December 3, 2007

China Says Lunar Image Authentic

BEIJING (AP) - China's space program has defended a photo of the moon's surface taken by its lunar probe as authentic, dismissing critics who suggested it had been copied from a similar image captured by a U.S. orbiter.

China last week presented the first picture taken by its Chang'e 1 lunar probe at a gala ceremony attended by Premier Wen Jiabao, part of the ruling Communist Party's program of using the space program to instill national pride.

However, critics posting on Chinese-language Internet sites questioned the image's authenticity, saying it was all but identical to a photo captured by a U.S. lunar orbiter two years ago.

Commentators questioned how the Chinese image were of the exact same spot on the moon, given its size.

Lunar program chief scientist Ouyang Ziyuan insisted the Chinese image was real.

"Because China and the United States took the images in the same region, it's natural the two pictures look alike," Ouyang said in remarks carried Monday by the Xinhua News Agency and other state media outlets. "But through careful observation you will see there are some nuances," Ouyang said.