China aims to launch an artificial moon that will illuminate its night sky by 2020.
China’s Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute has announced its plans to launch an artificial moon in 2020. During an innovation and entrepreneurship conference held in Chengdu, China, ASTMSRI’s chairman, Wu Chunfeng, said that their goal for this project is for the illumination satellite to replace all the streetlights of Chengdu.
The artificial moon will reportedly be capable of lighting up about ten to eighty kilometers of the city’s area at night. According to Chunfeng, the satellite would be eight times brighter than our planet’s moon but will be designed to complement it at night.
According to reports, the Chinese researchers want to use the artificial satellite in reducing energy consumption by replacing traditional energy sources. Should everything go as planned, the project would be able to contribute an output value of about 20 billion yuan within five years after launch.
Despite the economic gains and good intentions behind the artificial moon project, the institute still received backlash from people who believe that the artificial light would disturb astronomical observations.
In response to this concern, the director of the Institute of Optics at the Harbin Institute of Technology, Kang Weimin, said that the light from the artificial moon will only make the evening bright but will not be enough to cause harm to biological systems.
Chunfeng has not given further details about the project. However, he confirmed that the technology behind the project has been in the works for years. It is also not clear who’s funding the initiative, but reports claim that the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute is currently the main contractor for the Chinese space project.
This is not the first time that scientists have attempted to send into orbit an illuminating satellite. Last year, a team of Russian astronomers launched into space what they claimed would be the brightest object in the night sky second to the moon. However, the project ended in failure when the solar reflector of the spacecraft didn’t unfurl.