The Chinese government is planning to launch a “fake moon” into space in two years, and it could save that country hundreds of millions of dollars in annual electricity costs.
The satellite is set to be launched into orbit about 310 miles above the city of Chengdu in 2020, and may have the power to entirely replace streetlights, The Daily Wire and other outlets noted.
This “moon” will actually be a satellite — an “illumination satellite,” featuring reflective panels that could make it eight times as bright as the real moon.
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The panels will catch and release light from the sun just as the moon does. This “moon” will reportedly be able to adjust its own brightness and limit or expand its coverage on the ground, which could range from 6 to 50 miles in diameter.
The “moon” will also be able to aim light in different directions, which could be a “possible aid in times of disaster,” said The Daily Wire.
Prior to launch, tests will be done “in an uninhabited desert” to see if the light could negatively affect the natural cycles of wildlife.
Despite the announcement of environmental testing, some people are concerned about the potential light pollution caused by an artificial moon.
“This potentially creates significant new environmental problems with what, at first, seems like a novel approach to an already solved problem,” said John Barentine, the director of public policy at the International Dark-Sky Association.
Kang Weimin, director of the Institute of Optics at the Harbin Institute of Technology in Heilongjiang, China, said that the light of the satellite is more of a “dusk-like glow,” said Fox News, so it should not affect the welfare of animals.
If the satellite is a success, China plans to launch three more in 2022 that could cover even more area.
The cost of the project hasn’t been made public.
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In 1999, Russia tried the same thing, launching its own “artificial moon” satellite from the Mir space station.
The satellite, named Znamya, “was designed to light up the northern region of the country where sunlight is scant during the winter months,” noted The Daily Wire.
“No more electricity bills, no more long, dark winters. This is a serious breakthrough for technology,” said Vladimir Syromyatnikov, the engineer behind the Russian project.
Unfortunately, after a successful test run of a smaller model, the panels of the second Znamya satellite didn’t open properly, and tore Mir’s antennas.
The idea of Znamya was abandoned — and eventually destroyed upon re-entry into earth’s atmosphere.
See more in the video below.