operational.

In 2003, China became only the third country to put a man into space on its own, joining the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Long Lehao, one of China's top rocket scientists, said China planned to launch a space station by 2020. This was promptly followed by an official denial that made future plans unclear.

REUTERS GT DS1100

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