China Moon Controversy

Last week Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao released the first photograph taken by the Chang-e 1 lunar probe. The picture showed the surface of the moon. Wen declared, "Chinese people's dream of flying to the moon for more than 1,000 years has started to materialize."

But then people on the internet started to point out that the picture looked an awful lot like a NASA picture from 2005. In fact, the two photos looked almost identical. So now the Chinese lunar probe programme is defending itself against charges of fakery.

To be fair to the Chinese, the two photos aren't entirely alike. The shadows are different, and the Chinese photo shows an extra crater. So the similarity is likely a result of the fact that both photos happen to show the same part of the moon. But it's nice to see that China has just as many conspiracy theorists as America does, ready to doubt anything produced by their government space program.

Below are the Chinese (left) and American (right) moon pictures side by side (from the Telegraph). The red circle indicates where the Chinese picture shows an extra crater.

Photos Science

Posted on Mon Dec 03, 2007


It's not fake. Explanation here:
Posted by P.falc  on  Mon Dec 03, 2007  at  05:48 PM
what I meant to say, the extra crater is an artefact.
Posted by P.falc  on  Mon Dec 03, 2007  at  05:50 PM
Never believe anyhting until the government has denied it.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Mon Dec 03, 2007  at  08:41 PM
I did not miss Judge Crater, and I do not judge the missing crater, but the greater crater might, right? Chinese to me
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Mon Dec 03, 2007  at  11:26 PM
It's funny to see that a 2 year old NASA photo has better resolution than an up to date Chinese photo. I guess the Chinese haven't gotten around to stealing western imaging technology.
Posted by Viking  on  Tue Dec 04, 2007  at  10:32 AM
According to the above linked Planetary Society article:, the Clementine resolution was 145 m/pixel, and the Chang'e resolution is a slightly better 120 m/pixel. FYI.
Posted by R  on  Tue Dec 04, 2007  at  11:34 AM
How come the extra crater is on the US picture on the RIGHT?
Posted by Mark Johnson  on  Tue Dec 04, 2007  at  02:15 PM
Mark, either you or your monitor is upside down.
Posted by David B.  on  Tue Dec 04, 2007  at  02:59 PM
What's really amazing is the poor quality of the Chinese photograph. It's a much lower quality that the older NASA pic. Get ready for a series of launch pad and near orbit disasters resulting in Chinese pilots dieing fiery deaths...

David B.
Posted by David B.  on  Tue Dec 04, 2007  at  04:42 PM
Such condescension. No wonder colored people hate our guts. Any other White countries come as far as China?
Posted by Aaron Boyes  in  Canada  on  Wed Dec 05, 2007  at  01:43 PM
Aaron, what David means, clearly, is that if the Chinese don't have the technical capability to match the quality of the photograph, it is doubtful that they have the technology to be succesful in getting people into orbit. I disagree, I think the Chinese have just as good a chance as the Russians or we had decades ago. However, you sound like someone who makes a profession out of being easily offended.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Wed Dec 05, 2007  at  02:14 PM
Emily Lakdawalla of Planetary Society said Chang'e 1 image of the moon isn't fake.

I think she jumped to a conclusion too quick. Does she aware China is expert in counterfeit? The main question is: how come ONLY ONE PICTURE?
Japanese's Kaguya sent back many pictures and moving images.

I won't believe it until I see the second picture!

Posted by paul  in  Calgary, Alberta, Canada  on  Wed Dec 05, 2007  at  02:36 PM
'it is doubtful that they have the technology to be successful in getting people into orbit.'

According to, the Chinese have had several successful launches of manned craft in 2005 and are in fcat at about a comparable levenl to the US at the time of the late lamented Gemini project.

not bad for people who cannot use forks, eh? ( Sorry, redneck joke )
Posted by DFStuckey  in  Auckland New Zealand  on  Fri Feb 15, 2008  at  02:36 AM
I would like to see a follow up: one thing I have noticed is that only ONE (1) photo has ever been released by China. ONE! When other countries send stuff up, hundreds, even thousands of photos are obtained. Here, we have one. Did the probe break down? Did it fly by the moon and not enter orbit? Why only one photo?
Posted by Jake  in  USA  on  Thu Sep 25, 2008  at  03:19 PM
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