Artist rendering of Chang'e I orbiting the moon  (Source: Xinhua)
The search for moon cheese is on!

The Chinese space program has a number of neat scientific space experiments planned for the future, but one of them really grabbed my attention.

The country wants to measure every square inch of land on the moon's surface, said a Chinese space official.  One goal of the project will be to be able to learn how much helium-3 -- a non-radioactive isotope crucial for nuclear fusion research -- is located in the moon's soil.

It was reported earlier in the year that China's first lunar orbiter, the Chang'e I, will hopefully launch sometime in the later part of 2007.  The Chang'e I will be responsible for taking the majority of pictures that Chinese scientists will use to put together the map.

China previously announced its three tiers of space exploration: first satellite and manned spacecraft launches, then the ambitious moon probe project.  The country has successfully put three taikonauts into space, with more launches planned for the future.

Speaking of the expanding China space program, a senior official said the the country is not competing with other space nations.  The Chinese lunar program will continue at its own pace -- no matter what other space nations are doing, according to Hao Xifan, Lunar Exploration Center of Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense.

Strong progress of the Chinese space program likely means more concerns over a possible space arms race between China, Russia and the United States - the fears reached a new level after China successfully destroyed an old satellite in orbit.

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