China is two years away from sending a lighting satellite to space, according to Wu Chunfeng, chairman of space contractor Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co (CASC).
The device has been designed to illuminate an area as large as 80km and works by complementing the light of the moon at night, Mr Wu explained during a national mass innovation and entrepreneurship activity held last week.
And the precise illumination range will be controlled within a few dozen metres, Mr Wu added.
The device’s power of illuminating the Earth will be eight-time stronger than the one of the real moon, enough to replace the lights on the street.
The artificial moon will focus its light on the city of Chengdu, in southwestern China.
The project was the idea of a French artist, who imagined placing a row of mirrors on the Earth to reflect the sunlight on the streets of Paris all year round.
China’s plans have not been been unanimously welcomed, with some people living in the area expressing concerns about the impact a constant full moon could have on the daily routine of animals and astronomical observation, according to Chinese news outlet People’s Daily Online.
Kang Weimin, director of the Institute of Optics, School of Aerospace at the Harbin Institute of Technology, played down their worries, arguing the light of the satellite will be similar to a dusk-like glow, so it should not create any negative effects.
CASC’s latest announcement comes after Russia and China declared they are considering joining their resources to build a base on the Moon.
Speaking earlier this month to Channel One Russia, the head of Russia’s space programme Dmitry Rogozin said: “I don’t rule out that as soon as we agree on the outlines of our lunar programme with the Americans, it is time for our manned lunar programme.
“The formation of a research station on the Moon’s surface is likely to be carried out with our Chinese partners.
“They can be equal partners already in the coming years.”
China and Russia are rushing to close the distance with the US’ achievements in space – the only country which has led a manned lunar mission.
China carried out its first manned space mission, which lasted 21 hours and saw astronaut Yang Liwei travelling around the earth, in 2003.
Since then, China has made incredible progress with its space programme.
From 2000 to November 2012, the country sent a total of 111 rockets and hundreds of satellites into space.
It also conducted four manned spacecraft with eight Chinese astronauts and launched one space laboratory in the sky.
CASC is a state-owned space and defence giant counting more than 170,000 employees, eight large academies and a dozen listed companies.
It was ranked 343rd in the Fortune Global 500 list in 2018, making it the fourth largest aerospace enterprise in the world by revenue after Boeing, Airbus and Lockheed Martin.