Chengdu plans to launch ‘artificial moon’ into space to save on electricity

Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson

According to plans, the verification of launch, orbit injection, unfolding, illumination, adjust and control of the manmade moon will be completed by 2020, the daily reported, quoting Wu Chunfeng, head of Tianfu New District System Science Research Institute in Chengdu in China's southwest Sichuan province.

The planned "illumination satellite" would be sent up into space to "complement the moon at night" by shining eight times as bright, reports the People's Daily.

According to local reports picked up by the Asia Times, the city has been evaluating the technology behind an artificial moon for years and has tested it enough to feel it's ready for launch.

If Chengdu can get approval for the artificial moon and actually launch it in space in the next couple of years, the city is hopeful it'll help it save money on illuminating its streets. The artificial moon is expected to light up an area that's 10 to 80 kilometers in diameter. But little is known about the height, size and true brightness of the proposed artificial moon - all of which are factors that could affect its visibility to distant observers.

Officials said it could be controlled to light up an area up to 50 miles wide and said the idea was the brainchild of a French artist. As Fortune's Don Reisinger notes, Chengdu officials hope the project will generate a financial windfall, allowing the city to cut electricity costs and attract tourists.

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. The Telegraph's Joseph Archer reports that Russian scientists launched a mirror-equipped spacecraft created to brighten Siberia's sun-deprived streets back in 1999.

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