China “Moon” Launch: Spying or Energy Source?

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China is the mother of inventing and creating, and overall a fast paced country in the 21st century. So fast paced that China initiated a new space project: to launch an “artificial moon(s).” This project, according to the British Broadcasting Company, is set to be placed in orbit sometime during 2020.

Chunfeng Wu, the chairman of the Chengdu Aerospace Institute Microelectronics System Research Institute Co, Ltd., the company that will launch the “artificial moon, said “The idea had been in testing for a few years and the technology was now in place to make it happen.”

According to WU, “The artificial moon would reflect back the light given off the sun, as an actual moon would. It would orbit 500km about Earth – roughly the same height as the International Space Station.” The Moon’s orbit is about 380,000km above Earth, or approximately 260,000 miles.

The reports gave no details about what the fake moon would look like, but Mr Wu said it would reflect sunlight across an area of between 10km and 80km with a brightness “eight times” that of the real Moon. According to Mr. Wu, both the accuracy and intensity of the light would be controllable.


The alleged reason behind making this “moon” is to save money. Chengdu aerospace officials say it might be cheaper to make an artificial moon than to install more street lights. The China Daily quoted Mr. Wu as saying, “Illuminating an area of 50sq km could save up to 1.2bn yuan ($173m; £132m) a year in electricity charges.”

Dr. Matteo Ceriotti, a lecturer in Space Systems Engineering at the University of Glasgow, told the BBC that the plan is scientifically viable. “Think of this as sort of an investment. Electricity at night is very expensive so if you could say, have free illumination for up to 15 years, it might work out better economically in the long term.”

But to provide the light as proposed, according to Dr. Ceriotti, the moon would have to be orbited over Chengdu, a tiny area when viewed from space. It would need to be in geostationary orbit (an orbit that keeps the object orbiting above one location), which is about 37,000km (approximately 23,000 miles) from the Earth.

“The only problem is at that distance you’d need the satellite pointing direction to be extremely accurate,” said Dr. Ceriotti. “If you want to light up an area with an error of say 10km, even if you miss by one 100th of a degree you’ll have the light pointing at another place.” Ceriotti also claimed that to have any impact from that distance, the mirror would have to be “truly colossal”.



Many countries speculate that this is simply a smoke screen, that it’s really a scheme to spy on the United States. In the 1990’s an almost-villain-like project arose from a group of Russian engineers of making a gadget that would redirect sunlight lost in space back to Earth. But, as the world knows, Russia and the US are fierce space competitors, so this seemed a little suspicious from an American perspective. In the end the Russian plan didn’t work: it burst into flames re-entering the atmosphere.

Is China trying to spy on us with this ‘artificial moon’? I think so, placement of the moon is just too low and the other evidence seems suspicious to me.

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