The People’s Republic of China is planning to launch its own 'artificial moon' by 2020 to replace streetlamps and lower electricity costs in its urban areas.
According to reports, a city in China’s south-western Sichuan province, Chengdu, is developing "illumination satellites" that will shine in tandem with the real moon, but just eight times brighter.
The illumination satellites are being developed by the Tian Fu New Area Science Society in close coordination with other universities and institutes, including the Harbin Institute of Technology and China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp.
• China’s first man-made moon will launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan.
• The first test will be experimental and if it goes well, three more artificial moons will be launched in 2022. The satellites are expected to carry great civic and commercial potential.
• The satellites could replace streetlamps in urban areas, saving an estimated 1.2 billion yuan ($170 million) a year in electricity costs for Chengdu, if they could illuminate an area of 50 square kilometres by reflecting light from the sun.
• The extraterrestrial source of light could help rescue efforts in disaster zones during blackouts.
The artificial moon project was announced by Wu Chunfeng, head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society, the organisation responsible for the project at an innovation and entrepreneurship conference in Chengdu on October 10.
However, China is not the first country to try beaming sunlight back to Earth. In the 1990s, Russian scientists reportedly used giant mirrors to reflect light from space in an experimental project called Znamya or Banner.
Besides the current project, China has a number of other ambitious projects in the pipeline, including the Chang'e-4 lunar probe.
The probe named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology is going to be launched later this year. If it succeeds, it will be the first rover to explore the "dark side" of the moon.
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