According to state media People’s Daily, the city of Chengdu wants to launch an illumination satellite as early as 2020.
Wu Chunfeng, chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co., Ltd made the bold statement during a national mass innovation and entrepreneurship that took place in Chengdu earlier in October. Needless to say, his words sparked both fascination from the public, skepticism from scientists and a long list of questions.
What do we actually know about the project? Not very much and the little we do know doesn’t quite fit together.
To begin with, Wu stated that the idea has been around for a few years, that it has been tested before and now the technology we have would allow the project to become a reality.
The satellite would work like a mirror, reflecting sunlight back onto Earth. It would orbit 500Km above our planet, it would reflect sunlight across an area of 10km to 80km and would be eight times brighter than the real Moon with the ability to control that intensity as well.
According to the Chengdu aerospace officials, placing the satellite in space would prove to be more cost-effective than paying for all the city’s street lights – it would save the city up to 1.2 billion yuan ($240 million). It would also prove very useful in natural disaster situations when all the artificial illumination on ground might be down.
There’s all sorts of problems with the fake moon idea though, one of them being that, for it to work, it would have to stay in geostationary orbit and aim directly towards Chengdu with extreme accuracy, from 37,000km. That would also mean, in addition to the accuracy, that the mirror would have to be gigantic.
It’s not the first time a plan like this would be put into motion though – in 2013, a Norwegian town called Rjukan installed a sun mirror that shines light onto the town square during the long winter months.