BEIJING (Reuters) - China has dismissed Internet gossip that its first photo of the moon taken from a lunar orbiter might have been plagiarised from NASA, local media said on Monday.
The country launched its first lunar probe, the Chang’e 1, in October and released a photo featuring a patch of grey moon surface splotched with craters last week, hailing the mission as a “complete success”.
But some Chinese Internet users have questioned its originality after comparing it with an almost identical lunar image from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 2005.
“There is absolutely no forgery,” Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist for the lunar probe, told the Beijing News.
The Chinese and U.S. lunar images looked similar only because they had aimed at the same area of the moon’s southern hemisphere, Ouyang was quoted as saying.
“But a careful examination will tell some small differences,” Ouyang said.
There were two craters on a certain spot of the Chinese photo, but there was only one on that same spot of the American picture, the Beijing News quoted him as saying.
“Maybe it’s because the resolution of the American photo was not high enough, or a new pit might have been generated by an asteroid hitting the moon between 2005 and 2007,” Ouyang said.
“I understand the doubts of the Internet surfers. They hope the Chinese lunar probe can do well so they don’t want the photo to turn out to be fake,” he said.
A three-dimensional image of the moon surface taken by the Chang’e 1 was released on Sunday and some data collected by the satellite would be shared with the public, the Beijing News said.
China has an ambitious space programme, eyeing its scientific and military benefits as well as domestic political gains from its boost to patriotism.
In 2003, China became only the third country to put a man into space using its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States. It then sent two astronauts on a five-day flight on its Shenzhou VI mission in October 2005.
It plans to launch a third manned mission, Shenzhou VII, into space next year which would involve a space walk.
Other Asian powers have also announced lunar plans. Japan launched its first lunar satellite in September and India plans one in 2008.
Reporting by Guo Shipeng; Editing by Nick Macfie and Jerry Norton