China to launch four artificial moons

Chengdu, in southwest China's Sichuan province, announced on Tuesday it was planning to launch an "illumination satellite" by 2020, People's Daily reported, adding that it would have eight times more light than the real deal.

Wu Chunfeng is the chairman of a private space contractor called Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co. and a man dearly in need of a shorter company name.

The moon would be eighttimes brighter than the Earth's actual moon, creating an opportunity for the streets of Chengdu to be illuminated by the satellite instead of street lights.


It will complement the moon to make Chengu's night skies brighter when it launches in 2020, potentially serving as a replacement to conventional streetlights. The imitation celestial body - essentially an illuminated satellite - will bear a reflective coating to cast sunlight back to Earth, where it will supplement streetlights at night. Giulio Calenne of Chinese commerce outlet CIFnews writes that the idea has raised concerns amongst those who fear the artificial light could have adverse effects on wildlife and astronomical observation.

According to the Chinese news site People's Daily Online (PDO), which covered the event, the fake moon could dial its illumination down to within a few dozen meters.

While it might sound implausible, Wu says the technology has been in the works for years and has now "matured" toward readiness.


Wu estimated that new moons could save the city of Chengdu around 1.2 billion yuan ($173 million) in electricity costs annually, and could even assist first responders during blackouts and natural disasters.

A similar project was planned by Russian researchers in 1999, as plans were made to use orbiting mirrors to light up cities in Siberia, hoping it would be a cheaper alternative to electric lighting.

The moon orbits the Earth about 380,000 km from the Earth, while the man-made moon is expected to be put on an orbit within 500 km from the Earth, the state-run China Daily reported.


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