Government officials in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, have revealed plans to launch an illumination satellite, known as “artificial moon,” in 2020, according to Wu Chunfeng, chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Insitute Co., Ltd., as per a new report from the People’s Daily Online.
Wu debuted the illumination satellite at the national mass innovation and entrepreneurship conference in Chengdu last week.
He said the satellite would complement the moon at night, with its brightness eight times of that, and “bright enough to replace street lights in the city.”
The moon simulator can light up an area with a diameter of 10 to 80 kilometers (6 to 50 miles), while the operator of the spacecraft has precise illumination capabilities.
Even though China’s moon simulator is considered a giant leap for the country’s space program, some experts have expressed concern that artificial light from space could disrupt animal and human routines and astronomical observations.
Kang Weimin, director of the Institute of Optics, School of Aerospace, told the People’s Daily Online to dismiss the claims that the moon simulator would disrupt nature because it would only create a “dust-like glow in the sky.”
The Chinese paper did not give further specifications of the spacecraft or its official launch date.
In 1993, The New York Times reported that Russian scientists were attempting to mount a 65-foot-diameter disk of an aluminum-coated plastic film (space mirror) on its now-defunct Mir space station in a bid to illuminate the night sky.
CNN said the space mirror failed in February 1999, when MIR astronauts were unable to unfold the umbrella-like mirror after it experienced technical failure.
If the mirror worked as plan, it would have been a giant artificial moon, according to CNN back then, reflecting sunlight onto Russia, numerous Soviet Republics, and even reaching parts of Germany and the Czech Republic.
Russian officials said in the 90’s that the mirror could illuminate construction sites, disaster areas, and or large cities.
Designers also said the mirror could have been used in agriculture to boost growing cycles by lengthening the day.
While it seems global governments have been working on moon simulators for decades, none of which have so far been successful, a handful of conspiracy theorist have alleged that the US government has a “solar sun simulator” satellite that creates an artificial sun.