The Chinese metropolis Chengdu has plans to bring an artificial moon into orbit around the earth. That is what Chinese news media report. The artificial moon would seem eight times stronger than our natural moon and could illuminate a surface with a diameter of 10 to 80 kilometres at night.
The project is not the first of its kind. In the 90s the Russians already experimented with something similar. The Znamya project consisted of a series of mirrors that had to reflect the light from the sun to the earth. A first experiment in October 1992 was successful. The mirror with a diameter of 20 meters produced a beam of light with a diameter of 5 kilometres, which slid from the southwest of France to the west of Russia. It had the same strength as the light of the moon. After a few hours the mirror burned up in our atmosphere. A second – larger – experiment in February 1999 failed, however, and the Russians secured the plans.
Chengdu now wants a new attempt and that is a lot more ambitious. In 2 years’ time, an artificial moon would have to circulate in space, illuminating the streets of the city at night with an intensity of 8 times that of our natural moon. That would even be strong enough “to completely replace the street lighting in the city”.
The satellite could illuminate a surface with a diameter of 10 to 80 kilometres and the jet could be directed with a precision of a few dozen meters, that’s what Wu Chunfeng, the chairman of the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute stated. The tests would have started a few years ago and in the meantime technology and design would be perfect. But details about it have not yet been released.
The artificial moon would have an exceptionally reflective coating, which should direct the sun’s light to the earth with directional solar-panel-like wings. Primary focus will be Chengdu itself, which is 14 square kilometres. In other places on the earth, the Chinese artificial moon would appear as a bright star in the sky.
Not everyone is equally enthusiastic about the project. Some fear that the light beam can confuse the biological clock of humans and animals. According to Kang Weimin of the Institute of Optics of the Harbin Institute of Technology, however, added that is unjustified. The light would be more like the light you see at twilight and it would never change the night in the day.
Source: People’s Daily, Asia Times, The Guardian