China Produces First Lunar Map, Calls for Cooperation with India, Japan

The emerging Chinese space program has been busy, releasing its first full map of the lunar surface based on data returned Chang’e-1 orbiter. Chinese scientists called it the most complete map of the moon ever produced.

Buoyed by the success of the year-old mission, Chinese officials have approved the second and third missions in the series. Chang’e-2 – set for launch in 2011 – will “conduct experiments involving five core technologies such as orbital adjustments and soft landings,” the Xinhua news agency reports. Chang’e-3 will land on the moon with a rover the following year.

China would like to explore the moon in cooperation India and Japan, which both have spacecraft circling Earth’s nearest neighbor. “Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist for China’s moon exploration program, said the three countries shared goals on moon probe while each had its advantages,” Xinhua reports.

The offer comes at a time of tension in the region concerning the three nations’ space activities. Asia Times reports that China is fearful of a Japanese-Indian space alliance that they fear is being orchestrated by the United States. The newspaper reports:
 
“India and Japan’s agreement in October to expand cooperation between the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), in the field of disaster management, has the raised the ire of a China fearful that the US is masterminding a powerful space alliance between its allies in the region.

All of Asia wants to see improved regional disaster management capabilities, but the growing ties between ISRO and JAXA come just as India and Japan are devising an action plan to advance security cooperation.

“‘China is concerned about the general effort of the US during the Bush Administration to form a Japanese-Indian alliance to contain China,’ said Dr Gregory Kulacki, senior analyst and China project manager at the Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists.”