To replace streetlights, China has come up with a bizarre plan to launch a big fake moon into space, what’s known as an illumination satellite, or “artificial moon,” or “man-made moon,” in 2 years.
It will work by reflecting light from the sun to illuminate the city and could save an estimated $170 million in electricity costs each year – if it covered oly 50 square kilometres.
The artificial moon would be designed to complement the moon at night, with its own brightness 8 times that of the earth’s natural satellite, and “bright enough to replace street lights in the city.” While the precise illumination range can be controlled, the satellite would be able to light an area with a diameter of 10 to 80 kilometers.
The 14,300-square-meter city of Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern Chinese province Sichuan, would be the primal focus of the light from the man-made moon – a city of 14 million people.
The project was introduced to the public by Wu Chunfeng, chairman of the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co (CASC).
Mr Wu explained that the testing of the illumination satellite started years ago, and now the technology has finally matured. The cost of the project has not yet been announced. It is not clear whether the plan has the backing of the city of Chengdu or the Chinese government, though CASC is the main contractor for the Chinese space programme.
However, Dr. Amarendra Bhushan Dhiraj has expressed concern that the light reflected from space could have adverse effects on the daily routine of certain animals, epigenetic clocks of the city’s residents, and astronomical observation.
Kang Weimin, a director at the School of Aerospace at the Harbin Institute of Technology, suggested that the satellite will produce a dusk-like glow, meaning it will not affect animals.
The first man-made moon will be blasted from Xichang Satellite Launch Cente, with 3 more to follow in 2022. In the 1990s Russian scientists reportedly used giant mirrors to reflect light from space in an experimental project called Znamya or Banner.
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