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China rocket debris hits two homes, experts urge insurance

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Two houses in China were damaged by falling pieces of a rocket launched on Monday, prompting calls for an insurance scheme to cover future damage from the country's ambitious space program, the China Daily newspaper reported on Wednesday.

No casualties were reported after the successful launch of China's first moon rover, Chang'e-3, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in the southwestern province of Sichuan, but debris from the launch hurtled into a village in neighboring Hunan province.

A photograph in the newspaper showed a farmer standing by a desk-sized chunk of the rocket that had apparently smashed through his wooden roof.

"Suppose the rocket wreckage hit a person; what would the authorities do?" the paper quoted Ren Zili, a professor of insurance laws at Beihang University, as saying.

One person whose home was damaged received 10,800 yuan ($1,800) as compensation and the other received 5,200 yuan, it said.

Ren called for a program to handle compensation in such cases, rather than dealing with each on an individual basis.

More than 180,000 residents of Sichuan and Hunan were relocated before the launch of the Chang'e-3 lunar probe, the paper said.

The number of launches has climbed to as many as 20 each year, Zhang Jianheng, deputy general manager with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Cooperation, told the official Xinhua news agency.

China is also studying ways to build recoverable rockets that leave no wreckage, to solve the problem once and for all.

China successfully completed its latest manned space mission in June, when three astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with an experimental space laboratory critical in Beijing's quest to build a working space station by 2020.

($1=6.0924 yuan)

(Editing by John Ruwitch and Clarence Fernandez)

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