China prepares to launch three artificial moons in space by 2022

The artificial moon could be floating above China in 2020

The satellite will produce light thanks to a reflective coating that can "deflect sunlight" back to Earth in the same way the moon does, according to China Daily. Citing the imagined French necklace of mirrors as the impetus for the project, Chunfeng explained that the technology behind the satellite has been in the testing phase for years but is finally near completion. However, the exact details of the spacecraft, the launch date and how the artificial moon would be maintained were not revealed.

Now, the southwestern city of Chengdu hopes to launch an illumination satellite functioning as an artificial moon by 2020.

The satellite would "complement the moon at night" and emit a "dusk-like glow" over an area with a diameter of between six and 50 miles.

Controls on the satellite will allow light levels to be configured and controlled, Wu told a conference of entrepreneurs, and the final object would be able to reflect light on a 10 to 80 mile area, well within the city's area. It will sit about 500km (310 miles) away, compared to the moon's 380,000km (236,000 miles). The controllable moon could also be useful during disasters and blackout situations.

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

The three new man-made moons can take turns reflecting sunlight, as they will not always be in the best position relative to the sun, and together they can illuminate an area of around 3,600 to 6,400 sq km on Earth for 24 hours if desired, he said. When a man-made moon is orbiting, people can only see a bright star in the sky.

The first urban moon will hover above the city of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, with a population of 14.5 million.

Chengdu's artificial moon has already been met with criticism from skeptics and concerned citizens who argue that the light will have adverse effects on animals and astronomical observation, People's Daily points out. The scheme used a device known as the Znamya 2, which was equipped with a 25-meter mirror to illuminate a three-mile radius of land.

Russian Federation experimented with using an artificial moon in the 1990s to reflect sunlight to its northern cities but the experiment failed, The New York Times reported.

"China, Russia, the US, Japan, and the European Union are all striving to make technological breakthroughs on space energy application", Wu said.



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