Bright Idea?

November 30, 2018

Can it be? A second moon in China? Oh, you better believe it! It might seem like an impossibility, but if you’ve been keeping up with Xyza news, the idea of launching things into space isn’t all that novel (hello, SpaceX and the Tesla that’s now orbiting around Earth!). But China’s doing something that might just take the cake for the most interesting thing being launched into space. By 2020, the Tian Fu New Area Space Society plans to launch an illumination satellite, or what’s being called an “artificial moon,” that will provide light to the city of Chengdu. How? Well, the satellite’s mirror-like reflective coating will direct sunlight back to Earth, similar to how the real moon does now.

kevinmcgill from Den Bosch, Netherlands [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
But why not just use street lamps like cities around the world do now? In the city of Chengdu, China, maintaining street lamps has proven to be quite expensive—this illumination satellite is meant to save the government a lot of money. What is the expected savings? If the artificial moon can illuminate fifty square kilometers of the city, it can save the government approximately $174 million per year just in electricity costs. What’s more? The amount of light and the direction of the light can be controlled with relative accuracy. While the idea of an artificial moon has been praised by some groups, it’s also been criticized by others. After all, if daytime and nighttime can be artificially altered, what can that do to the sleep patterns of people and animals? What about light pollution? What if this technology is used for evil instead of good? It wasn’t long ago—in the 1920s, to be exact—that a German scientist named Hermann Oberth came up with an idea of a space station with a concave mirror that could reflect light onto specific parts of Earth. His idea was later used by the German army as a way of possibly creating a “sun gun.”

So what do you think? Is the artificial moon a good or bad idea? In other words, will this new technology solve problems and save money, or will it cause more problems?