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India building rival to Google Earth

Who would dare challenge Google, the superman of the Internet age?

India, that's who.

Fresh off the high of its recent lunar achievements, India is taking on the powerful Internet search company on a playing field a little closer to home: Google Earth. 

The Indian Based Research Organization (ISRO) plans to launch its Web-based mapping system, Bhuvan (Sanskrit for Earth), by spring. The data comes from India's network of 50 satellites.

So, why does India think its program can compete? For starters, Bhuvan users will be able to zoom in on areas as small as 10 meters wide (Google's zoom limit is 200 meters). ISRO will replenish its high-resolution images each year, unlike Google, and its additional GPS component could lead to partnerships on navigation devices for cars.

While initially the program only covers India, if successful, Bhuvan will extend across the globe. ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair also hopes that the online software will lead to improvement India's notoriously bad offline hardware -- potholed road, clogged cities, and degraded environment. "This will not be a mere browser," he says. "but the mechanism for providing satellite images and thematic maps for developmental planning."

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