China to launch man-made moon


China’s space industry is preparing to launch the world’s first artificial moon to help with urban illumination at night, a leading scientist said.

China plans to put an artificial moon in orbit above Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan by 2020. If the launch proves successful, three more such objects will be launched in 2022, Wu Chunfeng, head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society in Chengdu, told China Daily in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

The artificial moon will have a reflective coating that can deflect sunlight back to Earth, similar to how the moon shines, he said.

The man-made moon is essentially an illumination satellite designed to complement the moon at night, though it is predicted to be eight times brighter, the scientist added.

This is due to the object’s planned orbit about 500 kilometers above Earth much closer than the 380,000-km distance to the moon, Wu said.

“But this is not enough to light up the entire night sky,” he said. “Its expected brightness, in the eyes of humans, is around one-fifth of normal streetlights.”

The location and brightness of the light beam can be changed, and its coverage accuracy can fall within a few dozen meters, he said.

The artificial moon might replace some streetlights in the urban area, thus conserving energy.
Wu estimated Chengdu could save around 1.2 billion yuan in electricity annually if the artificial moon illuminated 50 square km of the city.

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