Yes. You read that right. According to an article by Indiatimes, China is planning to launch three artificial moons in to space, so bright that they can replace street lights, and they plan to do it all by 2022.
The Daily, quoting Wu Chunfeng, head of the Tianfu New District System Science Research Institute, reported that the verification of launch, orbit injection, unfolding, illumination, adjust and control of the man-made moon will be completed by 2020. A state-run media outlet, Xinhua, quoted Wu saying, that the brightness of the artificial moon would be bright enough to replace streetlights.
These man-made moons will be launched in 2022, it said. “By then, the three huge mirrors will divide the 360-degree orbital plane, realizing illuminating an area for 24 hours continuously,” Wu said.
“The reflected sunlight can cover an area of 3,600 sq km to 6,400 sq km, and the illumination intensity is expected to be eight times of the moonlight” he added.
“Using man-made moon to illuminate an area 50 sq km can save 1.2 billion yuan of electric charge. It can also illuminate blackout areas when natural disasters such as earthquake happen.” Wu said.
Even though the benefits of this man-made moon can be seen as revolutionary, there are some concerns regarding the launch. The biggest concern being, that the artificial moonlight may interrupt the normal day-night cycle of plants and animals.
“The light intensity and illumination time can be adjusted and the accuracy of illumination can be controlled within scores of meters. When a man-made moon is orbiting, people can only see a bright star in the sky,” Wu answered regarding the biological concerns.
This isn’t the first time an attempt like this was made by a major superpower. Indiatimes mentioned, that America and Russia have also explored their man-made moon options. In the 1990s, Russia carried out an experiment called ‘Banner’, testing the idea of using a mirror to reflect the sunlight to Earth. But the mirror failed to unfold in space and the experiment was halted.