A city in China is planning to launch its own 'artificial moon' by 2020 to replace street lamps and to lower electricity costs in urban areas, according to reports coming out of the country. However, those plans have already been slammed as unrealistic by observers.
National paper China Daily claimed that the city of Chengdu in southwestern Sichuan province is developing what it describes as "illumination satellites" that will reflect sunlight down to Earth, like the real moon, but will be eight times brighter.
Wu Chunfeng, head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society, the organisationresponsible for the project, said the first of these man-made moons will launch from Sichuan's Xichang Satellite Launch Centre by 2020, with three more to follow in 2022 if the first test goes well.
Though the first launch will be experimental, the 2022 satellites "will be the real deal with great civic and commercial potential," he added.
It's said that the man-made moons will illuminate an area of 50 square kilometers, and work by reflecting light from the sun in a bid to replace the need for street lamps in urban areas. This, state officials claimed, could save up to $170 million a year in electricity costs for Chengdu.
The extra-terrestrial source of light could also help rescue efforts in disaster zones during blackouts, added Wu Chunfeng.
The money-saving illumination satellites project has been developed by a host of universities and institutes in addition to Tian Fu New Area Science Society, such as the Harbin Institute of Technology and China Aerospace Science and Industry Cor.
However, outside observers have suggested that the plans don't add up.
Bretschneider said that the plan would not provide anywhere near the level of lighting required to replace conventional street lights, and added that even to come close would require satellites 100 metres of more in diameter.
Furthermore, the satellites will be expensive and challenging to assemble in orbit and is unlikely to last for longer than ten years, he added.
In total, concluded Bretschneider, the system would cost around $100 billion to get off the ground, to save just $172 million per year in conventional lighting costs.
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