Beijing: China is shooting for the moon while India and Japan are fuelling up their own programmes as Asia’s extraterrestrial ambitions have cropped up from nowhere in the 50 years since the first human space flight.

Asia's extraterrestrial ambitions have rocketed from nowhere in the 50 years since the first human space flight, with China shooting for the moon while India and Japan fuel up their own programmes.

Since China in 2003 became the world's third nation to put a man in space independently, after the United States and Russia, its manned space flight programme has earned worldwide attention.

In October, it launched its second lunar probe Chang'e-2- a step forward in a bold programme to become the second country to put a man on the moon. Beijing also plans to build its own space station.

Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar orbiter project, has said there is no timetable for a manned moon landing, but that it would not happen before 2020, according to comments carried by state media.

China's space programme was launched in the early 1990s, thanks to the acquisition of Russian technology, and has become a symbol of its growing global stature.

The initiative is run by the country's powerful People's Liberation Army, which does not welcome international cooperation-unlike its regional rival India, which is targeting a manned space mission in 2016.

"India is totally different from China in that it benefits from technology transfers. Beijing has meanwhile been isolated as it has built up its space programme," said Isabelle Sourbes-Verger, a French expert on China's efforts.

According to Sourbes-Verger, India has also focused on money-making space ventures rather than manned space exploration. Sourbes-Verger is based at France's National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris.

"They have high-performance Earth observation and telecommunications systems with a logistics system on the ground to process the data that works very well," she said.    

China lags about five years behind India in such areas, but has made major investments to quickly bridge the gap, Sourbes-Verger added.

"India is recognised as a leader in the application of space technology for the development of the nation," the director of the Indian Space Research Centre (ISRO), S Satish said.

Japan, which launched its first lunar probe in 2007, has also ploughed ahead with its space programme.