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India draws up own Google Earth plan

Space programme spin-off

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India is planning to create its own version of Google Earth on the back of its successful moon mission.

The Indian Space Research Organisation launched Chandrayaan-1 last month - it will orbit the Moon for two years at a height of about 100km and carry out mineral and chemical surveys of the surface.

The mapping project, using Isro satellites, is called Bhuvan and should be up and running this month ahead of public launch in March.

V Jayaraman, a research director at Isro, told the FT: "We will introduce [Bhuvan] in phases. Over the next three to four months, the first lot [of map data] will come out and then more in a systematic manner."

Bhuvan claims to offer more detail than Google Earth and images will be updated more often - once a year. The basic service will be available free on the web but the agency may charge for higher resolution pictures. The Indian government will use the data for infrastructure and crop monitoring.

It is expected to be tied into an ongoing Indian project to develop its own GPS system.

Chandrayaan is due to drop its Moon Impact Probe in the next few days. The $83m project has led to criticism that the Indian government could be spending the money on alleviating poverty a little closer to home. ®

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