Published: Thu, October 25, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

China Is Launching Its Own Artificial Moon in 2020

China Is Launching Its Own Artificial Moon in 2020

By 2020, it's expected the moon will be in orbit above the city of Chéngdū, the capital of the southwestern Sìchuān province.

Chengdu, a city in the country's southwestern Sichuan province, is now working on developing artificial "illumination satellites", which will go up there and shine eight times more brightly than the moon, informed China Daily.

Znamya 2 was launched into orbit with a 25 metre mirror that would light up a three square mile plot on Earth, but after successfully leaving the atmosphere, the craft collided with space junk on its first orbit.

It is hoped that the artificial moon will replace streetlights in the urban area. John Barentine, director of the International Dark-Sky Association, a USA nonprofit research organization on light pollution, calculated that the luminescence of an artificial satellite equivalent to eight times the moon would be similar to the intensity of light in a very dense urban area.

Citing Wu Chunfeng, head of the Tian Fu research center, the report notes that the satellite has eight times the luminescence of the real moon, and can cover 10 to 80 square kilometers (about 4 to 31 square miles).

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The project will serve more than 14 million people and will provide enough light to make street lamps redundant. If it succeeds, it will be the first rover to explore the "dark side" of the moon.

"The Chengdu "artificial moon" would have the effect of significantly increasing the nighttime brightness of an already light-polluted city, creating problems for both Chengdu's residents, who are unable to screen out the unwanted light, as well as for the urban wildlife population that can't simply go inside and close the shutters", he said.

Though the first launch will be experimental, the 2022 satellites "will be the real deal with great civic and commercial potential", he said in an interview with China Daily.

In 1999, Russian Federation tried the same thing, launching its own "artificial moon" satellite from the Mir space station. The testing of the light beams will be done in an uninhabited desert so that it does not interfere with any people or Earth observatories. Essentially, the artificial moon is an illuminated satellite covered with a reflective coating that will cast sunlight back to Earth to illuminate the streets at night. People in China will be able to definitively see the moon, but to other locations on Earth it will look like a bright star.

The moon is being built at the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research.

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