New moon: China to launch lunar lighting in outer space

China is not alone

China to launch 'artificial moon' by 2020, says new research

As China's space programme races to catch up with that of the United States and Russian Federation, a number of ambitious projects are in the pipeline, including the Chang'e-4 lunar probe - named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology - which aims to launch later this year.

"By the light of the silvery moon" may have a whole new meaning for one Chinese city in 2020 when an illumination satellite, also referred to as an "artificial moon", is launched into space.

The city of Chengdu has unveiled plans to replace the city's streetlights with a satellite that will boost the glow of the real moon.

The new moon is expected to be bright enough to replace most of the city's streetlights and could save the city around $175 million in annual electricity costs. However, the artificial moon will have eight times the brightness of the actual moon, which is 380,000-km above the earth.

The "moon" will also be able to aim light in different directions, which could be a "possible aid in times of disaster", said The Daily Wire.

If China's plans for a fake moon sounds implausible, reflecting the Sun's rays back to Earth at night has actually been done before.

"This potentially creates significant new environmental problems with what, at first, seems like a novel approach to an already solved problem", said John Barentine, the director of public policy at the International Dark-Sky Association.

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The artificial moon will be capable of lighting up an area as large as 50 miles in diameter, which is a total area of more than 1,960 square miles, but with an illumination range that is so precise it can be controlled within a few feet. However, once that's done, the next three satellites "will be the real deal with great civic and commercial potential", stated Chunfeng.

Chengdu's artificial moon project was announced by Wu at an innovation and entrepreneurship conference in Chengdu on October 10.

Launching artificial moons is not the ambitious space project China is working on now.

The China Daily report cites China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, a state-owned company and the main contractor for China's space program, as a partner.

However, Wu and his team are aware that the artificial moon could disrupt the sleep and metabolic patterns of people and animals.

In Chengdu, a city in southwestern Sichuan province, the "illumination satellites" are being rigously tested. "When the satellite is in operation, people will see only a bright star above, and not a giant moon as imagined".

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