The night skies might soon have company: Chinese scientists are planning to launch an artificial moon into orbit by 2020 to illuminate city streets after dark.
China is planning to launch its own ‘artificial moon’ by 2020, according to China Daily. ‘Illumination satellites’ are being developed in Chengdu, a city in southwestern Sichuan province, which will be placed one in front of the other.
Scientists estimated that it could be eight times more luminous than the actual, original moon. It will also orbit much closer to Earth; about 500 km (310 miles) away, compared to the moon’s 380,000 km (236,000 miles).
The project was announced by Wu at an innovation and entrepreneurship conference in Chengdu on October 10. The man-made moons could replace streetlamps in urban areas, which would save an estimated 1.2 billion yuan ($170 million) a year in electricity costs for Chengdu if the man-made moons illuminate an area of 50 square kilometres. The light can also be helpful in disaster zones during blackouts.
China is not alone. Russia tried launching an orbital mirror back in the 1990s. However, they dropped the project after the mirror didn’t unfold and it incinerated on its way into space. Similarly, Rocket Lab out of the United States launched an artificial star. However, the star reportedly added to artificial light pollution and cluttering of Earth’s orbit.