China wants to launch a world-first ‘man-made moon’ over the southwestern city of Chengdu by 2020 to help illuminate the city at night.
If the first artificial moon experiment is successful, China will launch three more ‘moons’ in space in 2022, potentially saving electricity and conserving energy, China Daily reports.
The man-made moon that will be orbiting the Earth will have a reflective coating designed to deflect sunlight back to the earth’s surface similar to the shining of the Moon, Wu Chunfeng, head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society in Chengdu, told China Daily in an interview.
The “artificial moon” will actually be an illumination satellite that will complement the shining of the Moon at night. But the man-made moon is expected to be eight times brighter than the Moon, Wu told China Daily.
The brighter shining will be due to the much closer orbit at which the illumination satellite will stay—around 500 kilometers (311 miles) from Earth, compared to the average distance of the Moon to the Earth of 380,000 kilometers (236,120 miles), the scientist said.
“But this is not enough to light up the entire night sky,” Wu told China Daily. “Its expected brightness, in the eyes of humans, is around one-fifth of normal streetlights,” he noted.
The scientists behind the project expect that the artificial moon could replace some street lights in the urban area in Chengdu.
According to Wu, the city of Chengdu could save US$173 million (1.2 billion yuan) every year if its artificial moon illuminates 50 square kilometers (19 square miles) of the city.
The ‘moon’ may also be turned off, if needed, the scientists expect.
However, a lot of work and testing on this man-made moon still need to be done, including in the scientific feasibility and business model departments, Wu told China Daily. There are also concerns about how a new moon hanging up in the sky would affect people and animals’ day and night routines, including sleep.
“When the satellite is in operation, people will see only a bright star above, and not a giant moon as imagined,” Wu told China Daily.