How do you cut energy consumption? You replace street lights with a fake moon. That’s what the Chinese space industry has in mind for the citizens of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.
The world’s first artificial moon will help with lighting the streets at night, explains one of the lead scientists. The team behind the artificial moon will launch it from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan and place it in orbit right above Chengdu. If the launch is successful by 2020, the team will launch three more objects in 2022.
How will this moon illuminate the city? It has a reflective coating that deflects sunlight back to our planet just like the way the moon does, but it should be eight times brighter. It will be so bright because it will be at a 500km distance from Earth – closer than the moon, which is 380,000km away.
Mr. Wu Chunfeng, who is the head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society in Chengdu stated that the moon would not be able to light up the whole night sky and that:
“Its expected brightness, in the eyes of humans, is around one-fifth of normal street lights.”
The scientists also said that they could change the location and brightness of the light beam and the accuracy is within a few dozen meters.
According to Mr. Wu, Chengdu will be able to save almost 1.2 billion yuan (S$239 million) in electricity per year if the artificial moon would replace illumination in 50 sq. km of the city.
By 2022, China Will Have Three Artificial Moons
Moreover, the light can be focused to areas during a blackout or into disaster zones to help with rescue efforts. The moon’s mirrors can be adjusted for luminosity or turned off – and in case the sky is overcast, it will send less light to the ground.
“The first moon will be mostly experimental, but the three moons in 2022 will be the real deal with great civic and commercial potential,” explained Mr. Wu.
Mr. Wu added that notable universities and institutes – Harbin Institute of Technology, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp for example – have approved the project for trial and demonstration. He stated that the tests would be carried out in an uninhabited desert – so that it won’t interfere with people or animals:
“When the satellite is in operation, people will see only a bright star above, and not a giant moon as imagined.”
Mr. Wu concluded that China, Russia, the U.S., Japan, and European countries have all been looking to use reflecting mirrors and harness energy from space.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.