Our moon photo is absolutely not a fake, the Chinese government insists.
Premier Wen Jiabao unveiled the first image sent from the Chang'e 1 moon probe last Monday to much fanfare, hailing it as a major step in "the Chinese race's 1,000-year-old dream" of exploring Earth's natural satellite.
Almost immediately, space buffs and bloggers noticed that the pic looked remarkably like a 2005 NASA image of the same area near the south lunar pole.
"China's first moon photo is absolutely not a fake," Ouyang Ziyuan, head of the China Lunar Exploration Project, said in a statement. He admitted similarity between the two pictures, but added that "a careful examination will tell some small differences."
Although almost all the features of the two images match, the Chinese image does shows an additional small crater overlapping a larger one near the middle of the photo.
Such an addition could have been Photoshopped in, but it's also clear that the sun's rays are hitting the lunar surface at different angles in each image. It would be fairly difficult to rotate every single shadow in the NASA image to match the orientation of the Chinese photo.